PROGRESS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE
Changes in society mean people rate life progress differently these days, says new research.
How do you define progress in your life? New research strongly suggests the way people measure their forwards movement has changed. A report by ASB Bank and research agency TRA, Aligning with progress in New Zealanders lives, surveyed more than 1000 New Zealanders on what progress meant to them and whether they felt they were progressing in their lives.
The results showed a total of 56 per cent regarded themselves as either moving ahead (41 per cent) or signif icantly moving forward (15 per cent), while 26 per cent perceived they were standing still and 18 per cent going backwards. A further 42 per cent said money was an issue and they were only “just getting by day to day”.
Perhaps the most interesting f indings of the survey come when drilling down into individual and demographic responses to see how people measure progress in their own lives.
While 56 per cent felt they were moving forward, signif icantly or otherwise, and 44 per cent felt they were standing still or moving backwards, the way Kiwis expressed themselves in the survey demonstrated progress may not be measured by the same big events – for example, buying a house, marriage, childbirth – as has typically been the case.
According to ASB general manager of marketing, Shane Evans, the research shows the quarteracre dream is no longer a relevant benchmark for achievement in New Zealand.
“We set out to understand what progress means to New Zealanders and if the idea of ‘ keeping up with the Joneses’ was still a key driver of success. We found it’s actually the day to day events that enable us to feel like we’re moving forward and have a sense of momentum in our lives,” he says.
That was shown in survey interviews where subjects were asked to relate “wins” in their daily lives as well as something they had moved forward with over the last six months. While past economic eras might have suggested that big life events would dominate, the majority of current responses showed smaller stepping stones created the aura of progress for many.
Like Colleen, a mature student with two young children, who rated her “wins” as handing in a difficult essay and learning how to make egg tarts. Her 6-month progress was around gaining a part-time job that enabled her to pay her fees and rent, other expenses and take her children to a fun park: “It was a really big thing getting that job,” she says, “it really helps.”
Gary, a younger professional, rated his self-repair of a complex mechanical issue with his car as a win, saving himself a potential four-f igure bill. In his six-month
“Income and equality may not have changed much, material deprivation may not have changed much, but housing costs have.”
progress, he talked about a scarring break-up and moving forward with help from friends and family, especially f irming relationships with the latter.
John, another young professional, regarded his commitment to getting f it and focusing on his football career as a “win”. In the last 6 months, he had opened savings accounts and really organised his life, not just with day-to-day expenditure but planning for the future.
Gillian, a young mother, talked about coping successfully with an adverse team situation at work as a “win”. A keen netballer, progress over the last six months was typified by encouraging her daughter’s love of netball: “Sharing sport with my daughter has been really exciting and something I treasure.”
Nicky, an older mother, talked about handing in an assignment on her way to qualifying in a new profession as a “win” and progress over six months was measured by the family’s decision to sell their Auckland house and move to the South Island.
Small day-to-day events had more association with progress for many than big milestones – like learning, getting tasks done, helping someone eating healthy and paying the bills, food on the table, good sleep and family time.
Generation Z and “Yo Pros” ( generally younger people in a job and living on their own but not considered a yuppie) are among the 23-34s who are more likely to see a new “toy” as progress in their lives. More mature people (45-54) are most likely to see avoiding hard times as progress with 54-plus experiencing less progress.
Evans said the focus on smaller items of progress, alongside larger life measures like buying a house, was probably a result of the country’s housing issues: “Income and equality may not have changed much, material deprivation may not have changed much, but housing costs have.”
Although wage increases for individuals might have been reasonable when compared with rising house and rent prices, this was likely to give people the impression of standing still, perhaps resulting in people re-focusing on smaller landmarks to measure progress in their lives.
ASB general manager of marketing Shane Evans said it had been interesting to see how the definition of progress had changed over the generations.