This is a Starbucks Gluten-free Canadian Bacon and Egg sandwich, and it has something important to teach us about survivalism and the importance of maintaining personal standards.
See, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love starting the day in the kitchen and while my fare is almost always simple, the ingredients are high quality and I am meticulous in my preparation. But this week I wasn’t feeling it, so I decided to try out the new gluten-free offering that Starbucks just rolled out.
On Monday I almost didn’t finish it – the flavor was thin and I could taste the paper it was wrapped in. By Wednesday it was tolerable, and on Friday morning I woke up anxious to get “my” sandwich and I truly enjoyed it. So did the sandwich itself get better? No, it did not.
See, we’re designed with an incredible capacity not just for survival, but to adapt quickly to our circumstances with impressive agility. On the plus side, this capacity allows people who live in or experience circumstances far, far harsher than anything someone like me has experienced, to live a life that is still full of contentment, joy, love, and happiness.
On the negative side, this also means that the same adaptive capacity to find contentment, joy, love, and happiness can occur in all kinds of situations where quality of life, rather than survival, is what’s at stake. Be it art or music or theology or relationships…
…we have the ability to quickly reset our bar for what “good” is and begin to believe that we’re satisfied and even pleased, with what we’re experiencing in life.
On the more superficial side, this means that we can truly believe that a semi-stale microwaved sandwich is as enjoyable as a freshly prepared meal, or that the pop music sensation of the moment is roughly on par with the great songwriters of our generation.
On the more substantial level, this also means we can come to believe that unhealthy relationships and a generally poor quality of living are still “good enough” that it’s not worth the work it takes to get out of those situations because we can still convince ourselves that we “feel” content and even happy at times.
The problem is, we’re hard-wired this way. Which means that we WILL find a way to be content and happy in all but the most unlivable of situations. We can’t help it, it’s just how we’re made. So how can we know that we’re not just on some steady, downward decline of blissful ignorance? By establishing and holding to our own code of personal standards, and by surrounding ourselves with a community of people who share our values.
Aside: there are those who define themselves by their own discontent – who bury their own pain and brokenness in a facade of external purpose and hide behind a veil of self-empowerment mantras. If you are in that place, then you must first come to a place of honesty about what is motivating you in this way before you can begin to deal with where your contentment can be developed.
Just a Little Bit Better
I can’t really define for you what those standards are – that’s why they’re called “personal”, but I can tell you that they ebb and flow throughout the course of your life. There are times that you will have the energy to focus on the quality of your breakfast food, and there will be whole seasons when you just skip breakfast entirely because life can be messy at times.
The goal is not to establish some kind of rigid, immovable set of ideals that alienate you from the rest of the world – the goal is to always be asking yourself if you are settling for “less” in life than you need to be, because of some reason that is actually completely in your control.
You can choose to make the changes, big and small, to make your life more full and fulfilling. It is always more work, and if you wait until you feel “discontent” to make those changes, your circumstances may be so bad that it’s really hard to overcome them. But if you try, day to day, to choose “just a little bit better” in the small things, instead of easier or quicker or cheaper, you will find that in time, your enjoyment of everything will be greater.
And you’ll also begin to know and recognize when the quality of those more substantial and significant things is beginning to wane, and you’ll already have the skills you need to make the changes in those big areas of life too.