Each year at this time we celebrate Independence Day, commemorating the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and the birth of our fledgling nation. With all of the parties and fireworks displays, this may be the absolute worst day of the year to reflect on what independence means for Americans today.
It seems that in some ways, we have traded the oppression of King George for the oppression of time scarcity. The modern conveniences we take for granted are supposed to give us more freedom to pursue our individual interests. Instead, we tend to become tethered to mobile devices that seem to control our lives. We feel we have to be accessible 24/7 by tweet, email and text. There is no longer leisure time per se since we are always connected all of the time.
A generation ago, average Americans who had defined benefit pension plans had the reasonable expectation that they would be able to pursue more of their interests at retirement knowing that they would receive a guaranteed pension that they could not outlive. The reality today is quite the opposite. With pension plans becoming a thing of the past, and the responsibility for retirement planning resting squarely on the shoulders of each individual, most of us have to save more and work longer than we expected.
With the expansion of credit availability, we are all encouraged to consume. As we get caught up in a spiral of materialism, we exacerbate the time scarcity that makes us all feel that we are continually behind schedule and overwhelmed.
So what can you do to reassert your freedom to pursue your personal happiness? The first step is to take an inventory of your time. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you feel naked without your smartphone? Do you spend more time looking at your phone than you do your spouse or partner? If any of these symptoms sound familiar, take the first step this Independence Day to form new habits; and by the way, happy Independence Day.