Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Now, Uber, Blue Apron, Netflix, ‘on demand’ this and ‘on demand’ that…
We live in a time where we can access almost anything we want by simply reaching into our pockets and connecting to the internet.
But have you ever taken a moment to pause and ask, “what is the cost of all this convenience?” From a financial perspective, Amazon Prime members spend an average of $1300 per year (Amazon has 90 million subscribers), Blue Apron subscribers spend about $980 per year and some estimate the cost of Uber and Lyft can reach as high as $4,000 per year… yet, 57% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. We have committed to subscriptions which care for our lawns, clean our homes and kill our bugs. We have a myriad of medical procedures available to lose weight, or implant silicone enhancements to give a variety of appearances.
I don’t want to go back to a time before the internet or before these conveniences were invented. Modern-day convenience can be very beneficial when creating space for more meaningful use of time and energy. But I can’t ignore that the aim of modern convenience is often to circumvent effort and hard work while creating a dependency on that convenience.
Why It Matters
The more we depend on and use the many conveniences thrown at us, the more they can become a crutch and we can quickly feel as though failure is imminent without them. If we’re not finding other outlets to challenge ourselves we can quickly become like the frog being boiled alive one degree (or shiny new service) at a time. We’ll one day wake up and realize we don’t have the skills or the confidence to leave our house.
Outside of the obvious siphoning of your finances, here are three ways convenience might be costing you.
Convenience can cost you independence
Companies are built on the hope that you will depend on them. Companies work tirelessly to come up with ways to make you feel like you NEED them and can’t live without them. Consider how many subscriptions (monthly or annual commitments) your parents have? If you’re older than 20 then your parents probably have very few, if any. A 2012 study found that Americans were spending an average of about $900 dollars per month on subscriptions. More recently, a study in the UK estimated that roughly $470 million is being spent on unused subscriptions annually. Entertainment, shopping, car washes, gyms, social media, apps, household maintenance and the list goes on and on.
What happens if these go away? Or if prices are raised beyond your willingness to pay? What is your willingness to pay? If you’re being spoon-fed every month, what happens when that spoon doubles in cost? Chances are they will probably contribute to the $16,000 of credit card debt the average Americans currently holds. Doesn’t feel like independence to me.
Convenience can cost you accomplishment
Remember I said that convenience circumvents effort and hard work? If you’re using these conveniences to eliminate the mundane so you can give more time and energy to accomplish your life’s passions, then you’re doing it right. But that’s not the norm and if these conveniences are only making it easier for you to binge watch an entire season of your favorite show in record time or log more hours on your x-box, then you’re missing the boat and robbing yourself of the nourishing effects of accomplishment.
Last summer, as I worked in my yard, I was approached by two of my neighbors asking me to join forces to negotiate a lower price with a lawn care service to service our three yards. I thought about how nice it would be to have my yard handled for me. For several reasons I declined. I finished up the lawn with some edging and a fresh layer of fertilizer. As I brushed off the clippings from the sidewalks I felt accomplished. I stepped back and actually reveled in it for a minute. It was a good feeling looking at what my hard work had produced. For the next week every time I pulled up to the house I admired my work and felt a similar degree of satisfaction. That is what happens when we put our effort into something worthwhile, we get to feel accomplished. We also create a positive reference point we can lean on the next time we have to tackle a task that requires a similar type of effort. The more reference points we have, the more we feel ready to tackle. We all have that friend who seems to be able to do anything, how many reference points does he/she have? How many do you have? When did you last feel true accomplishment?
Convenience can cost you confidence
Perhaps the most hidden cost of convenience is that of our own confidence. Why is it that the instances of anxiety and depression have spiked in an almost identical pattern as the rise of the smartphone and all the convenience that has come with it? With more and more ways to circumvent effort and hard work, our capacity to engage in hard work is literally diminishing. We do less so we are able to do less. And when we are able to do less, we need more done for us. The more we need things done for us… well, it makes it hard to be confident in our ability to do for ourselves. Seeing your efforts bring about positive change, opportunity or success is a critical element of one’s self-efficacy or a belief in one’s own abilities. Angela Duckworth would call this ‘grit’ but most of the rest of us would call it resilience. When we personally achieve very little, there is very little we believe we can personally achieve.
Effort IS the Game Changer
In the current age of convenience, we have to be more creative finding opportunities to exert effort and engage in hard work. Those who will be truly independent, accomplished and confident will be those who avoid the “path of least resistance” and seek out opportunities to challenge their beliefs and capabilities and test personal limits. I’m not saying the answer to your problems is turning off the t.v., cutting your own lawn, or working up a little sweat. But I’d argue it’s a pretty good place to start.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance.
Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.