I’m fascinated by new experiments utilized to uplift cultures, corporations and communities. This fascination led me to ask a group of forward-thinking corporate, community health and university execs, “What macro-trends are accelerating our human drive for wellbeing?”
Jamie Gordon, vice president of consumer anthropology for Northstar Research, responded enthusiastically. Her firm provides market insights for companies such as Mazda and Sanofi-Aventis. Her answer? A deep values shift toward health and well-being is mainstreaming into global culture.
According to Gordon, the values shift toward well-being is fed by an underlying yet palpable societal tension causing citizens to seek a better balance between the new and the old. It is the new drivers of capitalism, such as consumption and competitive practices, that can both empower and undercut human and environmental development, versus the often centuries old cultural and spiritual traditions which are the very bedrock of long-standing human communities.
Perhaps this tension is most evident within BRICS countries (the developing nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) where, due to the worldwide spread of Facebook and other social media, the emerging middle classes are more informed than ever before about how others around the world prioritize their lives.
Whereas in times past we frequently existed in a bubble of values shaped by popular culture or propaganda, today that values bubble has popped wide open, allowing us, in Gordon’s terms, “To see and discuss the impact of economic prosperity for better or for worse, and to really examine the values that are truly important.”
In this larger ocean of values to choose from, people are increasingly defining well-being for themselves instead of waiting for a government, a religion, a company or even the next door neighbor to do it for them.
Don’t believe for a minute that this values shift is only occurring in developing nations though. It is stirring the values pot in industrialized nations as well.
Consider the United States, circa 1950s. At that time, America’s up-and-coming middle class believed “the path to happiness and prosperity was through working hard and accumulating stuff,” said Gordon.
For better or worse this one-size-fit-all belief led to a generation of Baby Boomers who frequently sacrificed time with family for the promise of economic stability.
Fast forward to today – that economic promise didn’t turn out as planned. Baby Boomer children, known as Gen Y (or Millennials), not only watched their parents lose jobs and deplete financial savings after sacrificing so much, but engaged with new ideas about how to live and work with every website they visited and online social connection they made.
When MTV commissioned the study, “No Collar Workforce,” to understand how Gen Y’s motives would play out in employment, the findings pointed to “a generation primed to give their all, but calling for meaning, mentorship and meritocracy in a workplace that can channel what they bring to the table.”
The study showed that for Gen Y, “loving what I do” and a job that benefited society outranked salary as a career motivator. Nine out of 10 want their workplace to be social and fun, and 71 percent want their coworkers to be like a second family.
In essence, the 80 million Gen Y in America today are attempting to craft a more realistic balance in their lives. They are integrating higher ideals into society, like meaningful work, physical health, intimacy in relationships and sustainable communities.
Even more importantly, by the year 2025, three out of four workers globally will be Gen Y. Given their socially-connected and widespread reach, they are contributing to a world-wide reexamination and rewriting of the practices of consumption and competition – the very heart of capitalism.
(Read more of this article in the wellness magazine, Marmapoints: http://www.marmapoints.org/features/359-pop-goes-the-values-bubble-macro-trend-no-1.)