How "Convenience" is a Misnomer
As I've alluded to before, I’ve taught SAT and ACT test prep as a side hustle in the greater Los Angeles area for the past decade.
I do verbal prep, so I teach teens the in’s and outs of grammar, give them strategies for critical reading, and assist them in prepping and writing an effective essay on any given topic.
One of the essay prompts was been about convenience, and the students had to take a position on whether modern conveniences were good, bad, or somewhere in between.
The first time I read this prompt, I paused.
Convenience is a bad thing?
The more I contemplated it, the more I saw that it indeed has dark side. What we often find convenient in the short-term can have exceedingly dire long-term effects.
For instance, say after pushing the snooze bar one too many times, I run late to work and skip breakfast at home. En route to work, I place an order on the Starbucks app for a venti iced americano with a splash of soy and a blueberry muffin. I pop in, skip the line, pick up my order, and consume my breakfast en route to work. Thanks to Starbucks, I make it to my morning meeting on time on a full stomach. I didn’t even feel the $6.45 leave my account!
The next day, I hit the snooze bar again. I’m crunched for time, but I remember how Starbucks eased my pain the day before. I decide to repeat that ritual. (After all, it IS convenient, right?). The following day, I do it again, and, unconsciously, I begin to make this my daily ritual for the entire year.
Why? Because waking up earlier and prepping my own breakfasts is hard.
So, what are the final costs for this convenience?
Money - At $6.45 a trip, I’ve spent $1,548 if I go 5 out of 5 weekdays, or $1238.4 if I go 4 out out of 5. (This is what David Bach would call "The Latte Factor.")
Weight - Per Starbucks's website, each muffin has 360 calories with 15 g of fat and 52 g of carbs (who knows how much sugar there is?). My repeated habit has caused me to gain 10 pounds, and now I need a diet.
Time - Who knows how much time I’ve wasted looking for a parking space, running in and out of the store, and logging my daily expenses on my budget?
Environmental Impact - Plastic cups don’t biodegrade.
I’m not angry at Starbucks.
In fact, I love them. They do excellent business, and I know that they’re committed to sustainability and ethical business practices. I’m also not angry at myself; I’m human and often tired. I sometimes don’t make the best decisions when I put those two things together.
But let’s look at this through the lens of convenience: how is it really that convenient that I’ve spent so much money, gained so much weight, wasted so much time, and thrown away so much plastic?
And yet, I did this because the alternative (i.e., waking up earlier, prepping my breakfasts) would've been hard.
With convenience, you have to choose your battles.
Not everything in life has to be (or should be) hard.
With the issues that count (like getting out of debt, building an emergency fund, learning to live on a budget), sometimes you have to sacrifice time and effort in exchange for a greater result down the line (I call this "frontloading the pain.")
Because if everything's easy and convenient, then nothing is.
And if everything is easy and convenient, there are unintended consequences coming down the road that will be harder. (That's not me doom-and-glooming - that's just how life works).
Best remedy for this?
Like the good meme says above, choose your hard.
When you give yourself the choice, see the bigger picture, and, in many cases, frontload the pain by choosing your hard and doing it, you'll find you're actually making the easier choice.