We are not a very patient people. Generally speaking, we struggle with delayed gratification. This really isn’t news – marketing types have been exploiting this tendency for years. The real question is, why do we struggle with this?
We struggle with this, and with just about everything else we struggle with, because we are seeking to medicate the pain of not being content with where we are in life. We have bought into the capitalist notion that we must always be moving forward, always progressing. Who defines progress? Well, in the western mind, anyone and everyone gets to define progress for us – the only person unqualified to define progress seems to be the person being evaluated. The problem is that this represents a two dimensional view of life – and the dimension that is lacking is depth.
The view of life that evaluates it in terms of other-define “progress” creates a situation in which life is a race that never ends. Anyone who has ever been in any kind of race, or has even watched any kind of race, recognizes that (1) all races end because no one can race forever, and (2) that the whole point of the race is reaching the finish line. In other words, an endless race isn’t really a race at all!
I suppose you could make the argument that the end of the race is death, but that leaves us with a couple of problems – not the least of which is that we are hurrying toward death. The other problem is that as a culture we spend a whole lot of time deluding ourselves about aging and death. We will never look older, we will never die – provided we buy the correct products and use them as directed. Since we spend so much time avoiding aging and death, death can’t possible be the point of the race! In the end, this view has us locked into a race that has no point. Is it any wonder we are in pain?
What we need to do is spend some time re-evaluating our priorities – and the first step is determining what we want them to be. Most of us have never done this. In fact, most of us are convinced that our happiness is linked to forces that are very unstable and not at all reality based. If, for example, your happiness is linked to the stock market you will always be dependent on the whims of investors for your feeling of security and happiness. Ultimately, that means you have no control over your own happiness. Do you really want to settle for that? The truth is, even if you believe that sort of arrangement will provide happiness for you, it won’t.
Ultimately, happiness is found in being content with life as it is – and recognizing that everything changes, all the time, and we can’t control the changes. We can plan, we can be proactive, we can do any number of things, but in the end whatever is going to happen will happen. Our happiness is ultimately tied to our ability to accept that reality. Not only do we not have to be in control of everything, the truth is there is very little that we can control. While that may seem frightening, ultimately it is very liberating.