The American Dream is being Updated - Part 4

In the past 25 years the interplay between the quality of  life indicators have been severely impacted by the advent of women in the workplace, two career couples, long commutes, business travel, periodic stock market crashes, declining home values, layoffs and resizing, devaluation of retirement accounts, and a decline in company benefits. Added to these ongoing grating trends are increasing healthcare costs, an erosion of a quality public education for all, the need to stay connected 24/7, and the demands placed on workers and families to balance it all. As a result there has been enormous erosion in healthy, stable family and community life and our overall sense of well-being. 


  • ·                                 Taking it further, Marcus Buckingham (2009) in his book, Find your Strongest Life, reports that women are generally less happy than they were 40 years ago. He reports,


            Coinciding with the rise of stress related illnesses has been the increasing recognition that the workplace does need to examine old assumptions, policies, human resource practices and that quality of life for employees does matter. Companies, such as Deloitte Touche, have implemented what they call, career lattices. Different than the career ladder which is upward only, the lattice allows employees to take their careers in many directions without being looked negatively down upon. Instead of one career path, the realization of retaining and hiring good talent is dependent on their ability to customize career paths for each person in four domains; pace, workload, location/schedule/ and role. Mirroring real life, Deloitte Touche and other “Best companies to work with,” are beginning to recognize that at different times in your life, you will have different needs that require changing how you work and live. Companies that are serious about retaining top talent are embracing flexible work arrangements ranging from part-time to telecommuting, to compressed schedules. In a survey of Fortune 500 male executives  (Miller and Miller 2005) , 84% of male executives said they would like to work flexibility to allow them to pursue their professional aspirations while having more time for activities outside of work. Thankfully, some of these forward thinking companies are betting on attracting and retaining great employees by building programs for career flexibility and encouraging living a more balanced life.


            Complimenting this movement is the push for each and every employee, to brand themselves, focus on their strengths, determine their identity, their value, and their expertise and continue to keep on growing and learning in their chosen field. The idea is that expertise and talents are what people will pay for and each person is individually responsible for managing their career and their financial retirement needs. The stated and unstated contracts of a company taking care of you are long gone. As long as you perform well and the company needs your services you will have a position. If and when either is no longer true, you are on your own.  This shift is both welcoming and unsettling as the American Dream and the new American lifestyle continues to redefine itself.




Excerpted from Courage and Croissants, Inspiring Joyful Living by Suzanne Saxe-Roux and Jean P. Roux