I felt myself becoming more agitated as I sat at the stoplight waiting for the light to turn green. I was on my way to the gym, and was anxious to get started. The light was seemingly taking forever, so I decided to figure out how long the light was red. I was sure it would be a ridiculous amount of time. I remember that I had started a new track as I pulled up to the intersection so I would easily be able to calculate how long I was sitting there. After what seemed like an excruciating eternity the light finally turned green. I looked at the digital display and found that I was exactly two minutes and thirty seconds into the song.
As I stepped on the accelerator, I physically hung my head in shame as I reflected upon how bent out of shape I had become because my progress towards the gym was halted for a mere 150 seconds. I instantly started thinking about how our entire existence now revolves around having everything we need at our fingertips, and how any obstacle towards immediate fulfillment of our wants and needs seems unacceptable.
Let me give you a few examples I thought of as I drove the rest of the way to my gym:
- Text Message Response: We were traveling to a nearby town last weekend and my wife texted our son, who had stayed home, to see if he was doing alright. When he didn’t respond within a few minutes she started getting concerned. Think about that for a minute, if you text someone, at what point to you start to wonder if they are simply ignoring you? How long of a time goes by before you start trying to assign some sort of meaning to the lack of a response?
- On Demand Movies: Remember the days when you had to drive to a movie rental store to rent a movie? Now we have an almost limitless number of movies and TV shows available through streaming services such as on demand cable television, Netflix, and others. How quickly do you become upset when you cannot find the movie you want to watch immediately?
- Internet Searching: The World Wide Web has the answers to everything. You bring up your favorite search engine, type in what you’re looking for and pages of answers pop up almost immediately. How quickly do you become frustrated when you discover that your first search did not yield the answer you were looking for and you have to refine your search phrase once or even (gasp) twice?
In these examples the result is relatively harmless. You inflict upon yourself unnecessary frustration and aggravation, but that can be dissipated quickly. But now let’s apply this perspective to material possessions. If we expect and demand our wants and needs to be instantly fulfilled, how will we react when we see something we’d like to own? The ability to have everything we want at a moment’s notice is so ingrained into our life that we become frustrated when we cannot have what we want, at the very moment that we want it.
In this world of instant gratification, it’s no wonder we turn to credit.
Credit allows us to to perpetuate our perspective that we can, and should, have everything we want at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, some of us do not think of the effects this will have later, and end up in trouble financially.
We need to change the underlying expectation that everything should be instantly available. Remember those Heintz ketchup commercials from years ago featuring someone waiting an insane amount of time for the thick red condiment to roll out of the bottle? The scene would then cut to the person experiencing extreme pleasure by eating something with the ketchup on it, with the catch phrase, “Good things come to those that wait.” I remember as a teenager lying awake at night thinking about things that I wanted, and calculating how long I would have to save up to buy it. Night after night I would lay awake in excited anticipation of earning something new. We need to reintroduce that excited anticipation, and this perspective of working to earn something as the norm.
Think about that the next time you’re waiting in frustration at a red light. But don’t think too long, you’ll only be there for 150 more seconds.