Recently, my teenage daughter was asked by a teenage boy, whom she didn’t know, if she wanted a boyfriend. She responded, “Yes, I guess, if I like him.” He then asked for her number. By the end of the day, they had exchanged at least a dozen texts about essentially nothing. He was now signing his electronic communications with the words “I love you” and others with multiple x’s and o’s.
Our kids are growing up in an age of instant gratification. Young people have the expectation (and experience) that they should be able to get what they want, now, with very little or no work.
Want the answer to a question? Google it in seconds, no thinking required. Want to watch a particular show? Stream it now, no waiting for an old-fashioned showtime. Want a little validation? Post something on social media and let the “likes” roll in. Whatever we want is available—on demand.
At the same time, our kids are growing up with the belief that things in life should come easy. Why work hard when there’s surely a faster, easier way?
Technology allows us to remove much of the endeavor that life used to require. We are increasingly turning over our daily tasks to technology, teaching it to do what we used to do for ourselves. Having nothing to do is considered an accomplishment—but is it fulfilling?
The Magic Ingredients: Time and Effort
It is fair to say that everything that has really mattered to me, that has been deeply satisfying in my life, exists as a result of time invested and effort exerted. I am not alone in this feeling.
We humans need to be challenged to reach our full potential. We derive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment when we persevere, learn, and ultimately, grow. Time and effort are required ingredients in the experience of satisfaction, meaning, and even joy. Time and effort are the gatekeepers to life’s riches—there are no shortcuts.
For 30 years, I trained and competed as an equestrian athlete. I spent thousands of hours in the saddle on the way to mastery. Nothing about the process was easy or fast. And yet nothing has built my self-confidence and inner strength more than this pursuit. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t call on the rewards of that process.
Self-worth is built with the sweat equity of effort, time, and challenge. True self-esteem can not gestate in the immediate or the easy.
After a couple days of my daughter’s new boyfriend sending her “I love you” acronyms and winking emojis, the romance dissolved. No surprise. Real relationships, the ones we can rely on, that nourish and enrich us, require those two magic ingredients: time and effort.
As a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, parent, and human being living in this virtual world, I have witnessed an increased incidence of depression in our young adults. Many young people seem to be lacking a sense of meaning and feel unsatisfied at a deep level. Simultaneously, there has been a deterioration in the depth, reliability, and connectedness of friendships and relationships in general.
The reason, in part, for these unfortunate changes, is that we have taken the values and expectations that we have learned through our relationship with technology and have applied them to other areas of life. But immediacy and ease don’t work as values for the more profound aspects of our existence.
Take a minute to name a few aspects of your life that bring you a sense of deep meaning, satisfaction, or joy. Ask yourself, which of these took some time to create? Which take time to maintain? Which could not exist without your own effort and commitment?
You might notice that most if not all of the meaningful parts of your life are also those that were created from your hard work and effort, over time.
Speed and ease have their place in life, but not as values by which to determine our behavior, prioritize our choices, and relate to one another. The fact that we have put time and effort into something is not evidence of our failure but quite the opposite—evidence of our success and wisdom. We will reap the benefits of it in the form of a meaningful, satisfying, and well-enjoyed life.
Nancy Colier is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, author, public speaker, and workshop leader. A regular blogger for Psychology Today and The Huffington Post, she has also authored several books on mindfulness and personal growth. Colier is available for individual psychotherapy, mindfulness training, spiritual counseling, public speaking, and workshops, and also works with clients via Skype around the world. For more information, visit NancyColier.com