The Tyranny of Convenience

“There is more to life than increasing its speed” Gandhi

Why have we bought in to convenience?

In theory, convenience is supposed to offer us less effort, less responsibility, less time and personal energy used and feelings of being in control. Convenience, or rather the efficiency and ease that we believe it gives us, has become part of our conditioning and we have wound up believing that if we can only attain a particular level of efficiency, through using methods of convenience, then that will give us happiness, security and more leisure time.

So, how is it that, with all the “modern conveniences” we now enjoy – fast food, quick fix pharmaceuticals, personal computers, cars, cells phones, satnav, the internet, white goods and a whole host of other things, most of us still feel over-stretched and over-stressed?

The answer, I believe, is to be found in what we risk surrendering to convenience when we are enticed by it. We risk surrendering our soul, our personal power and relinquishing control of our health and wellbeing. Time saved is often spent on more of the same -earning a living- rather than on leisure, time with friends and loved ones, or attending to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Perhaps we are not aware, in the moment, of how our decision making works when we automatically choose convenience. To help bring this into our awareness, I’ve come up with some questions that we can ask ourselves at times when we’re tempted to favour convenient options over and above other benefits.

Here’s my Convenience Decision Checklist:

•    If I save time by doing this, what will I use that time for?

•    How does that serve me?

•    If I save personal energy by doing this, what will I use that energy for?

•    How does that serve me?

•    What is my short term gain from doing this?

•    How does that affect my longer term wellbeing?

•    Am I abdicating responsibility for myself by doing this?

What I’m not suggesting here is that we never opt for convenience. Rather, I’m attempting to distinguish True Convenience, which offers benefits in the short and longer terms, from the type of convenience where we opt for short term gain at the expense of long term advantages.

Let’s take eating a meal and wanting to meet up with friends as an example. An unsustainable,  but convenient, option might be to quickly grab a take-away meal on the way to our meeting, so as to arrive on time. An option of True Convenience (which is more sustainable in the long term for our health, wellbeing and relationships) might be to suggest to the friends that we meet and share a fresh, self-prepared meal together. So, I’m urging us all to make conscious decisions about how we spend our time and energy, rather than unconsciously succumbing to the advertising techniques of those who promote convenience products.

How do we make the most of the opportunities for convenience in our lives in a sustainable way i.e. in a way that promotes our health, wellbeing and happiness over the longer term?

I would suggest the key elements to aim for are:

•    Simplicity – reduce the number of tasks we are committed to doing.

•    Reclaiming responsibility for ourselves – through healthy eating, exercising our minds and our bodies, addressing our face to face social needs.

•    Rediscovering self-trust – faith in our ability to do what’s right, rather than attempting to do everything on offer in the hope that one of those choices will turn out to be ok.

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4 Responses to The Tyranny of Convenience

  1. David Bates June 4, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Convenience – has its moments (eg, receiving your newsletter in a convenient form Sally), and can also be…

    Disempowering and de-skilling – as we forget or never learn how to do things for ourselves and end up needing the “convenient” option because we don’t know any other way.

    Superficial and disastisfying – feelings of achievement and satisfaction are frequently related to the effort we’ve put into something, the problems solved on the way, obstacles overcome. Convenience doesn’t require the effort and engagement that lead to depth of experience – it keeps us on the surface.

    Stressful – there are so many choices to make, so many things we could / should be doing – and the result for many are feelings of being overwhelmed and paralysis.

    Although your newsletter is delivered in a convenient format Sally, none of the above could be applied to your articles which I continue to enjoy as thought provoking and helpful reminders of what is most important in a busy life.

  2. Sally June 8, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    What you say about convenience sometimes being disempowering, stressful, superficial and disatisfying rings very true for me too, David. There’s some sort of distinction in there too, I think, between that kind of unhelpful convenience and experiencing the wholesome kind of “ease” that accompanies the joyous synchronicities in life. I like these contrasts and the challenges of distinguishing between them!

    Thanks for your contributions to these thoughts and also your very kind comments on the convenience of the newsletter. Glad you find that helpful and enjoyable!

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