We have evolved into a society that not only wants but expects instant gratification. Fair enough. It’s understandable. Mass media has changed the way we think and feel. It’s changed how we react to society and each other.
Before electricity, for as long as we (human beings) have been aware of (and cared about) life beyond our immediate existence, we have received our news days, weeks, even months or years after the fact. Today we know what’s happening within moments. That’s huge. News after the fact, is just that – fact. No matter how compelling, it’s history and we know innately that we can’t change history. When we get the same news in real time – we feel differently, more emotional. Survival mode kicks in. This isn’t history. This isn’t fact – yet. Survival mode tells us to act. Maybe if we do something NOW while it’s happening, we can change the out come. No longer is an earthquake on the other side of the world too distant to affect us. If it’s happening NOW we can DO something.
News from last week is history, a done deal. We skip right over “doing” and head straight to “feeling”. We have a different emotional response because now it’s something that happened to other people. We didn’t life through it. We didn’t experience it. We don’t connect with it in the same way as people who have lived through any shared emotional experience (siblings, war buddies, hostage victims). Ask someone where they were on 9/11 and you have an instant connection (assuming you were conscious on 9/11). News we did not live through is a whole different thing. It might affect us emotionally and some people will stay there, even try to make a difference after the fact. Most move on to the next immediate problem. That’s human nature. That’s survival.
My friend, well known author and financial wiz Mark O. Haroldsen talks in his very first book “Goals, Guts and Greatness” about recognizing the difference between what is “urgent” and what is “important” in our lives. People he says, often don’t achieve their goals because their time and energy is spent dealing with things that seem “urgent” but in fact are not important. It’s human nature to deal with what is in our face. That’s why the squeaky wheel does get the oil and one of the most important rules of success is persistence. It works. We give our attention to what is in front of us.
So, what does any of this have to do with changing the world? It does because before we can change things we have to be honest. We have to admit that while we’d all like to make the world a better place, we’re going to pay the mortgage before we donate to charity. We’d like to help the environment but we are going to grab that plastic bottle of water when it’s the only way we can get to work on time. We are going to deal with the immediate problems in our lives first. That’s not a bad thing. It’s being human but knowing that, let’s work with it.
Since we want instant gratification, let’s get some with this environment thing. Let’s flip a switch in our mind from “new things are hipper and make me feel cool” to “quality is hip and makes me feel cool”. That’s it. Don’t go for the “latest” go for the “best”. Go for things that will last, not throwaway crap. Rich people have always known this but now that the marketplace caters to the mass middle class, we need to know it too.
A great leather bag looks better with time. So why are folks clamoring to buy expensive, new ones? It all started when people got the idea they could buy class. They can’t. An expensive designer bag is supposed to say “look at me, I must have done something interesting, made my mark, be somebody interesting to be able to afford this bag. It doesn’t. Nothing you can wear or carry says anything about you any more. We all know too much. All your business is probably on the internet anyway.
If you buy a can of cookies, save the darn can and re use it instead of going to a container store and buying a plastic version of the same thing. Use strong cardboard boxes in drawers for odds and ends instead of buying drawer dividers. REUSE and REPURPOSE things you already have. My local Thai food delivery comes in reusable plastic containers but I have seen people throw them out and buy tupperware. Some ice cream comes in round plastic 1 gallon tubs with a lid but I have seen people throw them out instead of using them as buckets in the laundry room or to store odds and ends. Keeps some goo-gone under the sink and use it when there is writing on the containers.
Start small but start. Schools and nursing homes often need plastic containers for projects and cleanup. Those ice cream tubs can be used in the summertime for everything from taking food to the beach to storing extra potato chips outside by the pool. If you lose or break one, who cares. We should all write to manufacturers and tell them to stop using plastic but we’re not going to do that. What we can do is simply stop automatically throwing out anything that could be used again, by anybody.