Generational attitudes to work are changing markedly. Rewind to the 50s and 60s, most baby boomers worked primarily as a way to accrue financial assets, with the notion of enjoying life, at least in part postponed to retirement. To the ire of many from these older generations, millennials seem to think quite differently. The lyrics from the Yo La Tengo song “You can have it all” might well resonate. The idea being, having a meaningful and engaging job, that pays well, and provides for a balanced work/life balance ought to be available at any lifestage.
If you're "sceptical" or a "realist", then you may be finding this difficult so far. How can we have it all? Rewards come only to those who work hard. There just aren’t enough meaningful jobs to go around. And if everyone had the opportunity to be well paid, why are so many poor or struggling?
These are good questions. And questions such as these come up frequently in my own work as a Psychotherapist and at the workshops I run on money and career.
What I’ve learned is that there are real world limitations and there is work to be done before we enjoy rewards. However, as a whole our culture emphasises external work rather than internal work. And it’s the internal (or psychological) work, which in my mind has a real and significant role in determining whether we will indeed get the kind of work we deserve.
Still sceptical? Let’s take a word which I find quite helpful to explore this idea. Pause for moment and reflect on the word entitlement. Without thinking too much and noticing the initial response within yourself, ask:
- What thoughts, feelings, images, come up for you when you think about this word?
- Do you consider yourself someone who is entitled?
- What do you think about people who are entitled?
- Finally, If you felt any sense of judgement toward someone who is entitled, then ask yourself, what part of myself am I judging when I make this entitled person “bad”.
Note these responses down. You might find yourself coming back to them.
In our culture, the idea of entitlement is divisive. It opens up the idea of haves and have nots. This idea can seem almost pre-ordained, based on social class of birth, education, intellect, even physical appearance. It seems the idea of entitlement has been conflated with an arrogant, "inflated entitlement". But it seems to me, that at its unadulterated root, entitlement is simply believing we are allowed to have.
In most developmental psychological theory that I have read, it seems that we are, with few exceptions, born into world with an absolute right to be here and have what we need to thrive. It’s the developmental experience, family values around having, cultural norms around work and wealth, which might inflate or deplete our sense of entitlement.
So what can looking at our own sense of entitlement achieve? First up, the process of looking at our sense of entitlement is hugely valuable in itself. We may or may not have done this before, but when we do, we begin to realise that in some way we have internalised something of our experience. That in itself is hugely powerful. And then, when we have begun to understand what we believe about our own rights of having, we can begin to unpick, separate, and even behave differently.
Some more to think about:
- What feelings are associated with your sense of being allowed to have?
- How have these feelings been present, the last time you asked a boss about a pay rise, or a promotion? Or when you looked at jobs that were available?
- More broadly, when you thought about career change, or taking a completely different change in direction, how might the feelings related to having contributed to what you felt you could do next?
These internal beliefs and feelings unconsciously inform our decisions. They can undermine or enhance what we decide to do. But the truly exciting thing is, if we’re willing to encounter these aspects of our internal world, then change is sure to follow.
If you’re interested in the concepts discussed in this article, you may be interested in Stop being stuck at work, a workshop in Central London, February 23 and 24. More information.