Happiness Is The New Success: Why Millennials Are Reprioritizing

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An interesting look at the new priorities of the Millenial generation. What does "success" mean in the 21st century and how do you measure it? Recently, economists and national leaders have begun pushing for a something radically simple: measure success by happiness.



Happiness Is The New Success: Why Millennials Are Reprioritizing
Published in The Next Women, February 8 2012

There used to be a ladder to success: college→ good job→ marriage→ house→ family→ cushy retirement. Sure, not everyone made it; there were a few broken rungs near the bottom, but that was the guiding light to the good life and enough people made it that it seemed within reach.

A few people questioned this ladder as really being "the good life" but those were just hippies or crazies, no one worth paying attention to. Now all this has changed; my generation is growing up without a ladder.

Before you scoff, let's think about that for a second. The first rung on the ladder, college, used to be seen as a straight shot to success. Now, for too many of us, it's a straight shot to our parent's couch  and thousands of dollars in student loans, totaling over $1 trillion annually. As for a "good job," well, many of us are bussing tables in restaurants and shuffling papers in unpaid internships, but we're the lucky ones. For those who didn't make it to college, the unemployment rate has more than doubled at 8.7 percent, leading to a total of 14 percent of young workers (20-24) who are unemployed. While the economy will certainly improve, those years spent doing menial labor will never come back to us, with estimates  that we could end up earning 10 percent less on average than somebody who left school a few years before or after the recession due to the loss of critical entry-level work experience.

As Derek Thompson of the Altantic put it, "For Millennials, this is the great irony of the Great Recession. A crisis that started in the housing market could wind up having the most lasting negative impact on the one generation that didn't own any homes before the bust."

Marriage is in decline  with many young people choosing to wait or simply throwing marriage out as an outdated concept and opting for cohabitation or other "new family forms" instead. The idea that all of us should strive to own a home is what brought our economy to it's knees so we're lowering our expectations on that one a bit. As for retirement, don't think we don't know that social security is just a big ponzi scheme--one that's expected to run out in 2037, well before most of us retire.

Now that our ladder has been reduced to splinters, the question remains: what does "success" mean in the 21st century and how do we achieve it?

We know how we don't achieve it. We know that decades of runaway capitalism with ever more desperate attempts to improve the bottom line and lobby for more deregulation have failed. We know that measuring our country merely by GDP has put the US 25th on the "inequality-adjusted" Human Development Index  - meaning that there's a good reason why the 99% took to America's streets.

So if we're not measuring America's success by GDP, what should we measure? Recently, economists and national leaders have begun pushing for a something radically simple: measure success by happiness.


Read the full article in The Next Women







Posted by on 02/09/2012



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