Twelve Steps to Bridge Generational Gaps

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

February 2, 2017

In no way would I ever try to minimize the wondrous nature of the twelve step processes involved in addiction recovery.  In fact, I honor these practitioners and participants.  I hope my twelve step formula to bridge generational gaps honors these precepts.

In my research and writing about understanding and celebrating Millennials, I am often found between celebrating and hand ringing.  I will celebrate the nature of the Millennials and their views of what matters most, while at the same time, ring my hands over the labeling of this generation by those who simply don’t know their hearts.  The labeling is usually from those who raised them.  My hope is that each generation can learn to honor and celebrate each other.

For so many of us involved in Millennial lives, we simply want to see them create a future that optimizes their passions while at the same time embrace time proven principles from the past.  This type of bridge between generations can form a healthy union.  This bridge of understanding can be a key to holistic joy; but walking across the bridge from either direction and meeting in the middle with open minds and hearts is not a stroll in the park.  Not so easy because of judgmental stigmas and classless innuendos that have been spoken without much thought.

First of all, to just put some facts on the table, much of the Millennial generation has been impaired with what are essentially the failed (yet sincere) parenting techniques of their boomer parents as they tried to give their children a better life than they had.  While the process was well-meaning, many of the twenty and thirty somethings have been dealt a bad hand and are trying to figure out how to reshuffle the deck.  This is not to say that all Millennials suffer from such effects, so perhaps I can’t paint this with a broad brush, but it’s broad enough to see the canvas that is being painted by Millennials and know the challenges.

In her book Effective Generational Ministry by Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg, Betsy was struck by a statement made by a Millennial she interviewed:

“We’ve been told our whole lives that we can do anything, and we believe it.  But we haven’t been taught how to manage our time, or manage our goals.  We haven’t been taught how to form priorities, you know, we’ve been told we can do anything we want…..we haven’t been taught to do that.”

This generation who was raised on participation trophies, where everyone got a medal as if everyone was a winner, are now finding the cold and harsh realities in a grown up world that doesn’t give you a fruit snack for just showing up.  Consequently, the twenty and thirty somethings entered adulthood with less self-esteem, a lack of patience perhaps (living in an instantaneous world), with no app to train on things that were simply left out of the upbringing such as thinking  long-term, how to establish personal relationships, time management, financial stewardship, etc..  Some say Millennials want to make an impact without climbing the mountain—I don’t agree with that assessment at all.  Rather, perhaps they are at the base of the mountain, with new tools that climb even better; but could use a guide or mentor or two to make the move on the summit.  I don’t believe any of this maligned generation wants to “waft” through life; but are poised to ascend and excel like no other generation before us.

I offer a bridge of understanding and appreciation to help us all move forward in the most positive of ways.  My paradigm comes from intensive service with the Millennial generation, working with many Millennials across the globe as they create their future and an honest celebratory view of their nature.   Hence, my moniker “Full time boomer, part time Millennial.”

Imagine if you will, a group of Millennials on one side of a bridge, and a group of boomers or Xr’s on the other side.  They are facing each other and ready to move toward the center.  Our hope is to progress toward each other; and when in the middle, we embrace with open arms and hearts.  Euphoric?  Not in my mind.  Imagine the group’s getter closer and closer to the middle of the bridge.  As more and more clarity and understanding and appreciation grows for each other, we soon become a part of each other’s tribes.  This is when the glorious work of UNION can commence.

With this imagery, I offer my 12 step program for each generation to consider as they approach the center of understanding.  With the twelve steps, I reference a chapter in my book if you would like a deeper understanding of each step.

12 Step program to Bridge the Gap between Generations

  1. Millennials:  Acknowledge you may have been dealt a bad hand.  The Millennials upbringing were sometimes failed by parenting strategies.  Really, their parents just wanted a more abundant life for them than they had; they just went about it in a way that created more confusion than union.

Boomer or X’r:  Acknowledge that while your parenting techniques were well-meaning, the strategy to make your child a winner regardless of the outcomes was not realistic.  These are your children, don’t judge them harshly.

  1. Millennials: Believe that regardless of cards dealt, even if done so with good intent, YOU can now re-shuffle the deck.

Boomer or X’r:  Allow the Millennials the space to develop their own sense of being.  Learn to celebrate the game they are playing with the hand they were dealt.

Suggestion:  Chapter 1 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Taking Control of Your Life.

  1. Millennials: Aligning our will with God’s vision for us is paramount.  Use your spirituality (however that looks) to make this connection of empowerment.  Gain an understanding of your true identity.

Boomer or X’r:  Recognize that the spirituality of the Millennials may not be the same as yours; but nevertheless, celebrate their realms of spirituality with gratitude.  Love them for the journey they are creating as they chart their own course.

Suggestion:  Chapters 1 and 4 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Taking Control of Your Life and Charting Your Course.

  1. Millennials: Authenticity is your hallmark.  Strive to keep that authenticity combined with a healthy view of the real world to reach your summits.  Don’t mistake authenticity for rebellion.  Blaze your own trail, but don’t scorch the earth in the process.

Boomer or X’r:  Patiently work with the vision of Millennials to help them reach their summit.  The mountain in front of the Millennials is perhaps similar to mountains you have climbed.  Share a path where you can come alongside them one step at a time.

  1. Millennials: Invoking the spirit of change and humility is key to growth. Who grows without learning something?  Who learns something if they already know everything?  Who learns without asking questioning?

Boomer or X’r:  Guess what, you don’t know everything.  Take a page from the Millennials and seek to know the WHY behind the WHAT.

  1. Millennials: Establish core values in order to overcome character defects.  This process takes some time, but is totally necessary to live the complete and holistic life you envision.

Boomer or X’r:  Many of your generation established something along the lines of this concept, but many did not.  It’s never too late for any generation to establish core values and figure out what matters most in your life.

Suggestion:  Chapters 2 and 7 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, The Power of Defining Your Core Values and Habits of Success.

  1. Millennials: Find mentors who can bridge the gap between where you are and your intended destination.   While fiercely independent, consider the fact that no one succeeds alone.

Boomer or X’r:  Become a great mentor by first listening to, and then celebrating the wondrous Millennial generation.  Understand they question intently to discover the WHY behind the WHAT—marvel at the newness of life this type of mentor/mentee relationships brings.

Suggestion:  Chapter 3 ofLeadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Mentors: Your Bridge to Success.

  1. Millennials: Move from electronic “relationships” to human to human relationships.  Understand that it is possible you have become addicted to the dopamine of electronic pleasures, and that the feel good effects of this drug may not allow the building of true and lasting relationships.  From superficial to real and authentic is where everyone desires their relationships to progress.  Meaningful relationships take time and effort.

Boomer or X’r:  This drug of choice is also sweeping your generations.  Working together on this phenomenon of the ages is paramount; without judgment of each other.  Perhaps a focus on how to establish meaningful human relationships is key.  The skills of effective communication are also key to creating authentic relationships.  Lead the way by reaching out with love and respect.

Suggestions:  Chapter 10 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Effective Communication and The Power of Story.

  1. Millennials: The law of action and reaction applies in life; consider how your decisions, actions and reactions affect the lives of those around you.  Your generation has been labeled selfish or self-absorbed.  I know this is NOT your heart, so taking some time to consider how your actions affects others comes naturally to you.   Always remember this wonderful  and innate characteristic as you strive for inclusion and real social justice.

Boomer or X’r:  Take a lesson from the social justice part of humanity that Millennials embrace.  Your generation has worked hard to maximize economic potential for example, but consider the impact of all you do on how it affects the lives of others for generations to come.

Suggestion:  Chapter 9 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Rise Above and Make a Difference.

  1. Millennials: Take an introspective review of how you are living your life on a regular basis.  Without being boxed in, you can still calibrate your daily life and decide what moves you forward.  Don’t be afraid of formulas or habits of success that work; even if repetitive.

Boomer or X’r:  You might tend to live by checklists and planners, without much space to just live life as it unfolds.  It is possible you have been on the hamster wheel so long that you forgot where you were going.  Take a deep breath and determine if what you measure moves YOU forward or the world you live in, or both.  The work-life-balance patterns established by your Millennial children may deserve a healthy review.

Suggestion:  Chapters 5 and 7 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, The Formula and Habits of Success.

  1. Millennials: Incorporate a daily devotional.  One of the great conundrums of this generation is navigating the “grey” areas of life.  Take time to consider your path, and to fill your mind and heart with things that uplift, educate, inspire, and empower.  Incorporating a space for a connection with yourself and what matters most to you is a practice that will enable and empower.  Learn to leave the grey areas and enter the world of congruence.

Boomer or X’r:  Guess what? Living in the grey area of life is one of your generation’s trends and growing.  The way to stem the tide of grey is to live a congruent life; calibrating daily, inculcating your version of a daily devotional, and striving to live an unquestionable and congruent life.

Suggestion:  Chapter 6 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Beware the Double Life.

  1. Millennials:  Onward!  It is the mark of high integrity to live what you know to be right.  Your generation has redefined in a great way what matters most and what making a difference means.  Just keep doing it.

Boomer & X’r:  Celebrate like never before this wonderful journey TOGETHER with our magnificent Millennials.

Suggestion:  Chapter 12 of Leadership by LIGHT: Principles that Empower, Onward!

Perhaps now you can envision the celebration between generations and embrace the endless possibilities of an even brighter world.

2 thoughts on “Twelve Steps to Bridge Generational Gaps”

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