Is Convenience Bad?

What is our infatuation with making things easier with no conception of why we are doing so? We do it because “we want it now” but the only things we really want right now are never good for us. We have 24 hour gyms that close down all of the time because there just aren’t enough people utilizing it, but almost every fast food place and convenience store is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is never sales or volume that closes these places, it is the fact that they cannot staff to cover that many hours or the amount of volume they may do. This alone sums up the point. We are unwilling to provide others with the convenience we want. Isn’t that telling. We want the McDonalds to be open when we want it but we aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to work the shift. Which is totally fine, I for sure wouldn’t work an overnight at a fast food joint, but I also don’t expect them to be open at 3am to fulfill my needs. But this is the life we live in at the moment. We want what we want but expect others to go out of their way for us. We expect the Amazon package we ordered last night to be at our door the next day and when it isn’t, there is a quick few clicks and a 1 star rating for delivery. We have an unfulfillable need for more, yet are less inclined than ever to put ourselves out for what we want. Now I didn’t exactly have to walk up hill both ways in the snow to school. I am firmly in the middle of the generation that created, adopted and proliferated this culture of convenience. When I was a kid I had to get up, walk over to the TV and change the channel. If I wanted to watch my favorite show (Ninja Turtles) unlike kids today who can literally click a few buttons on almost any device in their house and pull up the exact episode they want to watch I had to wake up before 6am on Saturday mornings to be in front of the TV when my show came on. I know this seems like a small thing but these little things that have changed over time become big. The speed of it all has become supersonic and now with apps like Uber, Skip and Amazon we have an unprecedented level of convenience.

I know it sounds like I am the old guy talking about how change is bad and things were better back in my day but I want to promise you in many ways they weren’t and there are a multitude of stats to prove that quality of life for most people is drastically improved in the last 30 years. In no way am I about moving backwards, and technology isn’t going to anyways. No, what I am concerned about is the fact that much of the convenience today was developed for convenience sake and has gone mostly unchecked as to how it is affecting our lives. It has created a whole new set of problems that personally and societally we are ill equipped to deal with. I actually believe that unmanaged and unnecessary convenience is the root of much of our problems in regards to obesity, depression and anxiety. The trouble is we aren’t talking about it because we have become so unconscious in our daily actions and our technology has made it even easier. Not only that but we live in a capitalist society that covets growth over sustainability which means that if our companies, sales or profit are not growing we are somehow failing. I am not all about maintenance but there are many factors that go into success and just getting bigger is definitely not one of them.

Think about the things we have made the most accessible in the last 30 years. With the advent of the internet we are able to get almost any food or product delivered to your door at any time, from your phone. We have literally made every industry more accessible and convenient. But has the convenience actually bettered us? Or is it the actions of individuals that have improved their own lot in life. That have utilized the convenience and access to get better. I believe it is the latter. They are conscious of the tools that have become much more available to them and taken advantage of it. Whereas the majority of people are not conscious of their actions and just utilize what is available to them without thinking about why they are doing it. They are ordering the food from DoorDash or the item off of Amazon not because they need it but only because it is available to them.

Look at the 5 pillars of health as I call them. Let’s look at financial first. We no longer have to enter a bank to do anything, hell you can get a mortgage from your phone. Sounds great right. Need some credit? You can get it faster than ever. You can also gain access to financial literacy resources for free from that same phone but these are rarely accessed as that requires work and provides no instant gratification. If you want some sobering statistics the average debt load for a household in 1990 was about 70% of disposable income, That number in about 30 years has risen by over 100% to 171% of disposable income. Basically we owe $0.71 for every dollar we make. While there are some things out of our control, financial literacy is not one of them. You have more access to free financial information than we could ever imagine.  This is just one example in one pillar. The other pillars of health as I see them are physical, mental, spiritual and relational. I am not going to expound on my example in each pillar as I think it is obvious that the advent of the internet has allowed us more free information than we can manage. It is overwhelming sometimes isn’t it? You go to look something up and there is about a million options and opinions. Look at what untethered convenience has done for us. It is too easy to even find the information and that often brings us to a standstill where we do nothing because of the overwhelming amount of information conveniently available.

There is no person or thing to manage the flow of information in a manner that is good for us. There are no societal rules for convenience and excess because up until the last 50 years or so all of our societies were firmly planted in a place of lack. So while this incredible access we have should be celebrated immensely I am sure we have all experienced just what too much celebration does for us the next day. Now all of this being said I would love to sit here and give you the silver bullet for how we solve our issues of unconscious convenience and excess but I don’t believe there is one. It is going to take awareness to the fact that the rules of the game have truly changed. As a kid I was told you didn’t get whatever you want, whenever you want it, just because you want it. But lo and behold, here we are. I can have almost whatever I want, whenever I want it, just because I want it. And I can have it at the click of a button with almost no human interaction. Now that marvel of human ingenuity is incredible but it has happened so fast, faster than could be planned for and this has led to a plethora of unexpected issues from the struggle of managing our diet to our children not learning social skills. We assumed these were inherent skills we should all know but they truly are taught and learned. So again I don’t have a silver bullet, honestly I don’t even love the way I have written this as I don’t think it fully gets the severity and the point across but I believe my part in this is just to hopefully draw a little awareness to the importance each of us holds in learning the importance of discipline, being conscious of our actions and starting to implement some rules around convenience even if it is just personally.

I am sorry for all of the doom and gloom. I actually feel this is completely fixable but it is going to take some work as we have sped things up at a rate we can no longer control. I will leave you with one tangible piece that has helped me immensely in a few ways in my life. This isn’t rocket science but it works. I think of it as “the gap”. If there is something you want, especially impulsively you need to make a gap before you can have it. This gap can be time (but make sure it’s long enough), distance or some form of work. If I want to buy something small I will still make myself wait 10 minutes and if I still want it I buy it. A larger purchase (for me this is really anything over $50) I have to do some sort of work for it, usually some task I have been putting off because of its undesirability or I make myself sell something before I buy whatever I want to buy. In this way I keep myself honest and keep myself out of the hamster wheel of convenience while still partaking in the 21st century.

So thank you for reading my longwinded take on convenience that isn’t as well fettered as I would like. Maybe when I become a better writer I will be able to write this in a much more succinct fashion. Either way it seems as though you don’t mind it if you have made it this far and if that is the case it would mean a ton if you subscribed here and headed to my IG page and gave that a follow to stay up to date.

Stay well.

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