A. Society’s self-destructive addiction to Faster Living
A patient arrived late, tossed his cellphone on the sofa and pleaded: “Can you help me control my phone? It’s ruining my life.”
What is supposed to help us is hurting us. What is supposed to free us ends up enslaving us. That’s the paradox of addiction. Whatever the lure, it seems so good, so positive, so helpful and so harmless. And then we’re hooked.
So is society. Caught in a chaotic, frenzied spiral of a new addiction, people are chasing money, power, success and a wilder, faster pace of life. Just like any addiction, people are out of control in their behaviors, feelings and thinking, yet they believe they are normal.
This is progress in the modern world. You always move forward and there are no limits to how far you can go or how fast you can get there. Don’t pause, don’t reflect. You win or lose. You’ll fall behind and fail if you stop moving. Fast at any cost is the mantra of a stressed and distressed American society today.
Over-scheduling and double-booking have been signs of progress and belonging for two decades. Practices that used to cause embarrassment became proudly rationalized as multi-tasking, a new skill to master. You juggle 10 plates while you brag about your 90-hour week and pop your Ambien to get to sleep.
This is success in the modern world. Progress equals fast, which equals success, a recipe for addiction.
Society is now dominated by beliefs, attitudes and ways of thinking that elevate the values of impulse, instant gratification and loss of control to first line actions and reactions. “I want it now!” or “Do it now!” are valued mantras for today’s with-it person, young or old. Add to instant action the belief that there are no limits to human power, no limits to action, no limits to success. Fueled by the grandiosity and omnipotence of these beliefs, people get high on the emotions of endless possibility with no need to ever stop or slow down.
What are the costs of speed addiction? We live under a weight of demands, real and imagined, that is debilitating. We see an alarming increase in stress-related disorders of all kinds for all ages, beginning with elementary school-age children who are struggling with obesity, depression, anxiety, attention disorders and all kinds of learning disabilities, a list of problems for all ages.
In a vicious circle, the exhausting fast pace of life promotes overstimulation and overscheduling, which become chronic stressors that lead to behavioral, mood and attention disorders. We cannot see that we are causing our physical, emotional and behavioral health problems as we try harder to go faster, and then turn to medication to treat the unforeseen consequences. We believe we should be able to go this fast and there is something wrong with us if we can’t keep up.
We also see changes in our attention and thinking. Technological advances were supposed to free up creative thinking, but the mass of incoming information has actually eroded our attention and our creativity. People have less time to reflect on anything as they become dominated by a need to act, a need to be online, robotically always checking. Multi-tasking stimulates internal chaos and fragmented attention.
It may also interrupt and diminish learning, productivity and even friendships. Switching your attention reduces your efficiency and skill. You can’t concentrate on anything.
So, try interrupting your impulsive behavior. Turn off your phone for one hour each day to focus on a book, conversation with your family or friends, or to cook a meal. A small start is your best next step and it counts.
Researchers note that this push for speed is changing the way people think. The need to be efficient and instant leads to a dumbing down of information intake so that people become scanners and “decoders” of information, cruising horizontally across the screen to pick up bytes, rather than delving towards a deeper understanding.
Maybe the biggest cost we’ve encountered already is the harm to human relationships. Instead of enhancing close bonds, technology has facilitated avoidance of direct person-to-person contact, which takes too much time. We maintain the illusion that we’re connected more closely than ever by the number of Facebook “likes” we accumulate. But it’s all fast, now, this instant. Everything is impulse. Our sense of connection exists in the action, not an accumulated, deepening experience.
Baby Boomers know what they’ve lost. The younger generation is growing up with an addictive inner pressure and chronic stress as normal. When they can’t go any faster and they can’t slow down, it will be a hard road to pick up the developmental pieces they’ve missed in our wild rush for progress.
B. Are you living life too fast?
The hectic pace of today’s 24-hour lifestyle may be wreaking even more havoc on our health than we realise.
Modern living is creating an epidemic of binge drinking, irritability, loss of sex drive and indigestion, it is claimed.
The findings of a survey of nearly 550 adults aged 25 and over highlights the extent to which people are struggling to juggle work commitments with the demands of family and keeping up with friends.
The report, called Life in the Fast Lane, found 85 per cent of adults are suffering indigestion, while 62 per cent have a reduced interest in sex.
Although six out of ten would secretly like to do nothing at the weekend, their spare time is actually filled with shopping, family, household chores or catching up with their friends.
One in five admits taking work home to finish over the weekend, while half of all respondents reported feeling stressed at the weekend at least once a month.
The ‘fast-lane’ approach to living means 61 per cent of adults spend only between 15 and 30 minutes eating their evening meal. And almost 80 per cent admit to excessive alcohol consumption.
Impatience and anxiety or a wish to avoid even the slightest delay appeared to be symptomatic of fastlane living.
More than half of respondents admitted to passing through traffic lights on red, while 58 per cent use their car for short journeys rather than walk.
Almost three-quarters said they would put the phone down rather than wait on hold, while 84 per cent admitted to saving a few seconds by walking on moving escalators.
Nearly six out of ten people said they felt they were ‘missing out’ on something but did not know what.
The survey, commissioned by indigestion remedy Remegel, questioned people in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and Manchester.
As working and living lifestyles change drastically, it sought to discover what effects the above are having on indigestion levels as well as friendships, families, working practices and most importantly general health. Leon Kreitzman, author of the book 24 Hour Society, said: ‘Our bodies have not evolved to operate in a flexible 24-hour environment.
‘Unless we take more care, we will suffer extremely unpleasant symptoms which, as well as indigestion, include irritability, low concentration, reduced sex drive and mood changes’.
Registered dietitian Azmina Govindji added: ‘Eating on the go, stressful jobs, busy social lives and a hectic lifestyle in general-can compromise our overall wellbeing. This in turn can affect our digestion, especially if we eat unbalanced foods.
‘The answer is to find simple, manageable steps towards a healthier lifestyle, finding the combination of diet and physical activity that works for you, whether you are a working mother, a doctor working night shifts, or someone who sits at a desk all day.’
‘Our lives move at such a fast pace – being stuck in a traffic jam is a chance to make a quick phone call, travelling home on the train is a chance to compile the shopping list and the lunch break is a chance to pop to the bank or return an item to the shops.
‘The key to stress and time management is the ability to stop “doing” all the time and start “being” some of the time.’
C. Living in a Fast-Paced World
If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.
Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.
What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.
Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.
The Pace of Modern Life
One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list.
The wise resist the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life. They follow the advice “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”1 In short, they focus on the things that matter most.
“We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith and strengthen our families.”
The search for the best things inevitably leads to the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the simple and beautiful truths revealed to us by a caring, eternal, and all-knowing Father in Heaven.
How Can I Learn What Is Most Important?
I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing.
Printed material, wide-ranging media sources, electronic tools and gadgets—all helpful if used properly—can become hurtful diversions or heartless chambers of isolation.
The holy scriptures and the spoken word of the living prophets give emphasis to the fundamental principles and doctrines of the gospel. The reason we return to these foundational principles, to the pure doctrines, is because they are the gateway to truths of profound meaning.
The Basics: Four Key Relationships
Regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life.
First, our relationship with God is most sacred and vital.
Our second key relationship is with our families.
Since no other success can compensate for failure here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities.
The third key relationship we have is with our fellowman.
We build this relationship one person at a time—by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents. I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen. And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people.
The fourth key relationship is with ourselves.
It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the scriptues, and find out what they mean for you personally.
Strength in Simplicity
Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, a humble path path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.