I have been thinking a lot about patience and delayed gratification. We live in a very busy culture that often does not have time to wait. I fall into this category so much more often than I wish were true. I am always rushing from one thing to the next, acutely aware of the time (or lack of it). I rarely have time to respond to all of the emails, phone calls, and texts I am continually bombarded with. I never got to experience adult life without being on-call 24/7; my cell phone waiting on edge to notify the next demands to me. At one time, I was overjoyed to possess the immediate access to my phone and I felt powerful to have the ability to contact anyone on a whim. As time continued however, my excitement over my glamorous cell phone has dwindled. It is now simply a representation of constant, overwhelming demands for response. It is another facet of this culture that keeps me continually busy.
We all know stress is killing us, yet it is an addiction this culture is loath to be rid of. We all have some place to be, some chore to do, some work to be done. I am included in this madness. I often take a step back however, and think to myself that this is completely unnatural. I wonder what it would be like if the animals behaved like we do – rushing from here to there – doing mostly meaningless tasks frantically. What is it that we are so frantically seeking? This is a question I hate asking honestly because the answers are usually so trivial. We seek money, popularity, status, success, fear, debt, and “stuff”. Rarely to I find a person on a pursuit of peace, love, community, simplicity, and fulfillment because, you see, those things are found in the opposite of busyness. A person rushing around frantically, cannot simultaneously be experiencing peace and simplicity. They are diametrically opposed.
In observing this busy madness, immediate gratification was become a necessity. It takes conscious, intentional action to combat its ugly grip on humanity. We are chained to canned and boxed foods, microwaves, factory farms, pharmaceuticals, credit cards, loans, ready-made clothing, childcare, and instant entertainment. The art of relationships, gardening, cooking, sewing, saving, parenting, and independent creation is quickly becoming extinct. Because we don’t have time. We all need it now. We are easily sacrificing the quality of our lives because there is no time to spend on the things that matter. A small example was my own struggle with eating well. I was determined to stop eating out and to begin eating whole foods. Yet over and over I got knocked down due to my lack of time. I would leave for work without a plan and come lunch time, convenience got its way. I would grab something quick to eat that was inconsistent with my goals and I would feel like a failure. It was only when I took control of my priorities and my time, set aside a day a week for cooking, and packed my lunches ahead of time, that I began to succeed. This is one example of what it takes to defy immediate gratification and practice patience.
So, what of delayed gratification? Does patience exist in this busy, rushing, stressed out world? I believe patience requires a shift, not only of perspective, but of action. Peace, patience, and happiness are the antithesis of busyness and stress. Our lives cannot be modeled by greed and fear and money. At the end of life, no one wants to look back and find the only accomplishments worth noting are money and success. Real value does not come by way of this rat race. It is not accomplished by one tv dinner after another. Anything of substance requires patience and constantly putting our busy schedules in check. There is no time for mindless activities and meaningless errands. Our lives are short! We get an average of 70 years and we never get a second back. There is no rewind button and no do-overs. I do not want to waste my time chasing things that do not add to my time here, how about you? I want to get the most out of my experiences and stop being ruled by immediate gratification.
How do you stop the pull of busyness in your life? Are you governed by work, money, debt, and errands? How do you set boundaries and create space for the things that are truly valuable to you? I would love to hear about it. Please start the conversation below or email me at email@example.com