“How did I end up here?” is a question I’ve asked myself a thousand times. But trying to solve the personal puzzle of your life’s journey can feel like a fool’s errand, often leading to more frustration and angst.
More often than not, we just fall back on the time honored tradition of assuming it was all of our own making — good or bad. The sociological term for this is fundamental attribution bias — meaning we often diminish the role external factors play in our lives and attribute outcomes to individual effort or decisions. (For a perfect example of this, check out Paul Piff’s monopoly study).
This also may partially explain why we are more likely to recall the obstacles we have overcome versus the things that have helped us along the way. In his research, Shai Davidai refers to this as headwinds or tailwinds. A perfect metaphor if you consider which you notice more on a windy day (Here is a great summary of Davidai’s research from a recent New York Times article)
Why does this matter?
Well if you’ve achieved some success it means you might be minimizing the impact of other factors that may have helped you (leading to less gratitude and interestingly less compassion for people going through a similar struggle to you).
If you’re not satisfied with where you are, you and others may be more likely to blame you for your situation — underappreciating how little you had working for you.
Over the last three years conducting research and talking to Americans’s across the country about the American Dream, it became pretty clear that there is a significant disconnect between what research shows contributes to social mobility AND what people think contributes to their own situation.
In an effort to bridge that gap, we created, Your American Dream Score, a simple online quiz for peopl to see what factors could be working for and against their efforts to achieve the American Dream.
It only takes a few minutes to discover what factors could have contributed to or hindered your success. Each question represents a factor that research shows correlates to social mobility and/or happiness in life. Once completed, you receive a score and a list of factors that show what you had working for and against you. The higher your score, the more you had to overcome. The lower the score, the more you had working in your favor.
The tool was made possible by generous funding from the Ford Foundation and is being launched in conjunction with WNET, America’s flagship PBS station, and their Chasing the Dream initiative.
Our hope is that people from different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs, will find their score and share it with others to start more constructive conversations about how we come to be where we are in life.
So if you’re asking yourself, “How did I end up here?” or looking for a way to jumpstart a better conversation about what contributes to our station in life, find and share Your American Dream Score today.
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Originally published at medium.com