with

Mike Bellah

The ad slogan for today might better read: "Who says you canít do it all?"

 

 

 

 

We live in a day where we must learn to say "no" to what is good in order to say "yes" to what is best.

 

 

 

 

Whatever happened to free time? We pay a price for trying to do it all.

The New Materialism

"Who says you canít have it all?" Michelobís slogan for its lite beer defined the '80s in America. It was the decade of Yuppies and $35,000 sports cars, green mailers and junk bonds, a time when unmitigated materialism was in vogue.

By contrast, the 90s are more altruistic. Conspicuous consumption is down, giving to charity is up, and family values have become a rallying cry. Yet beware; materialism in the '90s simply may have changed faces. Time as well as money can become a source of materialism.

Judging from my own temptations as well as those I see in friends, I would guess that the materialism of the '90s shows up more in strained schedules than in strained bank accounts. The ad slogan for today might better read: "Who says you canít do it all?"

Time, like money, is a limited resource. Those who try to do it all in the '90s will end up in the same condition as those who tried to have it all in the '80s: over-committed and impoverished. In this instance, however, the depleted resources will not be measured in lost money but in lost energy, creativity, and wisdom.

What will help? How can we resist the new materialism? I have four suggestions.

Dispel the myth.

We begin fighting the new materialism at the same place we fought the old kind--in our minds. We must remind ourselves that we really canít do it all. We are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent. We canít add an activity to an already crowded schedule without subtracting something else. Giving 125% at work, home, and play is simply not an option.

Choose best over good.

We live in a day where we must learn to say "no" to what is good in order to say "yes" to what is best. Many volunteer causes are good, but saying yes to all of them will mean none of them are done well. Using our own sets of values, we have to decide what things are best, and say no (for the moment) to others.

Resist pressure from others.

As with the old materialism, the new materialism is fueled by peer pressure. Consciously or unconsciously others think they know best the things we should be doing, and they remind us of such on a daily basis. We need to remember that giving in to these demands will help neither us nor our peers. Burned-out, resentful people do not make good employees, committee members, or little league coaches, and our over-involvement might well be the cause of anotherís under-involvement.

Protect free time.

Whatever happened to free time? We pay a price for trying to do it all. Kids who are enrolled in a half-dozen extracurricular activities may lose the very creativity their parents hope to develop there. Similarly, adults with no unstructured time to simply relax and reflect will lose the ability to engage in what Martin Luther King Jr. called "thinking long thoughts." Our deepest insights on life may appear suddenly when we are busy in over-crowded daily schedules, but they do not originate there; they are conceived in periods of solitude and silence, things unavailable if we embrace the new materialism.

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