Have You Given Up Meaning For Convenience? Here’s How To Get It Back…
The desire for convenience can get under your skin. Like a rash you can’t soothe, it will spread throughout your life if you don’t rein it in.
While the upside of convenient living is efficiency, the downside is shallowness. You only get to experience the surface of things, and that’s a lonely, empty place to be.
But reining in the desire for convenience is not easy to do.
Everywhere you turn you see messages, overt or subtle, telling you that achievement should be at your fingertips– automated, efficient and simple. You deserve a push-button life. Bumps and detours are for the unlucky ones, or the unintelligent. Surely not you.
Fast and Easy is the Measure of Our Time
Convenience ideology first gained popularity when advertisers and product designers of the 1950s teamed up to create an insatiable desire for labor-saving “mod-cons,” such as kitchen appliances.
It surged in the 90s, capturing our imaginations with rapid progress in electronics, computing, consuming, and communicating. It just keeps on growing and going.
Convenience ideology propels the evolution of design and changes how we live, survive, prosper, fit-in and interact.
We all want convenient ways to perform menial tasks, but a lack of discernment around our desire for convenience is a real danger.
If we allow our desire for fast and easy to bleed into every aspect of our lives, including our health and wellbeing, learning, creativity, self-development and spirituality, we drain our life-force. We lose patience with the most important parts of ourselves.
When your pursuit of convenience dominates your desire for meaning, all is not well.
The Growing Aversion to Long-Term Learning
From grade schools to universities, teachers are increasingly complaining about their students’ desire to escape the learning process entirely. Thinking is too laborious and slow for some students. They have an urgent need to collect information without a willingness to explore their subjects in depth.
I recently read an interview with a University philosophy professor who said his students did not want to study. That’s correct; his philosophy students reported that they didn’t have time to read books on philosophy.
The students had become so familiar with consuming short bursts of information that they pressured him to cull his reading list down to just a few “essential” books.
The professor reluctantly gave the students his shortlist, which cut his original list by half.
One week later, they began to ask precisely which passages they should read. The students said they didn’t have time to read the entire shortlist, or, as it turned out, even a single book.
Why Bother Taking the Time to Do Anything?
This Professor’s story reflects many of convenience culture attitudes:
- Why should I study when I can get qualified in any case?
- Why get experience when I can have success without it?
- Why seek knowledge when information is available on my topic? (What is knowledge? Isn’t it just information that you hold in your head? Why bother when I’ve got Google?)
- Why develop new skills when I learned them at school?
- Why make something when I can buy it?
- Why get my hands dirty and sweaty, fumble, and make mistakes?
One key ingredient goes missing when you live by the rule of convenience, and that missing ingredient is you.
You disappear from your own life. You vanish from your work. Your creativity goes underground. Your spirit languishes.
Insisting on convenience for everything in your life makes you fragmented, fatigued, frustrated, entitled, impatient and angry.
How to Benefit from Inconvenience– And Develop Meaning
1. Learn Something New
Learning something new is rarely convenient.
More often it’s tedious and arduous, especially when the subject is challenging.
For example, I’ve always regretted not learning music in my childhood. Now, well into my adulthood I’ve been studying piano and music for 18 months.
During the first 6 months of study my brain fogged-over every time I tried to conceive music theory, or read even the most basic musical score. My thoughts would then drift to all the things that needed to be done; inevitably, the things I was good at and could do efficiently and conveniently.
I would sit at my piano and feel panicked about wasting my precious time.
Then, I would calm myself, ‘It’s all okay, it will be worth it one day because I will have the pleasure of playing, reading and understanding music.
When I recalled my original purpose, I could focus. I could withstand the inconvenience of it all.
Now, 18 months on I understand the fundamentals of music theory. I can play over a dozen pieces, and the whole experience has brought a new a profound pleasure I’ve never previously experienced.
It’s still not convenient for me to learn music. Every new lesson sends me back to childhood naivety– both a frustrating and fantastic place to be.
Knowledge is gained through a combination of learning, experience, and contemplation over time. You invest your unique self into the field (of study), thereby making it your own.
2. Cultivate Friendship
Friendship is often inconvenient. It needs to be cultivated over time.
It requires us to extend ourselves in many ways; to travel across town, across the state, or to another country if the friendship is to stay alive.
Skype, social media, personal messaging and email help us to ‘touch base’ with friends, but they are woeful methods for enabling shared experiences, which is the foundation of abiding friendship.
You can’t bring a bowl of home cooked chicken soup to your sick friend through Facebook, (although Mr. Zuckerberg would love to capitalize on that). You can’t enjoy your friend reacting to a movie, painting, or a song through Instagram. As for sharing secrets, intimate tales, and quirky humour , and wistful delights — forget it.
The scents of spring, a sudden pelt of rain, summer swimming, and humble or sensational dinners can only be shared in real, sensuous life. Blow-by-blow selfies don’t come close.
Eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart intimacy, hugs, cuddles, pats on the back, and handshakes all need a warm body. You may be required to travel!
3. Be Patient With Your Self
One of the most inconvenient endeavors, also the most rewarding, is your own self-development.
Like friendship, it requires cultivation over time. In fact, the passage of time is an essential component of self-development, provided you are focused on it.
The path of self-development requires patience, faith, and belief in your essential Self.
Self-development also goes well with the willingness to be a student again, to relate honestly to yourself and those helping you along your path.
One frustrating aspect of self-development, which often makes people abandon their path far too early, is that external methods cannot measure progress. A degree in counseling or mental health, or a 500-hour yoga instructor’s course is no proof that your self is developed.
Progress is measured through less-tangible means such as self-regard, vitality, emotional intelligence, and inner knowing. Often, there are no accolades, it can’t be seen by others, although it may be felt.
In my work, I meet many people seeking instant spiritual enlightenment. It is a deluded concept, yet understandably so given the promise that many teachers make.
The desire for instant enlightenment is an ego problem that convenience culture feeds.
Before enlightenment is the pile of wood that needs to be chopped– the development of humility.
Next comes the stabilization of emotions and psychological resilience. These form the fertile ground for the ego to become healthy, and the spirit to grow.
All these steps feed the abiding self, the soul or spiritual being that we seek to return to in every moment of our lives.
Then comes a bigger pile of wood — and a smaller ax.
Self development requires a willingness to be vulnerable — to dwell in the unknown. That’s quite inconvenient.
The Antidote to The Convenience Virus
- Which areas of my life are calling me to give more time, patience, faith, effort, and focus?
- What do I want to experience, learn and create?
If you’re hooked on convenience, it may be difficult for you to consider any long-term endeavor, at all. The desire to learn and create may have been damped-down by the urgency of doing life faster and easier.
If this is the case, your mind may be too muddled to think clearly.
Begin by scheduling 10–30 minutes of daily do-nothing time, where your mind can drift, and you can stay immersed in your sensuous, feeling self.
Walk in nature, write spontaneous and even out-there ideas, sleep, and bring your mind back to your body with slow, relaxed, long breaths. These activities nourish the subconscious mind, the place of inner-guidance.
Ask a close friend to remind you of what lights you up; there lies the threads that you can follow into meaningful living.
You may also want to explore your more profound needs and motivations through meditating on you deep desires.
Most importantly, practice taking time out to rest, create and fully inhabit your own life.
Your spirit craves your undivided attention. Give yourself that gift, and watch your sense of meaning expand.
Call To Action
I have created a free guide and worksheet for you to transform the beliefs that keep you from creating a meaningful life and reaching your full potential.
Download it here: Transform The Beliefs That Cause You Grief