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A Convenient Truth

One-stop shopping is great. So are energy bars. And 6 minute abs (not that I would know). And ordering things just by saying what we want into a little box in our house or car or pocket. We love tools of convenience, anything that can save time or make our lives easier. But at what cost? Is it possible to value convenience too much?

Convenience itself is not our enemy. The ability to perform personal tasks easier and faster can give us the freedom to be more productive. However, the level of importance we decide to place on convenience can have the opposite effect - constricting us and undermining our values, decisions and relationships.

It is an Invisible Mind Block worth thinking about.

Fixing the drudgery of life

Since the beginning of humankind, products have been created that make our lives easier, remove drudgery, and let us have more leisure time. And since the dawn of advertising, those features of convenience have been pushed front and center.

Pitches touting convenience are effective because the lizard brain craves the fast and the easy so that we can use our energy and attention on more important things, like finding food and avoiding threats.

Today, as technology advances at ever-increasing velocity, the conveniences it creates allow us to off-load more and more physical and mental tasks. This habit of giving convenience primacy over other values in our decision making can often cause other values to get left in the dust.

Is convenience worth that price? Consider how the convenience of credit card purchasing has become a problem for many of the 122 million Americans who carry credit card debt. Maybe that convenience is more of a curse than a blessing. Think about how the convenience of getting all of your news (and other current information) from one source shapes your beliefs through a single skewed lens.

The Value of Inconvenience

Think about the times we choose inconvenience over convenience. Why do we choose to do these inconvenient things?

- Forge and maintain meaningful relationships - It would be more convenient to just gather friends on Facebook, but we value human connection and face-to-face contact.

- Have rich experiences - Travelling is expensive and time-consuming, but we often value the experience enough to forego the convenience of staying home. Vinyl records are making a comeback because of the richness in sound, though streaming music is much more convenient.

- Partake in hobbies - It is more convenient to buy flowers than to plant a flower garden. It is much easier to buy a model ship than to put one together. And why on earth do people put jigsaw puzzles together just to re-create a picture that’s already on the box it came in? We find value in the effort and the journey, not just the end result.

- Create something from nothing - Why go through the struggle and uncertainty of starting a business when you can work for someone who already has one? Why write a book when you know it probably won't make enough money to justify the cost and effort you put into it?

- Nurture our spirituality - it's not convenient at all to get up on a Sunday morning and go to church. It's hard work to organize a fund raiser for a cause you care about. Why doesn't everyone stay home?

Some part of our humanness drives us beyond mere convenience and makes us desire more than just what the lizard brain wants. We value connectedness, experience, and see the inherent value of putting effort into creating something new and unique.

Unfortunately, in much of our daily decision making we are increasingly becoming enamored with convenience and we lose some of what we truly value.

Convenience - the tyrant

Tim Wu, professor, lawyer and writer, wrote an excellent piece in the New York Times called The Tyranny of Convenience (see Think Links below). He writes, “...if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.”

Remember - convenience is not inherently bad, but the next time you have the urge to opt for convenience, take a moment and consider what you may be losing in the process.

Think well.

- Steve.


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