Do you have a right to flourish?
I believe you do. I believe we all do. It hurts my soul to think that things could work out well for me and not my sister or my brother. It’s baked into my very being and it’s also promised to us in our Declaration of Independence as our…
…unalienable Rights… Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted…
Yet, the vast majority of us are not flourishing. We’re struggling. Before we exercise our right to flourish, it’s important to grasp how bad things really have become.
We Are Not Flourishing
Although we may believe the US is still the best country in the world, the vast majority of us are unhealthy, broke, burned out and unfulfilled.
- 97% of us are unhealthy (Mayo Clinic, 2016)
- 78% of us live paycheck to paycheck (Careerbuilder.com, 2017)
- 75% of us are in debt (Careerbuilder.com, 2017)
- 67% of us workers are burned out (Gallup, 2018)
- 66% of us are unfulfilled (Imperative, 2016)
- 46% of us feel lonely (Cigna, 2018)
It didn’t used to be this way. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in the Midwest, I remember the US being much more abundant, connected, hopeful and giving. I remember thriving Main Streets, Little League, Cub Scouts, high school football games, county fairs and corn festivals. I remember family barbecues, young love and affordable mortgages. I remember an abiding sense of hope and faith. It’s not that we didn’t have problems — we did (racism, sexism, homophobia, ecological destruction, imperialist foreign policy, etc.), but just about everything else seemed to be working, like bipartisanship, living wages, affordable healthcare and company pensions.
Now, many of our downtown areas are boarded up and our communities are being plagued by opioids and meth. What the heck happened?
Why We Are Not Flourishing
#1 Economic policy. Average US wages have declined steadily over the last 40 years. At the same time our healthcare, housing and transportation costs have risen substantially. Further, our work hours per week have increased, with most households now requiring 2 full-time workers to survive. (Warren, 2007)
#2 Tax policy. We’ve cut taxes for the wealthy (marginal tax rate has fallen from 77% in 1969 to 37% today, Tax Policy Center, 2019) and corporations (down from 53% in 1968 to 21% today, The Balance, 2019). This has concentrated wealth for the few, and made it extremely difficult for us to help those who need it.
#3 Political corruption. The wealthy and corporations bought and paid for our politicians. This led to union busting, financial crises, offshoring manufacturing, cutting funding for social programs, and a privatized healthcare system (the most expensive and one of the worst performing in the world, with 66.5% of US bankruptcies due to medical bills, CNBC, 2019). Let’s face it, they won a multi-decade, multi-front war on middle class flourishing.
Should we flourish again?
Of course we should! We’ve done it before. Hell, we practically wrote the book on flourishing, creating a thriving middle class from 1945–1985.
If any of us were given a magic wand, we’d waive it and ensure that every US household could live comfortably on one stable income. We’d bring back those thriving Main Streets. We’d make sure our healthcare was again the best in the world. We’d make college and technical school free. We’d make sure each of us had a career that was prosperous and fulfilling, that allowed us to make our highest contribution to others.
Although a magic wand would be nice, I ain’t got one, but there are a few things that we can do right now to create a country we can once again be proud of.
What Can We Do To Flourish
#1. Vote. Vote for the politicians who are committed to your flourishing, who want to improve the lives of ALL Americans (especially the 70% of us who have been historically oppressed — women, people of color, GLBTQ, those with disabilities, children, vets and the elderly), who fight for a $15+/hr minimum wage, who fight to unshackle us from undue financial burden, who fight to provide free / affordable healthcare and education, who fight to protect the health and natural beauty of our forests, rivers and farmland, and who fight to invest in clean energy and mass transit infrastructure.
#2. Activate flourishing locally. Regardless of how you vote or what the next decade of laws look like, there is a massive opportunity to awaken flourishing locally. The research shows that the key to flourishing is to activate our unique purpose together as a community. As individuals, when we activate our purpose, we make more money, are healthier and happier and have better relationships. As organizations, we earn $8.2k more per purpose-activated employee per year. Our employees are also more loyal, better leaders and enthusiastic brand ambassadors. Outside of voting, the most impactful thing we can do for America is activate flourishing in our organizations. [DISCLAIMER: My company empowers organizations to activate purpose and flourishing.]
#3. Align. Lastly, my invitation is grab your partner or a dear friend and together look at all your major decisions, e.g. where you work, who you spend your time with, how you spend and invest your money. Discuss which choices are going to most elevate your flourishing, e.g. make love vs. Netflix, vegetables vs. soda, bike vs. drive, read vs. social media, family dinner vs. bar. Make time to connect with each other once a week and celebrate the flourishing wins of the past week and commit to one thing you’re taking on to flourish in the next week. With this framework, over the course of the next year, you two will find yourself in a far different place.
I know that if we commit to doing these 3 things, we’ll have fulfilling and prosperous lives and a country we can once again be proud of. I invite you to join me in creating a flourishing future for the United States of America.
About the Author
Brandon is a Midwesterner, best-selling author, international speaker and serial impact entrepreneur.
He is the Founder of ELEVATE, a movement that creates a flourishing future for the United States of America, by activating purposeful organizations and cultures of trust, innovation and collaboration.
Over the last two decades, he has written / co-written 4 books on purpose. He has driven growth for several Fortune 500 and start-ups companies, and has guided thousands of people on their journey to discover and live their higher purpose.
He works with moms, dads, veterans, clergy, students and retirees, as well as world-class athletes, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders from organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Stanford University, The United States Marine Corps, Google, The Smithsonian Institutes and Apple.