What was the last thing you did that really, truly mattered? What was the last conversation you had about something more meaningful than a project at work, plans for the weekend, a novel you read or film you watched? We work a lot, play a little, and marvel at how quickly time passes. What we don't do is spend much time pondering why we're doing the things we do or whether there might be a better way to live. For a long while, this surface-level existence was enough; but now our priorities are changing. The Great Recession has yielded much hardship, but we also must credit it for yanking us out of our ruts and routines and making us reconsider what is really important - and how satisfying our lives truly have been.
At the tail end of 2009, Euro RSCG Worldwide undertook a seven-market study to better understand an emerging shift toward what we refer to as mindful consumption. Whereas in recent decades our spending had been quick and unthinking (I see, therefore I buy), now it is becoming more conscious and considered. Our examination of these patterns forms the basis of our new book, Consumed: Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending. What we discovered in our research is that this change in consumption reflects far more than a desire for savings or anxiety over an uncertain future; people are experiencing a deep-seated discontent and desire for change. Among the 1,500 Americans we surveyed, for example, two-thirds said society is moving in the wrong direction, while eight in ten complained that people have become too shallow, focusing too much on things that don't really matter. Three-quarters worry that people have grown intellectually lazy. More surprising, two-thirds actually see an upside to the recession, saying it has served to remind people of what is really important in life. What the survey respondents were expressing is unhappiness with life as we have come to know it and a hunger for more. Not more "stuff," but more substance and meaning. More purpose and fulfillment. A more satisfying way of living.