My wife and I were having a discussion today. It circled around how there is never enough time to get things done in a day no how much one plans ahead, usually because of unforeseen emergencies, interruptions, etc. This I’m sure is complicated by the fact that we both own our own businesses which completely changes the idea of “free time at home”. However, I could not help but notice a trend in our society that has come about the last several years and I thought I’d share my observation.
Thanks to texting and hand-held devices that distribute work email to your pocket, we are all accustomed to having an immediate answer or response to nearly everything. The answer to a problem is no longer what I can do for myself to it figure out, but to Google it, text a friend, download an app – seeking outside source to fix my issue.
We have trained ourselves not to move unless prompted — to not trust ourselves. We even drive with our eyes glued to GPS instead of the streets and get turned around time and time again when Google Maps hasn’t updated from a satellite the same obstacle that we can clearly see with our own eyes.
We have lobotomized ourselves with our own laziness.
This laziness creates a chaotic cycle of expectation and a frenetic lack of accountability. Our workflow and our communication style, our need for immediacy has become an expectation. “To do” list is only as good as the time to do it. When endless emergency texts, emails, and phone calls are coming in, all from frantic sources – the to-do list goes out the window.
So what does one do?
We attempt to set boundaries. However, when the entire world is operating on a system of frantic immediacy, now dependent on “feedback” rather then handling something themselves – this emotional outer-dependence creates a dysfunctional cycle.
Again, let me say that running your own business automatically opens up a can of worms that should be labeled “always on call”. I’m not addressing in this blog the normal amount of own-your-own-business -emergencies. That comes with the territory.
I’m talking about the constant, nagging distraction that is out electronic means of communicating. And let’s face it: As human, we’re just not good at NOT looking at the shiny stuff.
It’s not Facebook’s fault we get sucked into the endless vacuum of kitten videos and “Which Superhero are You?” polls. It’s our need to escape from the constant NEED, NEED, NEED that’s pressed upon us every day. Facebook capitalizes on our own desire for escapism.
For many, our digital media has become a place of meditation, or so we think. It’s become a place to tune out the world and focus on ONE thing — an illusion in and of itself. That “one thing” then becomes a fragmented MILLION things as we get routed from one Pinterest board to the next, one Facebook link to the next — and an hour later, we’re still on-fire-scrolling and our to-do list sits untouched.
And we complain we have no time.
If it’s not the digital media that is prompting us to allow notifications for the most infinite of things (“Press to allow Facebook to notify you when someone merely farts against the wind”), then it’s well-meaning friends reaching out to say hello in text chats. Don’t get me wrong — I love text chats. I love my friends reaching out to say hello and I love to hear what’s going on. Yet if you’re not the strongest multi-tasker, and a hyper-focuser, like me, then engaging in text chats squirrels me out to the point that I either forgot what I was working on or am now completely out of the work flow.
That’s not my friends’ fault. That’s mine.
Maybe my Gen X is showing, not being raised in an attention-fragmented society. Yet I think it’s more of a statement on the function of the human brain, which is medically proven to NOT be able to multitask, physically. That’s just what our ego calls splitting our focus.
I don’t always engage in the text chats because either I don’t have time or I know it’s going to knock me off my horse faster than Sir Lancelot at a Beginners Jousting Match — which, often times in our now-need-an-answer society — can be misread as aloofness or as not being interested in being included. I’ve had feedback that my lack of response has been viewed as both. Thankfully I can laugh this off with my friends and remind them that no one was butt hurt back in the day when the phone cords were attached to the wall — and the machine picked up.
Energetically, intellectually, physically and spiritually, this emotional dependency we’ve developed for feedback isn’t healthy.
The need for feedback becomes a compulsion, to distract the self and to fill the self with an outer opinion rather than searching within or sometimes, just sitting with the crappy feelings we encounter inside of ourselves without a shiny to take our mind off of things.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m all about people reaching out for help and I’m all about viewing something that lifts your spirits. I’m even all for zoning out on Pinterest and looking at photos of weird natural science — my guilty pleasure. I’m simply saying that when that option becomes a compulsive need rather than a choice — ladies and gentlemen:
We have an addiction.
This frenetic-to-do-list-interruption isn’t just social media. Again, it’s the need people have developed to have an immediate answer. (Thank you, texting. Said with dripping sarcasm.)
In my spiritual practice, I’m booked solid quite often, which I am blessed to experience. As such, I’m not always at my computer able to answer questions immediately. At times, people get a little crispy because their correspondence wasn’t answered within the day. Thanks to 24 / 7 customer service satellites in India, and the almighty online god called Amazon, this is a “normal” expectation in business at this time. Considering I don’t have a customer service help line routed to India where “Rick” can help you — folks may have to wait a bit before I’m able to get back to them.
Yet this inspires panic and indignant feelings in some, much more than five years ago. I find that interesting.
So when my wife was feeling frustrated about not being able to get to everything, I had to remind her that we don’t live in a 10-years-ago timeframe where people respected workflow and other people’s time.
In fact, societally — we respect very, very little anymore. Mostly ourselves. Therein lies the problem. We live in the me-me-me timeframe. And someone or something will pop in and demand we do something for them RIGHT NOW, three hundred times a day — until we draw the line.
We’ve become so accustomed to dropping everything to fit something else in that I’m watching a bizarre trend happening not only in the workplace that demands far more of employees even while not at work (yet tethered via electronic device), but at home with parents and their children.
Both the kids and employers are working it. I can’t say I blame them. The more we comply, the more anyone will push an envelope.
For instance, I have clients whose children were diagnosed with ADD, or AD / HD. The parents then expect their children to be able to handle less, do less, BE less, because of this issue. Because that’s what they’re told. So rather than working with the kids to establish a better system (however it works for them to the best of their ability) to remember their homework, stay on top of chores, follow through instead of dropping something in the middle of the hallway and running to the next thing – the parents just pick up after the child constantly (because setting up and enforcing an accountability program is tiring and most parents are already tired when they get home.) Or the parent will leave work to drop off the child’s forgotten homework to school so the child doesn’t have to stay afterwards to finish only to fall behind in their own adult workload — further enabling the cycle.
When the child is confronted, they spill out the list of reasons they shouldn’t have to do these basic things — mostly because of what they’ve been told by adults: They’re easily distracted. They can’t. They shouldn’t have to because then they won’t be able to hold more things in their head. They burst into tears and wail injustices to the moon. They throw a violent tantrum and watch adults back off in horror. This is emotionally exhausting, and parents who are already exhausted from dealing with a sociopathically frenetic ADD society — just cave.
…Um, I interrupt this train of thought to say that WOW, was I born in the wrong era. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to do ANYTHING that wasn’t in the “play” category. I forgot a lot of things. I dropped things in the hallway and was on to the next opportunity and adults tripped over my toys. I used these same excuses. I was told to suck it up and clean it up or the results were not favorable. I pushed the envelope until I got the unfavorable results. I did that enough times to realize that it sucked and I couldn’t create my own reality with my own rules, so I changed my behavior and became a better citizen of the world, aware of the needs of others.
With so many kids playing Sims games where they literally create their own societies, universes and rules — it’s really important to imprint upon these small humans that they DO live in a physical reality where indeed — they are not the creator, author, and sole proprietor of all the pieces in it. (That perception gets rough later in life.)
Yes, I believe ADD and AD/HD are real issues for parents and children. I know they are — I see the energy of these afflictions, caused by crazed food tweaks in our DNA, toxins in the air, and many others things. I have compassion for parents and the children who struggle with these issues. Severe ADD and AD/HD issues cannot be fixed with diet and exercise and require medication and cognitive therapy. Often, the kids just get bounced out of school for being too problematic or for not being able to comply with cause-and-effect reasoning. So hear me when I say that I’m not proclaiming that these issues are not real, like those people who swear that there were never any dinosaurs or that the earth is flat.
I don’t believe every ADD or AD/HD kid is this severe. OR, sometimes, even *has* ADD. I believe kids are reflecting the frenetic nature of what we’re becoming. They’re seeing it on TV — reality TV shows or news programs that have interactive low-scrolling feeds of people chatting live on twitter as the show airs. I mean, how many different things need to be happening on one show?
Or, the kids witness this fragmented behavior at home. Parents get on the computer while cooking dinner because most have to be for work (most work places expect folks to answer work email even when off the clock), parents escaping on Facebook, parents who don’t have the energy left to engage so they zone out in front of TV, which is now a sample-platter of on-demand goodies if the live interactive feed isn’t happening —
Just writing this, I’m thinking to myself: Holy crap. We’ve gone insane.
I’ve observed parents ripped in too many directions by their own day to be able to corral in a kid who is already ping-ponging off the walls of the same outside stimulus that de-rails an adult’s day as well. If we as adults can’t get a handle on our day — how is a developing brain supposed to, whose pre-disposition is to have fun at all costs?
You can see the problem here. We blame our kids’ ADD and we blame Facebook for our compulsion to check it 400 times a day.
That’s a lot of blame.
The only foreseeable solution that I can get an energetic eye on would be to go all Susan Powter, and Stop The Madness. This begins with training the self that the world won’t end if we don’t get to that next thing right away. (If your life depends on this type of dynamic, then you’re likely an air traffic controller, and my hat is off to you.)
Half the time, we’re jumping from one thing to the next because we feel RESPONSIBLE to get to EVERYTHING, rather than simply what is ours to get to. We are responding co-dependently as we are conditioned to be pleasers in Western Society, bullied and guilted by everyone to the point of guilting ourselves about missing one beat on anything.
I’m not saying drop the ball on your responsibilities. I’m saying HONESTLY define your responsibilities and stop taking on that which the ego is taking on to feel more like a rockstar.
We fear saying NO and stopping the cycle of crazy because that also gives us more free time. People claim they want free time but actually, they are conditioned to run like a hamster on a wheel so that free time makes them uncomfortable. That’s a chemical affect in the brain, used to constant stimulus. Reference the number of children becoming addicted to games and electronic devices because their brain chemistry cannot map independently without an external set of parameters. The nervous system is used to stimulus and panics if we are not constantly in movement.
We must grasp our humanity back, admit our humanity, be at peace with being biological creature that enjoy technology yet being aware that our brain needs down time. We must get our groove back, actually able to sit around a campfire without checking Facebook for that extra stimulus.
We will never be the machines in our hand.
Next time you find yourself saying “there is no time”, truly — TRULY — look at your day. Where can you ask for help? Where can you let someone else be accountable for something so that THEY may grow as well? When can you let something slide? What must REALLY be done, or the world will end, that day? We’ve lost our ability to truly prioritize, to trust enough to delegate, to remove the ego long enough to recognize that the earth will keep turning if WE don’t step in with a comment, a like, an assist — something.
If your world has NO wiggle room and you are literally running “out of necessity” in your mind — there is something out of balance. Too many boundaries have been breached in your mental scape and it’s time to re-evaluate who you feel you are in relation to the world.
Does your identity depend on being “the doer against all odds”? Are you trying to prove something to yourself, or to others, by not asking for more help? Are you afraid you won’t be loved if you ask for help, or that you’ll be rejected, or judged? That ego stimulus, is likely a bigger embedded motivator than a naggy text.
If your life is not longer yours, and you’re complaining about it — it’s time to make another game plan. Come out of the victim mentality and make another choice. Or, stay where you are at and join billions of other deliriously happy functioning work-a-holics.
But you can’t have it both ways.
No one rules your time but you. Newsflash — our society no longer values people’s time or the time it takes to put towards individual efforts. This is a side effect of the disposable app-mentality (“Anything available, all the time.”) This will only change once we change, once we get back our ballast the keeps upright our sense of accountability while on the course of respectful action.
We may choose to be twisted up in butt-hurtness by this fact, to writhe in the indignation that our life path is not being honored by other people who have gone numb, tuned out, and forgotten how to be a respectful citizen of the universe (which is a whole ‘nuther blog). Or, we can recognize that this is all a symptom of a larger entitlement and emotional addiction problem in western culture — and we move on productively with our life.
You want your day to be less hectic? Get less hectic in WHO you are vs WHAT you are attempting to be. And to do that — we have to get back to being really honest with ourselves about what we can handle — and what we can’t.
Which I’m sure we’ll all get to, once we check Facebook one more time really quickly to see if…