Environment and Technology

NOTIONS: Readers weigh in on the quest for 'something more'

May 8, 2006

Two weeks ago, I asked readers whether they'd witnessed what I have: More and more folks wanting "something more" from life and work. And if so, why? And why now? And how might "something more" manifest itself?

Many responded-so many that I'll share this week some of the "whethers" and "whys" and next week some of the "hows."

I heard from several readers who've dealt with this issue professionally.

An Indianapolis placement consultant said, "I talk to people every day, and have for years, who say that they want something more.

"First, I try to get them to appreciate what they've got. You'd be surprised how many times the conversation ends there."

He said very few people appreciate what they have. Even fewer are up to the challenge of change.

Another local career consultant said, "I hear more people looking for something else, thinking about doing something else, asking if there is something else. Some are in angst, some are just curious explorers, and some need to move on because of a money issue, a bad boss, a bad environment or a bad something at work.

"I think we hear about it more for a couple of reasons. In today's world, it's OK to talk about it. In my father's and grandfather's day, the job choices were much more limited and everyone was struggling in a much more physically demanding world. So why talk about it? No one would listen and there wasn't much point.

"In today's world, we're bombarded with messages stating outright, or implying, that there's something better and you need to find it. 'Be all you can be'-a slogan familiar to millions-is the epitome of the message. So, our society is telling us 'Go for it, develop the dream, and find the dream. So we're talking about it more."

A local technology guru both echoed and scoffed at this notion.

"I go through life hearing so many people trying to answer U2's song: 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for ... '

"Fudgesickles. Life is what is happening while you're making other plans. You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

"The whole freaking world is made up of advertising envy. Nothing one does is good enough. Your hair needs coloring. Your boobs are too small. Look at those glasses-get Lasik!!!

"I hate this odd paradoxical mixture of Calvinism and consumerism."

A Zionsville retiree weighed in with insights on journeys vs. destinations, and the impact of generational differences.

"When people search for happiness, peace, contentment and 'something more,' I've come to think that they may have failed to realize that those 'places' are not really any destination, but occurrences that take place in a journey. That journey is a life-their life-as viewed from the inside.

"I can only guess why you'd be hearing more of this quest for meaning than we did in my post-Word War II world," he said.

"The reasons, I think, are that your goals and life objectives are much less clear than were ours; your options are much broader and more accessible and you have fewer real or perceived limitations.

"Coming out of the Depression, which followed the experiences forged by one major war and preceded another, our world view was of first, economic survival, and second, the hope of raising, economically, the status of our children. These things have not been nearly as limiting or 'expected' from succeeding generations. This has made acceptable a broader spectrum of life choices.

"That broadening of choices, although less limiting, may actually be a little overwhelming," he said, "especially at the maturity level at which they are being made. This may help account for the 'searches for self' that come on in the middle years.

"In addition to more options, it seems as though today's generations have fewer real or perceived limitations. In earlier generations, mores, customs, values (many imposed by a more constant religious overlay) and loyalties (to family, neighborhood, town, state, church, school, employer, etc.) seemed to affect more all our decisions and actions. Those factors provided a feeling of external control over our lives.

"There seems to be a feeling now that work and even family life is 'supposed to be pleasant, fun, exciting, etc.' We went through life with little thought that work was supposed to be those things. Work was what we did to obtain the economics we needed to provide for ourselves and family. Other than in a few philosophical moments, I rarely pondered what I would really 'like to do' or what would be 'fun to do.' It was more of a thing of 'what must be done.'

"The freedom to have those thoughts might well have given us the 'wish for more fulfillment' or 'something more' that you speak of now. Our whole social environment has changed."

Next week: Some people who've pursued "something more," and others with prescriptions for what "something more" should be for the rest of us.



Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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