The Age of Self-Navigation

It’s 2019 and the American lifestyle defies classification as we mix and match all the disparate choices offered to us daily. On TV, we’re presented with reality shows that have no boundaries in terms of topic and are focused only on shock value. Social Media offers a platform from which anyone can spew anything with no consequence and there are no boundaries in terms of topic or target. People and families are destroyed every day in the name of whatever theology or reality one wants to embrace, especially regarding politics and religion. These days, people seem to migrate between different ways of living with a focus on only one thing: I want what I want regardless of how it affects or influences anyone else. Nothing is sacred anymore and no one is safe from either being ostracized, marginalized or otherwise neutralized, especially if they’re deemed a threat or obstacle to what one wants despite the cost. In such an environment, the way we monitor social change (demographics, attitudes, behaviors) is no longer enough to chart social progress because no one can define what progress really looks like. The only real measure that seems to matter is ‘Did I get what I wanted?’ This is why I continue to focus on core values in my approach to leadership, not only professionally but personally. While attitudes and opinions change quickly, core values are enduring and often last a lifetime. There are some values that change over time based upon environmental influences, but there are a core few that last a lifetime. They represent the guiding principles in our lives, such as achievement, helping others or individualism. Our value system strongly influences our views of how we should live and the decisions we should make. They affect the jobs we do, the people we spend our time with, and how we spend our money. Our value system is the sum of all the choices we make. In September 1996, 2/3rd’s of Americans said that having close relationships was always on their minds. More than half said the same about security and stability. The responses were the same regardless of age, sex, race, income or region. Overall, they were less concerned about ‘me’ oriented values. Only 1/3rd were thinking about having the power and influence to get what they wanted in life or about developing themselves as individuals. Today, with the majority of the workforce and the marketplace being populated by those we now identify as Millennial’s, they represent a values group that are called ‘self-navigators’ based upon their rejection of tradition and conformity and their belief that there is no safety net. However, it’s important to understand that they are forming their value set around the same four influences all of us before them were: events, the economy, technological advances and parenting. The one common characteristic they share with all of us right now is that none of us trust corporations, government leaders or anyone else simply because they’re in a position of authority. As a result, this group is forming its own reliance network with others, who prove themselves worthy allies. These self-navigators have concluded that the traditional formula for happiness simply does not happen for very many people. Think about it; in today’s environment of corporate downsizing, lack of affordable education, and ineffective governance, where a diploma doesn’t guarantee a job, getting a job is no guarantee of keeping one and retirement may never come, it’s kind of hard to argue with them, isn’t it? Truth be told, better to try and understand them, thereby becoming a worthy ally!

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