The Eternal Quest For The Quick Fix

Image by Ross Grady via Flickr

Image by Ross Grady via Flickr

Have you ever browsed through a self-help guide, hoping to find an easy solution to a difficult problem? Have you ever purchased on credit an item you knew you couldn’t afford, or gotten frustrated with something that didn’t give you immediate results?

Are you on an endless quest for the quick fix? It’s an attitude that pervades every aspect of today’s society.

The quest for the quick fix infects the way we address our personal issues. It infects the way we view our jobs, our wealth, and our worth.

It infects our way of thinking and our way of life.

As a society, we’ve grown increasingly unwilling to put forth the hard work required to improve ourselves. We want simple solutions and immediate feel-good results. We want chicken soup for the soul and fast food for the belly.

The quest for the quick fix is directly responsible for the financial state of the nation. Last year’s economic collapse resulted from decades of decadent spending. Why buy a modest house when we can secure a mansion on 100% financing and minimal monthly payments? Why live a meager lifestyle when bountiful credit cards provide us with all the material possessions we want?

The quest for the quick fix has spawned a culture of ravenous self-improvement. Why spend years on introspection and behavior modification when we can buy a DVD and “cure” life-long problems in a few short weeks?

Let’s enjoy our new mansion, our new flat-screen, our new personality. Later on we can worry about paying off the mortgage, paying off our credit card, addressing our actual emotional issues.

And that is the plight of modern American society. We live in the present, even if living in the present means sacrificing our future.

The 17-year-old who skips college to get a factory job paying $15 an hour… because $15 an hour is a huge sum of money when you’re 17. The 22-year-old college graduate with a $10,000 credit card balance… and no job. The 27-year-old with the half-million dollar home… purchased with no money down and an adjustable-rate mortgage whose payments will skyrocket in five years. The 32-year-old desperate single who believes she can attain her lifelong dreams… as long as she thinks only positive thoughts.

The average American has forgotten that we must work hard today to earn ourselves a better tomorrow. The average American wants immediate results. The quick fix. The duct tape wrapped around the sputtering engine of society.

Unfortunately, the quick fix does come at the cost of the future.

The factory worker forgoes the opportunity to improve his skill set and increase his chances of finding an alternate career should the factory close down. The college grad spends the next decade attempting to pay off four years of frivolous purchases. The homeowner loses his mansion when his monthly mortgage payment jumps several thousand dollars. The desperate single spirals down a vortex of one dysfunctional relationship after another.

If we really want to make ourselves better, if we really want to improve our lives, then we must believe in the power of investment. Investment in our own education… when we choose to stay in school; investment in our own human capital… when we choose to never stop developing our trove of useful skills; investment in our own health… when we choose to lead a life of self-discipline, adaptability, and resilience; investment in our own future… when we choose to plan for tomorrow.

To me, carpe diem is one egregiously unsound wad of pop wisdom. If I were only to live for today, I’d go out and spend every last penny I had. Heck yeah, today would surely be the rager to end all ragers. Watch out for flying kegs and swaying stripper poles.

But then, where would I be tomorrow?

Most likely broke. Definitely hung over. Probably left for dead.

It was the Klingons (although they may have been quoting the Bible) who deciphered the full meaning of carpe diem: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Not so promising an outlook now, is it?

So, before we continue on our eternal quest for the quick fix, before we embark on today’s path of eating and drinking and merrymaking, perhaps we should ask ourselves….

Where do we want to be tomorrow?

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