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NOTIONS: Seeking your input on satisfaction

April 24, 2006

Dear Reader:

For six years, I've filled this weekly space with notions, gnashings, drivel and diatribes.

From time to time, some readers have responded-often with nods of agreement, occasionally with headshaking disbelief, once in a while with outraged indignation.

Now that we've built something of a virtual community (call it a Neanderthal blog), I want to ask you a question. Yes, I mean you.

Please don't assume someone else will answer. And please, don't feel that your insights and opinions don't count, or that you can't express them well enough.

Your insights and opinions are sacred trusts. I want to hear from YOU. Here's the topic on which I seek your input:

Is the quest for more meaningful life and work on the rise? If so, why? And why now? And are the seekers of greater meaning willing to make the sacrifices it will take to get what they want?

Some background: Each week, it seems, I run into people who tell me they want something more from life and, of necessity, from their work.

I've met gainfully employed people who say they must drag themselves into their "dungeons" each day, weary of jobs and careers that have no meaning to them beyond a paycheck and paid time off.

They say they want something more.

I've met with the unemployed, underemployed and wish-they-weren't selfemployed. Often, these are talented people who were cruising along in some career of their choosing until, one eye-opening day, they looked themselves in the mirror (or, more often, had some cost-cutting boss do it for them), and suddenly, some function that seemed so vital months or years before wasn't needed any more.

This time around, they want something more.

I've met with men and women slugged in the gut by the death of a loved one; and people who've been ripped apart by divorce; and people who've survived serious illnesses and injuries. Fraught with the meaninglessness so often wrought by mourning or a near miss, they can't (or don't want to) return to the way they were.

They want something more.

At one end of the age scale, I've met with retirees and near retirees-members of The Greatest Generation and first-wave Baby Boomers. After pursuing the almighty buck for 30 years or more (and often "succeeding" handsomely by their generation's fiscal standards), they find themselves with miles to go before they sleep (or, at least, until they can collect on their IRAs).

They want something more.

At the other end of the age scale, I've met with young people-Gen Xers, Millenials, Echo Boomers-who say they don't want to do 30 years of me-first penance-to-a-paycheck like their parents.

They want something more.

In my conversations, "something more" takes on many shapes and sizes:

Sometimes, it's work/life balance. Other times, it's a wish for no work at all.

Sometimes, it's intellectual. Other times, it's spiritual.

Sometimes, it's service to a cause. Other times, it's service to the soul.

Sometimes, it's intimate and personal. Other times, it's save-the-planet grand. Sometimes, "something more" is precisely defined. Other times, it's a vague, ethereal, "I'll-know-it-when-I-see-it" notion. Sometimes, there's a step-by-step implementation plan. Other times, there's nary a next-step clue. Then there's the struggle: Sometimes against American society. Sometimes against family pressure. Sometimes against self. "I want something more," folks will say, "But I can't afford to earn anything less. And I can't find the time or resources to make the change." It's the dilemma of the ages. So here are my questions to you: Are you, too, hearing more people say they want something more from life? If so, why do you think that is? And why now? Are you feeling this desire yourself? If so, have you acted on that desire (I'd like to hear your story)? Can there be more meaning in life-and enough money, too? Or must we sacrifice one for the other? If achieving "something more" results in a "lower" standard of living (by traditional fiscal standards, anyway), do you think many Americans will be willing to bite the proverbial bullet? Have you-or will you? Finally, if more Americans seek and find "something more," what impact-pro or con-will this have on our society, our economy and our role in the world? Food for thought. Mull it over. Then you pontificate instead of me. I eagerly await your responses to bhetrick@ibj.com.


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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