The formative themes that shape us

I have spent about 12 years researching and communicating to audiences the unique age groups in the American marketplace and the challenges they pose. There are five generations today:

    1. Matures born prior to 1943
    2. Boomers (we can’t call them babies anymore!) born between 1944-1965
    3. Xers born between 1966 and 1980
    4. Millennials born between 1981 and 1999
    5. Hypers (my moniker) for those born after 2000.

A person’s values, attitudes and expectations are typically embedded during the first 15 years of life. The acquisition of values, beliefs, and expectations are due to socialization and unique experiences, especially during childhood.

Molding Factors play a powerful role shaping and socializing a particular generation as they are coming of age. These influences combine to recruit a particular age group into a societal dynamic. This dynamic is then collectively harnessed to propel a generation’s particular approach to life. Leaving a unique imprint, a personality. There are four molding factors that shape us in our formative years. As you read them, ask yourself what each one  was like as you were coming of age.

      • Adversity. What kind of societal challenges did you face?
      • Diversity. What is your attitude toward those who are different from you?
      • Economy. What was the health of the economy as you were growing up?
      • Technology. What were the tools available to you growing up?

Taking these factors as they occurred during the generational years above, certain unique formative themes become common for each generation. They all start with the letter “C”. Remember these are wide generalizations and not pinpoint specifications. How true are they for you as you reflect on your own generation?

      • Matures and Conflict. The Great Depression, World War II and beyond provided a lifetime of conflict
      • Boomers and Control. Given their enormous size at 78 million, Boomers have become accustomed to being in charge and influencing society.
      • Xers and Chaos. Born during while the Vietnam war was still raging, the energy crisis, and Watergate created an atmosphere of chaos. Certainty was illusion.
      • Millenials and Change. Think back on the massive tech innovations and wild cultural and global shifts (Fall of Berlin Wall) of the eighties and nineties. Change is only accelerating for all of us.
      • Hypers and Choice. The youngest generation has been inundated with choice, choice, choice. It can erode commitment if not careful on how to chose wisely.

We are who we were when. Culture and it’s forces shape us collectively as we came of age during a particular span in history.

If you are interested in exploring this topic in more depth you can purchase my ebook here>.

How accurate do you think these themes are? Can you give any examples of how they were formative as you were coming of age?

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  • Wes Roberts

    Jeff…excellent post! Thank you!!! Would welcome doing lunch before summer is over and talking more about this.

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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