It is amazing to discover that more and more often, decisions we make are no longer long-term or life-long decision but very short-term ones.
My parents come from a generation in which they thought that when a decision was made, it was made for life. If we misbehaved, they thought we would misbehave our entire lives. When we did not want to learn (OK, when I did not want to learn), they thought we would hate learning forever. When we hung around certain friends, they were afraid we would be with those friends forever.
This is why when we talked about studying and education, my parents always talked about it from the perspective of being able to get a job that you could continue for 20 years or more! I remember when my sister said she was going to work with youth street gangs and was going to study for 3 years to be able to do this, my mom was shocked. “Can you imagine yourself working on the streets with gang kids when you’re pregnant?”
When we bought our first home (which was more like a box than a home, but a most enjoyable box, I might say), she asked, “How many kids can you raise here?”
Whenever we bought a shirt or a dress, it always had to be one size bigger, “To give you room to grow”. Once we reached a certain age (my 3 sisters and I), our dresses needed to be altered to allow for tummy growth for when we became pregnant. My saying, “Mom, I am not planning to have a baby in the next two to three years”, did not really help the situation.
When we looked for furniture, we had to buy furniture that would survive the kids and at the same time would not be too heavy for us to move when we became old and weak.
My mom was just like all the other moms of her generation. For them, life was harder than today. They could not study something for 4 years and then decide they actually wanted to do something else. For them, buying a house was so hard because they knew they could not afford to move every 2-3 years just because the family grew. Clothes were expensive and the ability to alter them was a valuable skill, which made them last longer, and furniture was a life-long investment.
I think about it a lot. Different generations have different needs and those needs change the way the new generations relate to life. On average, people nowadays change jobs every 5 years. Because of this, we find that the necessity to study for 3-4 years in order to obtain a particular occupation is perhaps less important than before, because we know we will remain in most occupations are only for a short time.
Whereas in the past, people only changed homes once in their lives (when they got married), today, with the high rate of divorce and with the changes in occupation every 5 years or so, most people live in more than 5 houses during their lifetime.
Clothes are another example. They were not as accessible to previous generations and people who could fix and sew their own clothes had an advantage. Today, the time, effort and cost involved in making or mending your own clothes is much higher than just going to the shop and buying some (and shopping is a lot more fun…).
I know that my parents and others of their generation find it hard to adjust to making short-term decisions. This makes me wonder about my kids’ generation. Do you think their decision horizon will get even closer? If so, how well will we adjust?
What do you think?