Melanie Howard, sociologist and co-founder of the Future Foundation, a consumer think-tank, believes that, as a society, we are hauling ourselves up Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, at the apex of which lies “self-actualisation”. Since we already know that a fat bank balance or a Porsche is not the key to happiness, we are searching elsewhere for fulfilment.
Howard says: “I think we’re in a very advanced state of this [pyramid]. There’s this emerging idea of ourselves as projects — we are no longer labelled by our education or gender, or born into a social situation that we then play out for the rest of our lives. We can do new things, pick up new skills, learn a new language. Because we’re living longer, we have more time to think about who we really want to be. We are all asking ourselves, ‘How can I get more out of my life?’”