We are, too many of us, busy to the point of distress. The demands of work, the needs of those we love, and our own requirements for a healthy happy life, can seem impossible to satisfy. In response, we search for some factual ground to stand on. In an effort to understand our situation we wonder: Is life today more demanding? Are we busier than previous generations? Is there something especially pressurized about the 21st Century?
The answers to these questions are ambiguous at best. Yes, commerce and communication are accelerating at a previously unimaginable rate. But while the pace can make life a blur of activity, previous generations have also felt overwhelmed by technology. The telephone sparked privacy concerns -- Are people listening in? -- and anxiety about the loss of face-to-face encounters. In 1890 Mark Twain's Christmas greeting expressed his hope for peace for all except "the inventor of the telephone." Similar fears accompanied the arrival of the radio and television.
In the past, people adapted to the technologies that threatened to disrupt their lives by adopting rules for their use. Alexander Graham bell refused to have a phone in his lab because it was distracting. Families observed limits on the use of TV and radio. The key factor in all these adaptations was not technological. It was, instead, emotional. Indeed, people restored the balance in their lives by honoring their feelings rather than trying to determine, in some factual way, whether they were justified in their search for balance.
In our ongoing work on the role of values in the workplace and the keys to achieving equilibrium, we have discovered that the emotional truth of our times is consistent, and real. As our recent survey of of Americans showed:
Our 'tech-addiction' makes us feel that life and priorities are out of balance
- Only 19% of Americans feel they do a good job of living in the moment
- Only 27% of Americans agree that they always prioritize relationships over financial success
- A staggering 78% of Americans agree that they'd give up sex before their smartphone!
Our work/life imbalance cannot be blamed on our love of work:
- Only 28% of Americans agree that their job makes them feel fulfilled; 48% say their jobs do not make them fulfilled
- Only 22% feel loyalty to their company. And more than twice as many -- 58% -- say they do not feel loyalty to their employer
- Only 28% of Americans feel their company culture is caring and understanding.
These findings are based on a survey conducted in June, 2014 by my company BAV Consulting, keepers of the world's largest quantitative, empirical data base of brands and consumer sentiments. The survey sample was designed to match the American population, with precise proportions of age, gender, ethnicity, geography and income. It confirmed the paradox of American life/work today: On the one hand, we are addicted to our devices--yet we resent the 24/7 demands that come with hyper-connectivity and the inability to live in the moment.
The facts about how we feel should help us to agree that something's gotta give. As individuals, we must honor our feelings and find ways to control the technologies that now seem to overwhelm us. At the same time, companies must accommodate universal and unchanging human needs for connection and control. People who feel isolated and powerless cease to be creative and productive. These are immutable truths. And we can only start to solve them when address our feelings of distress with the respect they deserve.
John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio are authors of The New York Times Best Selling Book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future (Wiley, April 2013). John is CEO of BAV Consulting.