Dan Pink summarizes motivation as based on purpose, efficacy, and agency. If we believe in a reason for doing things, are capable of making progress towards those goals, and have the control over our own destiny needed for making progress, then we feel motivated.
In a recent survey, psychology Clay Routledge found that 63% of Americans "agree or strongly agree that they have the power to live a meaningful life." This is wonderful news, as living a meaningful life is essential to happiness and well-being. But sadly, young people are much less likely to feel this way,
Fewer than 40% of people between 18 and 24 years of age agree or strongly agree they have the power to live a meaningful life.
The fact that young people are so discouraged does not bode well for the future.
Religion provides meaning for many adults. But there has been a dramatic decline in religious belief and attendance in recent decades.
A recent Gallup poll notes that for the first time in history U.S. church membership fell below a majority, largely because younger generations were less likely to belong,
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The decline in church membership, then, appears largely tied to population change, with those in older generations who were likely to be church members being replaced in the U.S. adult population with people in younger generations who are less likely to belong. The change has become increasingly apparent in recent decades because millennials and Gen Z are further apart from traditionalists in their church membership rates (about 30 points lower) than baby boomers and Generation X are (eight and 16 points, respectively). Also, each year the younger generations are making up an increasingly larger part of the entire U.S. adult population.
As a secular intellectual seeing a rise in secularism, it seems obvious that we need more effective institutions for developing purpose, efficacy, and agency among more secular younger generations.
How do we do so?
Certainly many people find the notion of improving the human condition inspiring and motivating. But if the only path forward consists of activism and political action, then it is easy to become discouraged. Electoral politics in most nations consists of partisan hatreds leading to gridlock, with special interests winning while effective solutions to serious human problems rarely being achieved. My interpretation of the fact that only 40% of people between 18 and 24 believing that they have the power to lead a meaningful life is due to the fact that most are secular progressives who despair of governments solving problems.
What if they are correct, that governments are unlikely to solve problems? Should we all despair?
In subsequent posts, I'll outline a path for moving forward that is aligned with purpose, efficacy, and agency - and with a minimal dependence on governments doing the right thing.