So You Want To Change The World? Series Part 3

So You Want To Change the World? Series Part Three

Part 3: Being Happy Now – The REAL American Dream  

As teenagers go through the process of middle school, high school, and college, we often become completely focused on keeping ‘the eye on the prize’. We are told that all of our hard work, effort, and dedication will get us ‘the prize’, and that only the successful people can attain ‘the prize’ after years of constant demands and arduous journeys. Being an inquisitive teen, I ask all of you, what exactly is this ‘prize’ that we are told about? Is our definition of ‘prize’ different from their definition of ‘prize’?  And, can we get this ‘prize’ instantaneously, without having to suffer the continuous struggle?

In the broadest sense, the Western American culture (or the Old Cultural Story), has defined ‘the prize’ to be the achievement of The American Dream, which may be seen as an even more elusive concept. As we look at history, its definition has changed quite dynamically over time. In 1931, historian James Truslow Addams first defined The American Dream in his book The Epic of America as “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” This definition was refined to fit a new social order of the 1950s, as it then began to center around the image of the ‘perfect family’ with the father in a secure job and the mother at home in the picket fenced suburban home. Though the family roles have changed since then, the common ideal of having possessions (which got bigger and better each year) has carried throughout the decades to our current year. Or has it?

As The American Dream has still remained ‘the prize’ for all generations, our generation of teens has taken it to mean something beyond its material definition. In a 2005 Harris Interactive Poll, 640 teens ranging from ages 13 to 18 chose their definition of The American Dream from a list of seven possible options. The majority of the teens determined that the definition of The American Dream is “Simply being happy, no matter what I do.” As other definitions, such as “being rich and famous”, fell far behind in the polls, it’s extremely clear that teens know that happiness, not symbols of wealth and status, is the true key to being successfully self-fulfilled. Whether it be in our interpersonal or intrapersonal lives, happiness is something that a large majority of teens are actively striving for.

Unfortunately, the majority of people find image of happiness to still be a ‘prize’ that cannot be attained now, but rather after years and years of work. We still work hard now so that we can be happy with life later. But why? As we look back, we remember that the last and final step of the Three Way Path is Be Happy. I will go even further and say that it is Be Happy NOW. No matter what state, shape, or condition we are in, we can choose to be happy at any time of day. Why would we want to wait for years to enjoy something that we could choose to experience right now? Be happy purely for the sake of experiencing happiness. Choosing to be happy now will change your life, and just like the domino effect, will spread to an unimaginable amount of others. Forever and always, changing your choices changes your world.

As over 75% of teens are sure that The American Dream is attainable, I dare them to attain it right now. I know I’ll hear a challenge accepted.  

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at

Please Note: The mission of The Global Conversation website is to generate an ongoing sharing of thoughts, ideas, and opinions at this internet location in an interchange that we hope will produce an ongoing and expanding conversation ultimately generating wider benefit for our world. For this reason, links that draw people away from this site will be removed from our Comments Section, a process which may delay publication of your post. If you wish to include in your Comment the point of view of someone other than yourself, please feel free to report those views in full (and even reprint them) here.
Click here to acknowledge and remove this note: