Harvard Business Review: Realities no longer match dreams

Sunday, July 1, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

The Harvard Business Review danced around using the exact phrase "the American Dream" in a March 21 column. But the authors — a college president, a New York Times contributing writer and an entrepreneur — tackle a problem many people we've talked to said they're facing.

If we work hard enough, we're told as children and young adults, we can accomplish what we want in life. But in this unpredictable economy, executing the plans we dream up isn't as straightforward as it once was. We've talked to Missouri residents — even Missouri residents in high school — who say it's vital to have a contingency plan (or multiple plans) to succeed financially in case dreams don't become reality.

The Business Review column suggests steps to making work goals feasible in our uncertain world. The crux of the process is a reflection on what steps did and didn't work in achieving those goals.

But how realistic is it for all Americans — or even all Missouri residents — to follow those steps to more satisfying work? Have we accepted the fact that our realities often no longer match up with our dreams? Or have our priorities shifted to finding satisfaction elsewhere, something that's perhaps indicative of a larger cultural mindset change?

This post is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.

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