There is far too much talk about making life easy. It is all right to take the pain and bitterness out of the struggle; but were you to take the struggle out, there would be no adequate chance for [happiness] – Paul Shoup
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how expecting an “easy button” for everything in my life has gotten in the way of achieving my goals. Because of the constant barrage of messages telling me that I can have something with no effort or in seven easy steps, I’ve started to lose my “resiliency muscle.” And without resiliency, I can’t have the mid-century lifestyle that I desire.
You see, I’ve come to expect “insta-success” without having to do any work to get to my goal. If I just buy the right gizmo, book, or say the right words, I will wake up in the morning and descend the stairs in a silk chiffon peignoir glamorously flowing around me with ostrich feather mules showing off my dainty feet instead of my cotton flower pajamas and moccasin slippers (and bed hair…how DO those women wake up with gently tousled hair?).
My Easy Button Mindset
So this is how it typically goes: I come across something on the Internet or see some photos in one of my vintage books and think to myself, “I’d really like to knit a new suit for the workshop I’m leading on Monday.”
But there are a couple of problems with that idea. The first is that, despite taking a class, I don’t know how to knit. The second is that I usually get that kind of idea in my head two days before the workshop. Oh. And almost always when I see that cleaning the bathrooms is on my “to do” list for the day.
So, instead of cleaning the bathroom, I spend a couple of hours on Pinterest and find a downloadable pattern that I like and then head over to the craft store to get the needed supplies…including the books on learning to knit in three! easy! steps!
(Note that I usually find all sorts of things that I have to do before I can get to cleaning the bathroom…am I the only one?)
Naturally, the author’s definition of how to knit in three! easy! steps! is a bit different than mine. And so I give up and decide to watch just one episode of Dynasty (Don’t judge me). Three episodes later, the bathroom still isn’t cleaned, half a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (picked up from the supermarket that is conveniently located right next door to the craft store) has mysteriously disappeared, and I’m no closer to my desire to learn how to knit in three! easy! steps!
The Easy Button Is Only Useful in a Magical Pony Land
The “easy button” mindset lends itself to grandiose goal setting. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all about goal setting. I preach it in all of workshops on how to be a successful college professor. But we’ve lost site of the fact that there are lots and lots of smaller goals that need to be reached before we can get to that really big one. For example, before I could make a tailored blazer when I was working on my custom sewing certificate, I needed to learn how to do things like, sew a seam, do pad stitching, roll a collar, master bound buttonholes and pockets, etc. Each of those skills were tedious to learn but they were necessary for me to get to my final goal. The “easy button” makes us forget that we have to take care of “first things, first.”
The “easy button” mindset also hurts us because we give up when we run into road blocks. We start thinking that we can accomplish everything easily and effortlessly. And when we don’t, instead of using our resiliency muscle to try to figure out a solution, we just move on to the next grandiose idea. Or start binge watching Dynasty and wondering why all these really rich people all live in the same house.
Building Resiliency and Endurance Muscles
To overcome the “easy button” mindset, we need to focus on building our resiliency and endurance “muscles.” We do this by starting small–spending just 15 minutes a day straightening up the house, for example–and then continue to increase the time, as appropriate.
Another way to build those “muscles” is to practice meditation. Not only does meditation clear the mind of the garbage floating through it, but it also helps increase focus and productivity. There are lots of different ways it can be done but even the leaders who teach meditation practice encourage us to start out with just a few minutes per day.
But, we also have to consider what we are going to give up in order to build those “muscles.” It may mean giving up watching Dynasty until we’ve learned how to knit in three! easy! steps! and only go back to watching it after knitting doesn’t require our absolute concentration.
Our mid-century mentors had no choice but to develop their resiliency and endurance “muscles” because of the Great Depression followed by a World War that required tremendous sacrifices. But the benefit of having developed those muscles during hard times was that, in the long run, they were able to achieve the good life.
Have you been relying too heavily on the “easy button?”
To your fabulous technicolor life,