Maybe you have heard by now, the American Dream – the national ethos of America – is quickly becoming a relic of the past. Yes, in a recent poll by CNN, 6 out of 10 respondents believe it’s unattainable. The idea that if you work hard in school, get good grades, then a solid job leading to upward economic and social mobility will follow, is not coming true for many. College costs are leaving many students drowning in debt. Millions cannot find work or are highly underemployed for their skills and degrees, leaving us parents very nervous for the future of our children.
Decades ago, James Truslow Adams defined the Dream this way:
Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” no matter your race, gender or social class.
BETTER, RICHER, FULLER
Why? Why should my life be better than my father’s life, or his father’s life? Why should I be richer than my ancestors? Does higher social mobility and more money equate to a better life? Huh…no, research is clear that after a certain point where our basic needs are met, money does not contribute much to life meaning and happiness. So maybe we need a new dream! Maybe we need to redefine what we American’s should strive for. And perhaps climbing the social ladder to silver spoons is not where the real gold lies.
I would like to suggest a different kind of dream, or perhaps ethos, for Americans to strive for that is within reach of everyone.
- To love
- To help others no matter what you have been given in this world
- Know yourself, your natural talents, and figure how best to use them to benefit the world.
- Develop a contemplative life, where meditation, time in nature, time doing nothing but just being, become paths to awakening to why you are living this life
When put this way, I have faith my son will mature into a life where he finds his own gold, in his own way, and in his own time.