As the population expands, I am disturbed by the ever-growing number of choices we all have access to.

What news to read, what cereal to buy, what motion pictures to attend, what version of religion to hide behind. It seems our desire – demand, even – for options simply cannot be satiated.  Magically, out of nowhere, there are providers of options laying in wait. Hopeful, enthusiastic, entrepreneurial minds boasting the lowest price, or the newest fad, or the best colon cleanse. And we as consumers eat it up (and I don’t just mean “buyers” – I’m talking about all forms of consumption: of goods, or services, of thought and memes, of opinion and entertainment, and so on). Of course we want more options! That is the benefit of being a free consumer, endless options.

However, in the production of so many options, it seems we are witnessing a dilution of quality, reliability, accountability, and especially confidence in anything. More importantly, with countless options that constantly drive us to exercise our right to consumption we find we have more “stuff” to consume (and store, and care for, and clean) and yet less time to actually use/think about/enjoy it.

This problems gets even more complicated when we focus on some of the more rapidly changing/rejuvenating areas of consumption like technology, science, news, opinion, or social networking. With these ever-changing, ever-maturing, ever-re-branding sectors, consumption on any given day is likely outmoded or outdated by the time we’ve finally incorporated it into our lives and minds.

I have friends who are hobby hounds. They get interested in something, do an hour’s worth of research, and then go spend a bunch of dough on the new hobby they are going to get into.  Shooting, playing guitar, fishing, snowshoeing, falconry, biking, fitness, and the list goes on. And each time a new distraction is picked up, the cold reality of their lifestyle makes the new just as unappealing as the old. The truth is, most hobbies require the one thing that the people I know don’t have enough of – time.  Sure they’ve got money coming out the wazoo. They want to spend, spend, spend on whatever they think they need to make their lives fulfilling, but when it comes to committing the one thing that almost any hobby requires – time – the coffer is empty.

I’ll admit I am a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades myself, but I exercise thoughtfulness and especially thrift before I go exploring a new hobby. But for these friends, it is neither the act of the hobby nor the mastering of it that they enjoy. Investment of time is not something they can commit to. It is not a commodity that they have an abundance of. With a 45+ hour work week, a new family, homeownership, being a spouse, substance use, social life and then the necessities of sleep, food and tying your shoes, there simply isn’t room in the average person’s life for even a couple of hobbies, much less a multitude of them.

The irony here is that if not for the extra “whatever” money, the new hobbies likely wouldn’t be invested in. But it is the very earning of that excess money that requires more time at work, and less time actually pursuing excellence in the hobby. A vicious cycle to be sure.

So what is the lesson here? Hard to say. I don’t claim to be immune to the allure of the non-essential purchase or to the desire to be master of more than I am. But I think what I have seen in my friends who over-consume is a cluttered life and home, or a hollow relationship with their spouse, or frequent disappointment at their inability to do anything well.

In which case, I think the lesson is: Consume less. Do more. Perhaps we all should give that a try.

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