Why we should sleep on the ‘American Dream’

Endless self-help books to be read, bombardments of lists pushing the latest productivity hacks, perfectionism being pushed on social, self-improvement can be a challenging tight rope to walk.

On one had, we live in an increasingly competitive global society with resources & talent being source from all over the world.

On the other, relentless pursuits of self-improvement are strongly linked to suicide and other mental health issues (like South Korea ranking 4th in suicides per 1,000 and the setting of the hit Netflix series Squid Games which explores this obsession with wealth and money).

It’s no wonder that trends like reddits #antiwork picked up attention on major news outlets and is attracting readers fed up with the rat race.

Messages like ‘get more money, buy this or that, increase your status, consume more’ are everywhere and exhausting. But one key detail often left out of American consumerism is why money at its core valuable.

And that reason is to increase their access to freedom and power.

This freedom can take many forms, enabling freedom from tedium of working long hours, from oppression of being put in dangerous situations, or from servitude to the advancement of others’ ideas. These are all low power positions for people.

Money allows one to make more choices that are in their (and their family’s or community’s) best interest and brings about more access to power or the freedom to exert influence.

Increasing money and power allows escaping difficult and low paying labor, it allows individuals to become an influencing force on the world. It allows people to increase their Power or freedom to make decisions in the advancement of themselves (or community).

Everyone starts out on a different part of this scale of access to Power, some with very high power right out of the gate, others not. And we are obsessed with stories about those who ascend and overcome great adversity in America while simultaneously not doing a good job of equipping people equitably to access Power in the US.

The US sits in 27th place on the Global Social Mobility Index by the World Economic Forum so as many articles put it, if you want to live the ‘American Dream,’ move to Denmark.

The ‘American Dream’ could be more of a carrot & stick than people care to admit and I think the ‘American Dream’ does us more harm than good.

The American Dream implies a fairly myopic view of what ‘success’ looks like to people. For example, the American Dream implies a rise to a prominent place of power in society in politics, athletics, business, or some form of accomplishment within an organized structure.

However, not everyone want accomplishment within an organized structure. The increasing prevalence of #vanlife & people valuing free time over money and positions is challenging the traditional ideas of what freedom & power really look like.

The American Dream doesn’t provide the flexibility to account for new choices and life paths. We need to return to ‘the Land of Opportunity’ in ourselves and in our daily lives.

We need to support the creation of opportunity for all and encourage honest conversations about what level of opportunity, freedom, and power will be most fulfilling for our lives.

We need to change our internal dialogue and the words we use with others so that we can rewrite the narratives we are encoding in ourselves, our friends, and our children. We can make decisions in support of opportunity and access.

We can restore The Land of Opportunity.

-Adam @thatmhg


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