In many cases we have become immune to the constant shifting of what we take for granted and what we believe to be true. I read a term last week that actually made me laugh: The New Normal. This is the new found belief in austerity and economical living. In reality, it is just a return to the normal way we used to behave with our money and our investments: don't spend more than you make.
The shift under your feet isn't just an earthquake, it is a societal shift. Consider a handful of examples:
- For the first time, more holiday shopping took place on line than in physical stores. A few years ago this would be have been unthinkable. Not only were there substantially fewer on line choices, but how many were comfortable using a credit card on line? Would we ever be willing to order things without first touching or seeing them? The answer is, Yes.
- Have you tried to find a cell phone recently whose primary function is a phone? It is becoming more difficult. Smart phones (which can make you feel stupid) are rapidly becoming the only real choice. E-mails, voice mail, and actual phone conversations are losing the battle to texting.
- Desktop computers will be an endangered species within the next few years. Even laptops may be going away. Increasingly smart phones and devices like the iPad can do everything the bigger, bulky computer on your desk can do, but are lightweight and hand sized. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quotes a study that predicts the number of smart phones will surpass the number of personal computers within 2 years.
- The promise of a pension or 401k being there when you need it is not necessarily true anymore. As companies, governments, and unions try to handle future obligations they are finding the only answer is to cut benefits and payouts. No matter what you were told, that retirement financial nest egg may look more like an omelet. Social Security and Medicare...who knows?
- Health studies are produced every day that contradict what yesterday's said. Wait long enough and cigarettes and bacon will become health foods. It is becoming increasingly difficult to know what to believe when so many experts have such different opinions.
- The political climate is unstable. Wild swings in legislation and philosophies make it almost impossible for business or individuals to make long term plans. What was law today may be abolished after the next election. As the horrible shooting in Tucson last weekend showed, we may be entering an even more dangerous period if we aren't careful. Even if the alleged shooter was not politically motivated public figures are going to think twice about similar gatherings.
- Even something as commonplace as repairing your own car requires specialized computers to diagnose many problems, and then computer-like parts to fix it. Changing your oil is still possible. Figure out what the check engine light means? To the repair shop you go.
- Newspapers, magazines, network television, even cable television are all going to be in for the fight of their lives. Media streaming directly to your TV, phone, or iPad make every other form of distribution too expensive and too slow. A headline in the January 5th Wall Street Journal said it quite clearly in reference to old vs. new media: Digital or Die.
So, what should our response be to this onslaught? Can we do anything to get a sense of control back? Simple living or voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle choice that has several attractions. Cutting back on possessions and avoiding much of the material society in which we live have benefits that I have detailed in earlier posts. But, it really has little to do with a response to a complicated and uncertain world. Here are some thoughts to get your own creative juices flowing:
Put more stock in you. Gather all the opinions you want. Do all the research on any subject that helps you get a handle on the issue. But, when it is decision time, trust you. You should not doubt your own abilities. Learn to trust your gut and intuitions. If something doesn't seem quite right to you, then it isn't. Will you make mistakes? Sure you will. But, guess what, you'll make mistakes even if you wait for others to tell you what you should do.
Personal responsibility must make a comeback. The time when we could safely outsource all our decisions to others is ending. Believing the experts almost brought down our economy. It should be obvious by now that promises to you by corporations or government aren't always binding. You need to take on more of the load of managing and guiding your own life.
Decide what adds clutter to your life and reduce it. It could something as obvious as too much time on the computer or Internet. It could be too many possessions to repair, maintain and insure. It might be a house that is much too big for your needs. Maybe a three car garage doesn't need three cars. Over-commitment is a dangerous form of clutter. Are you the go-to volunteer for everyone? Determine what can be eliminated or cut back and do so. Less clutter means less stress. Less stress means less complexity.
Learning and changing never stops; don't even try. It is useless to dig in your heels and try to keep things the way they were (or are). Your life will probably be OK for awhile without rushing out for a 4G phone (whatever that is). But, to refuse to consider change is a doomed strategy. Read, study, ponder. Try to understand how a change you've been reading or hearing about about may affect you.
In summary I believe there is one basic truth that gives us hope: the more we learn to handle complexity, the simpler it becomes.
Question: Am I overstating the problem of complexity and its affect on us? Have I missed a way to find more simplicity? I encourage your feedback.
If you enjoyed this article, I ask that you subscribe for regular updates sent to your e-mail or reader. It is free and allows you quick notification when I have added fresh content. It is also helpful to me to track readership. Simply click on the Subscribe for immediate updates button near the top of the left hand column. I'd appreciate it.