Fulfillment or money

"We aren't against money, but money for what, if we no longer have the time to love each other or the time to take care of one another, if we spend our lives on the brink of burnout?"

Catherine Dorion
Member of the Quebec National Assembly for Taschereau (Québec Solidaire)

The search for personal fulfillment

I have always wanted to do something with these fighting wordsby Catherine Dorion in her very first speech to the Quebec NationalAssembly, especially this epicquote that made the news over several days. Due to lack of time, this got delayed a few months but I can't resist coming back to it.

It is true that today's society, the financialization of the economy and all the "disruptive" technological changes and innovations we are experiencing are forcing people to performmore than ever before. Most organizations are constantly re-examining themselves and asking more of their employees in order to adjust to the emerging demands of markets and society.

Madame Dorion's heartfelt cry is therefore very understandable.

On the other hand, in light of such a judgment on the socioeconomic conditions we face, along with a collective wish to turn the tide, I was eager to find an echo of this sentiment in people's personal lives. And it is in this context that I found the results, in the form of personal values, that allow me to distinguish those who prefer money from those who are driven more by personal fulfillment (and by love, as Madame Dorion would say).

To measure this social divide, survey respondents (a sample that reflectsthe Canadian population)were presented with two statements describing radically different personal goals, asking whether they felt a strong preference or a slight preference for the first statement (A) or for the second (B). These statements were ...

A) To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life

B) To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling

The results were as follows (Canada, March 2018, n = 2,347):


Clearly and overwhelmingly, people prefer personal fulfillment to money, 80% opting for statement B versus only 20% for statement A(with rounding). Note: these results are nearly identical for Quebec.

Given such results, Madame Dorion would probably say, in keeping with the logic of her speech to the National Assembly,that it is high time to incorporate social regulations to better manage the socio-economic pressures on people and to help them adjust better to these shared aspirations.

Young people: those Millennials again?

It is interesting to seeinthis question's results that there are very few significantvariations by sociodemographic or socio-economic characteristics-with the exception of young people (under 35 years of age). While 20% of Canadians prefer money over fulfillment, 34% of 18- to 34-year-olds do (40% of 18-24 year olds and 30% of 25-34 year olds-and the same data and differences apply in Quebec).

Obviously, in the face of such differences, one's first reflex is to see this as yet another expression of this singular generation, the Millennials. But, similar to my findings for this generation in one of my last posts, these differences are less reflective of a new generation than the fact that we are dealing simply with young people. Ten years ago, we asked a similar question, pitting money against fulfillment at work, and young people back then then had also been strongly over-represented on the money side.

Fulfillment or money? CROP - Panorama 2018


Money for spending and for admiration

Basically, what attracts people to money is the irresistible,seductive power of consumption and the social status it confers. For them, money is theleverfor becoming someone in society. Consumption itself provides a unique type of gratification, as well as access to the status associated with having the means to climb the social ladder ("Keeping up with the Joneses").

It is also interesting to observe that these people have a certain predisposition toward civil disobedience, as if any way of moving up in the world is legitimate!

Also, and perhaps of most interest, is the fact that they feel especially overwhelmed by the demands of life. Most of them have the impression that life is passing them by (64% of those motivated by money versus 51% for society as a whole. See the next tables.).

CROP - Panorama 2018

If you had to choose, would you prefer:

A. To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life

B. To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling


A search for harmony within oneself, with others and with nature

On the other side of this social divide, those who express a strong preference for an average incomebut a fulfilling social and family life are really motivated by a desire for harmony in their lives. (I am only talking about those most in agreement with this statement, who represent 50% of the population, because if I take the entire 80% who are in agreement, I am unable to characterize them.)

For them, family comes first. They want to have meaningful and authentic relationships with the people around them. They are sensitive to current social and ecological issues. They want to do their part to make the world a better place. They are very concerned about equity and equality between men and women. They feel a part of nature instead of in a position of dominance over it (a kind of ZenBiomanist).

Harmony and fulfillment are at the core of their values (and love, too, as Madame Dorion would say).

On the other hand, on the issue of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life and that they are missing out, they also express some frustration (49% compared to 51% for society as a whole. See the tables above). They want to put their fulfillment first, but feel pressured by society and the pace of life.

Note that the profile of those who "slightly prefer" an average income and a fulfilling social and family life (31%) is not very characteristic and is not at all directed towards harmony, unlike the previous group. Instead, they express a rather nonchalant hedonism, as if they find the effort required to pursue the almighty dollar more trouble than an authentic and deep search for fulfillment!

If you had to choose, would you prefer:

A. To earn a lot of money but have little time for a social and family life

B. To earn an average income, but have a social and family life that is fulfilling


Is it possible to slow down the pace?

In her canonical speech, it seems that Madame Dorion put her finger squarely on a very real shared feeling, one that encapsulates our era for many of us. One in every two Canadians feels that life is passing them by (51%, exactly the same percentage in Quebec),and an equivalent percentagelongs for a fulfilling life even if the trade-off is having only an average income.

Madame Dorion's heartfelt message was a call to reflect on the frantic pace of our lives and what we cando collectively to put a little more balance in them.

However,given our world of globalized, financialized markets and continuous technological change, is it even possible to find this kind of life balance without compromising the health of our economy, our livelihoods and the economic future of our children?

I do not pretend to have the answer. But I believe that we need to have this discussion. Unfortunately, Madame Dorion's speech went nowhere.