Easy is a lie
And it’s core to understand that in our quest for meaning and fulfilment.
“With our product, your life will be easier!” It’s one of the most common marketing claims. Not without any reason. We love easy! But should we?
Easy offers convenience. However, effort and attention offer meaning.
A text message or email doesn’t feel as personal as a handwritten letter. We don’t really feel like we’ve accomplished something when we take our laundry sparkling clean out of the machine. And when we aim to lose weight, we can go to a plastic surgeon. But it won’t give the same sense of satisfaction as when we commit to working those kilos off in the gym.
Logic versus emotion
It doesn’t make logical sense, does it?
If we are simply looking for ways to solve problems, then we managed to bring a message across in a much more efficient way, we spent less time on laundry and it’s probably even cleaner than if we washed it by hand, and we quickly got the extra kilos off…
It just doesn’t feel the same. Emotionally, it doesn’t give us the gratification and sense of accomplishment. And ultimately, we are emotional beings.
The more-time thinking error
Maybe we think that by making things easier we can fix problems faster, so we have more time for the fun things in life, and that those things will bring us a sense of fulfillment.
This is where I believe we make a thinking error. Fulfillment doesn’t necessarily come through fun things. Fun things bring us moments of joy, for sure. But that’s different than fulfillment, which is a more continuous experience of feeling content with who you are and what you do in life. Anything that we purposefully do can contribute to this sentiment.
A mother living 200 years ago could spend her whole day washing clothes. That didn’t feel like a ‘waste of time’, because it served the purpose of caring for her family.
By making everything easy, we take away the effort and it becomes a chore. It’s no longer a meaningful activity, the laundry. So we take on more and more chores, and we have less and less purposeful action. Hello dread and hello burn-out.
Busy and fragmented
We live in the multi-tasking era because of “easy”. We can do anything, in hardly any time, at any taken moment.
Especially now that many of us are working from home, days became super fragmented. Efficiency to the max! We try to get as much as possible done in the least amount of time. Quick Zoom calls with a click on the mouse, quick coffees coming out of our fancy machine, quickly unloading the dishwasher, quickly watching this 1 min funny dog-video that a friend has shared, quickly replying to messages — we jump from one thing to the other. Keeping as many balls up in the air as we can.
Through this fragmentation and multitasking we are constantly busy, but it’s never enough. It also sparks the question: what do you want to spend time on and what is a distraction? So many articles are written about how to keep focus. It seems like we are experiencing an inability to decide on our own actions. We become more and more reactive than proactive. And it leaves us feeling like we didn’t accomplish much ‘real’ work (read: purposeful) work by the end of the day.
Our modern-day quest for purpose
Technological inventions and social-economic progress did make our lives more comfortable. And part of that progress is certainly positive. Personally, I am very happy to have a washing machine (and that doing the laundry is no longer just a woman’s job). The change we need is not about going back in time. We have to change something in ourselves and our modus operandi.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that many people nowadays are looking for more purpose and meaning in their life. We are realising that something important is lacking in how we show up in the world.
What the heck are we actually doing?
This question arises on the individual ánd collective level. Individually it brought us convenience, but also stress and a need for purpose in life. And ironically, our consumerism of products that promise us easier lives left us with a major problem: the impact on our planet and societies. The Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations are an appeal to countries and organizations to be part of positive change.
A strategy for change
We need new strategies moving forward to a more purposeful life and world. But how do we do that? How can we debunk the lie of easy for ourselves and our world?
I believe it begins with finding a new way of being present in our lives. Consciously know thyself, organize thyself and get thyself involved. That might not be easy, but it can help you to simplify and focus on the right things that do bring fulfillment. It’s the difference between being lived and living purposefully.
Strategy 1 — Know thyself and make conscious choices
It’s a bit of an open door, but if you are looking for meaning and fulfillment you have to go inwards first. Connecting to your essence and feeling who you are, what you value and want in life, and why. Formulating a purpose statement can help you make that tangible. And it can serve as your personal navigation tool in making choices.
Every choice has the potential to send you on a path. If you don’t make them consciously, you might experience life as a big ping pong ball that bounces in all directions. Then, the easiest thing might be to follow the carved-out path. That might not be the most fulfilling path for you.
Again, easy is a lie. If we live without consciousness, we are being lived. This will never truly feel fulfilling. No matter how much success you achieve according to traditional standards: money, status or titles.
Strategy 2 — Organize thyself for success in your choices
Parting with easy means reorganizing habits. And the tricky thing about habits is that they are so ingrained in our automatic behavior, that changing them requires real work. Building new habits doesn’t happen from one day to the other. It requires dedication to try, fail, and repeat this a thousand times.
You can help yourself change habits that don’t serve you by naming them first. For example by calling out that you spend 2 hours a day on social media, and this is a habit that you want to break because you consciously choose for less distraction in your life. Or maybe you have the habit of not prioritizing time for things that bring you joy and energy, while you consciously choose to live a joyful, energetic life. Write down these ambitions for habit change! They are just as, if not more important than your professional development plan. This is your personal development plan.
Once you have been honest with yourself and called out which habits need changing, figuring out ways to organize yourself in tackling them is usually not rocket science. To build on the examples above: put your phone away, switch off notifications and sounds, maybe even go as far as deleting your account. And for the second habit change, you might want to add fun activities to your calendar, taking on hobbies. Do what feels good for you. Here, in making a choice and not falling back into the easy habit, KEEP.ON.GOING. If you slip back, give yourself a good shake and a hug, and try again.
Strategy 3 — Get thyself involved and contribute to a bigger cause
In our capitalist system, we consume much more than just goods. We consume news, politics, and services. It seems as if the world revolves around us: the readers, the voters, the taxpayers, the clients. Basically, those who pay. Journalists, politicians, and organizations are considered to serve our needs and fix our problems.
Easy, convenient consumerism makes us lazy. It positions us as spectators and gives us an excuse to not take responsibility for the things that are happening in the world around us. It also sparks individualism. There is something special about giving, caring, and uniting with others. Fulfillment can never happen if you stay passive and only live for yourself.
While it’s easy to point at others as being responsible for change, it’s highly fulfilling to contribute to something bigger. We all want to be loved, yet you cannot buy love, connection, and belonging. These are necessary ingredients for a fulfilling life. See where and how you can use your skills and resources for a bigger cause.
Would you like to have a conversation about purpose and fulfillment in life? Let’s connect! Find more about me at leoniescholten.com