For those of you who live in America, have you ever wondered if the American Dream is for you? Is it really your dream? Personally, I have wondered this time and time again. It feels like the pressure is always there. I feel it in people’s expectations of me. I feel it in the judgmental comments I’ve received about being a stay-at-home mom and then a blogger. And, I feel it when I explain to someone for the first time that I consider myself a minimalist. I can tell by their response that they don’t believe minimalism and the American Dream can coexist.
Some people just don’t get minimalism, and I think I understand why. We have grown up being taught by society, school, and sometimes our families, that being successful means you go to college, get an honorable full-time job, and work hard so that you can pay the bills and save for retirement (and hopefully an early one). We work so we can have more things… more things that, in theory, should make us more happy.
I am not delusional. For some, this may be exactly what they want out of life. But for me, the American Dream as I’ve understood it has never been appealing. I do feel it’s pull at times, I feel the desire to amass and accumulate and manipulate people’s perception of me. I sometimes want people to see my carefully organized and decorated home and think I’ve got it all together. Sometimes, I feel the need to hear people point out my outfit, my car, my house, my iPhone. I am human after all.
But the question I want us all to consider today is this: Is the American Dream really the right to amass? Did it start out this way, or did it morph into this over time? And once we’ve considered the answer to these questions, it will become easier for you to decide what the American Dream means for you.
I want nothing more than for you to decide for yourself what you want out of life.
The Birth of the American Dream
So, how did the American Dream come about and what was it about?
**Disclaimer: I am not a history buff by any means. I’ve simply done some research to help us explore this topic.**
The American Dream first became an idea in the 1700’s when congress wrote the Declaration of Independence. According to this article on The Balance (a financial advice website), the American Dream is the ideal that the government should protect each person’s opportunity to pursue their own idea of happiness. It’s protected in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our founding fathers never defined the pursuit of happiness for everyone as amassing. It was simply our right to achieve our potential and improve our own lives. It was meant to give everyone the opportunity to live a full life. The American Dream was about equality, opportunities for everyone, and happiness.The American Dream was meant to give everyone the opportunity to live a full life.Click To Tweet
The Evolution of the American Dream
So then, when did the American Dream become the idea of getting a job with a high salary, acquiring big houses, fancy cars, and lots of possessions and calling that success? When did it become working yourself into the ground in order to buy things you don’t need but you think will make you look successful? What happened to enjoying your life and the people in it?
Well, that switch began in the 1920’s. The American Dream went from the right to create a better life to the desire to acquire material things. But how? People started focusing on what others had…and there were always others who had more. So, instead of focusing on pursuing their own version of happiness, they began to pursue someone else’s version. The American Dream became greed-driven instead of happiness-driven. Some would say that this new version of the American Dream is what led to the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.Instead of pursuing our own version of happiness, we've begun to pursue someone else's version.Click To Tweet
Instead of the American Dream helping the poor and marginalized become independent and able to support their family, it became about those who already have enough getting more than they need. Happiness became about having an abundance of things. For many, it became about luxury and extravagance.
Minimalism and The American Dream Today
The American Dream has definitely evolved over the years and will likely continue to do so. And maybe rightly so. The fact that the “new” American Dream isn’t necessarily what our founding fathers had in mind doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s wrong. Change can be good. Change can lead to the betterment of our society. But, it is my humble opinion that this may not have been a change for the better. I don’t disagree with the idea of the American Dream, but I do disagree that having more will make us more happy.
In fact, I believe that having more usually does the opposite. If you’ve been following my journey to minimalism and simple living, you already know what I mean. If you aren’t sure what minimalism is or why I would choose it, check out this post.
Furthermore, people will continue to disagree about what the American Dream means. I think that goes to show that the American Dream is meant to be individual. It is meant to be pursuing a happy life that is uniquely yours. Only you can know what that means. And only you can decide what a full life looks like for you. Is it relationships? Is it your hobby? Could it be chai tea lattes and spending time outdoors? Maybe it’s a combination of a lot of things.The American Dream is meant to be you pursuing a happy life that is uniquely yours.Click To Tweet
Ask yourself, “what can’t I do without?” and “what would I regret doing (or not doing) when I look back on my life?”
So, what do you want out of life? What makes you happy? These are the things a person considers when they first embark on the minimalist lifestyle, as well as throughout their entire lives. We have to consistently ask ourselves these questions and then choose to intentionally live our lives accordingly.
What does the American Dream mean for you? If you consider yourself a minimalist, do you think they can coexist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!