Convenience versus Importance

What do we inadvertently prioritize in our lives — the least inconvenient thing to do or the most important thing to do?

Photo by Tom Fisk on

Much has been written about the importance of convenience in our world today. From a consumer perspective the importance of convenience has a positive connotation. From the perspective of a philosopher or a psychologist, the connotation has as good a chance of being negative. But rather than the importance of convenience, what about convenience versus importance? What drives our decisions most when it comes to assessing what we should or shouldn’t do in our lives?

Examples abound: Do I shop around locally to find a meaningful gift for my sister’s birthday or do I go online to quickly see what I can get that someone else will ship to her asap? What about when it comes to eating — do I grab what’s convenient or do I take the time to prepare what’s important for my health and well-being? How about in terms of picking up something that’s only a short distance away — do I drive to pick it up quickly or do I walk so that I get the exercise and also put out less greenhouse gas emissions by doing so?

Okay, a decision at the next level of difficulty — when my close friend is seriously ill, do I make the 2000 mile trip to see her or do I stay home because it’s so inconvenient to leave my life when so much is going on?

Now we are at the really tough choice points in life. Convenience too often rears its head before we even have a chance to reflect deeply about what is most important to us in life.

The profundity of this point came home to me one day when I was getting an osteopathic treatment for misaligned leg bones because of a tilted pelvis on the right side. My osteopath and I had been working on this issue every two weeks for five and a half years. At the beginning of this particular treatment, I was lying on the table and he was seated behind me working on my cranium. He was still struggling with the right visual cortex and, confirming what he thought he knew, he asked, “This right eye is your dominant eye?” I said that it was but after a moment’s pause added, “Well, it’s double dominant because my mono-vision contact lenses have double the strength correction in that eye.” In less than an instant he wheeled his chair around next to me and was right at eye level asking “Why are you doing that?!” Caught off guard, I thought for a moment and provided the only answer that authentically came to me: “Convenience?”

I mean that was how the idea was sold to me years ago when I began to need reading glasses. My optometrist suggested that instead I try mono-vision contact lenses (a commonly recommended solution) — one lens for distance and one for close up for things like reading. I tried the lenses and had no trouble adjusting. I could see all his selling points in terms of not needing to take the reading glasses on and off or always having to make sure I had them with me. The adjustments as I aged would be dealt with automatically at my annual appointment for my contacts, no need to keep buying glasses as well. The convenience he described was obvious.

Wait . . . what? Am I saying that this is what caused my pelvis on the right side to tilt forward over time and that actually pushed the ball of my femur out of my hip socket and then the femur no longer hit my knee from the right angle and the problems continued on down through my fibula, ankle and foot? As my osteopath showed me, over time and without me noticing, my head turned very slightly to the left so that the whole world in front of me could be seen through my much more corrected right lens. As it did so, my pelvis followed and tilted just enough with the angle of my head to slowly move completely out of its natural position on the right side.

All for convenience I had suffered greatly for years, completely disabled my mobility, and caused structural damage that need never have happened. Of course everyone’s solution to my situation was the next convenient answer — hip and knee replacement. But my research showed that this wouldn’t have fixed the problem at all since the pelvis would still be tilted as long as the root cause was with my eyes. That finding interested no one. Still, they pointed out, it certainly would have been more convenient than the 8 years I’ve now spent on discovering and addressing this problem naturally and holistically. The past 2 and a half years of this time has been spent working with a behavioral optometrist who has cut my prescription in half and made both eyes the same correction. Lately he’s been working with me to retrain my brain to stop seeing in mono-vision and have both eyes relearning to coordinate with each other for full-dimensional vision. That hasn’t been easy but it has happened. And my pelvis has returned to its natural position and my bones are back in place. Now the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are working to relearn their original positions as well. None of it is easy or painless but I still have all my original body parts and am much closer to a natural gait.

Since the day my doctor asked me why I was doing this and my answer was convenience, I’ve tried to pay supremely close attention to all the things I do in life for the sake of convenience that are costing me so much more than I would ever have wanted to pay on whatever front is germane to the thing at hand. Since that day I’ve wondered what other daily things I do (like putting in those mono-vision contacts first thing every morning for so many years) that I am completely oblivious to the trade-off I am making for convenience versus the thing that is really important to me like my mobility. What are the questions I’m not asking, the conventional recommendations I’m not challenging?

Photo by Wynn Richards

Another way I’ve tracked the price of this trade-off is in regret. What are the things I didn’t do that I now deeply regret not having done and that, when I look more closely, I find that too many of them were not done because it wasn’t convenient for me to do them. But these were important things or I wouldn’t be feeling regret later. These are often things I didn’t do in a relationship with someone important to me. But they are also things I didn’t do in my own life that could have made a real difference to the present or future quality of my life. And I didn’t pass on them out of fear — I didn’t do them because they weren’t convenient to do at that time. They would have taken me out of my way, taken more time and effort, all the things we hope to avoid by doing what’s convenient.

What if we really take this in: Convenience is about being able to go ahead with something without any difficulty. That is, something is convenient if it contributes to an easy and effortless way of life. I can see how that might sound good but consider that it may also be exactly what we aren’t seeking in a meaningful life. It’s not that we want what’s hard, but that we want to prioritize what is important. More often than not, what is truly important has at least a bit of a challenge to it and a certain amount of effort required.

When I go deeper into the cost of each convenience, I arrive at the issue of what is really important to me in my life. How many things that were important to me did not get done because they were inconvenient for me to do them? How conscious am I willing to become about when I am defaulting to convenience? Who do I want to be and how do I want to live my life? The choices I make regarding convenience versus importance, both the easy and the difficult ones, will go a long way toward determining that.

One thought on “Convenience versus Importance

  1. Wondering here if “Convenience” is the right word here or is the word really “Control”? Maybe the right term is really a combination of the two words “The perceived convenience of control”. Sounds like the perception of being in control makes a lot of things seem convenient, even if wrong.

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