THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- American dream: The new one saves you time
A group of think tanks led by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that men in their 30s are earning less than their parents. For the first time ever, this generation won't make as much as their parents. Has the American Dream ended?
Probably not. Because this statistic is just a magnified section of a much larger picture– of the great generational shift taking place in America since Generation X became adults. The shift is in the definition of the American Dream.
No generation wants to live with financial instability, but finances alone do not define someone's American Dream. Especially when our dream is about how we spend our time.
Those who are magnifying a different part of the picture of this generational shift will tell you that what defines it is the inability of corporate American to keep generation Y from quitting their jobs.
The best of Generation X and Y are slow to move into the work force and quick to leave it. According to the Department of Labor, people in their 20s change jobs, on average, every two years. And Generation X is shifting in and out of the workplace in order to spend more time with kids. It's costing companies a lot of money, and they're paying millions of dollars a year in consulting fees to figure out how to decrease turnover.
There are many reasons for high turnover, but the most fundamental is that baby boomers have set up a workplace that uses financial bribes: Work sixty hours a week, and we'll pay you six figures. Generation Y will not have this. To hold out mere money as a carrot is insulting to a generation raised to think personal development is the holy grail.
Baby boomers are also baffled by women who grow large careers in their 20s and then dump them in order to spend time with kids. Newsflash: Generation X values family more than money. Our American Dream is not about buying a big house, our dream is about keeping a family together.
You can tell a lot by the terms that are coined. When baby boomers were raising kids, they coined the term "latchkey kid" and "yuppie"; we invented the terms "shared care" and "stay-at-home-dad." The divorce rate for baby boomers was higher than any other generation. We can afford to have less money because most of us don't need to fund two separate households.
The positive psychology movement has taken a large hold among those in generation X and Y. We are convinced that money does not buy happiness, and this conviction is rooted in hard science. More than 150 universities offer courses in positive psychology. It's the most popular class among Harvard undergrads.
Our dreams are tied to time. So it's no surprise that many of the most popular blogs offer tips for time management and that "getting things done" (GTD in blog-speak) is key to a fulfilling life.
The new American dream is that we will have fulfilling work that leaves plenty of time for the other things we love. In this respect, Generation X is doing better than our parents. We are spending more time with our kids, and we are keeping our marriages together more than twice as effectively as our parents did. And Generation Y is doing better than their parents, too. They refuse to waste their time on meaningless entry level work because they value their time and their ability to grow.
The new American dream is not a race to earn the most to buy the biggest. It's a dream of personal growth and quality relationships. And, despite the declarations coming from Pew about unreachable dreams, our dream is not about accumulating money to do what we love at the end. We are bent on doing what we love the whole way.