If I Were a Smartphone…

I would need a hyper-extended warranty that covers everything from water damage and accidentals to getting lost at sea and being smashed with the force of a thousand crushed dreams and aspirations.  Nah, this Smartphone would not be in pristine condition, but you know what?  I like it that way.

I recently tried to pick up coffee for my mom.  I was on the way to see her new house and wanted to provide a kick of caffeine as she waited for her home inspection to end.  I programmed the nearest Starbucks into Apple Maps and drove out of my apartment complex.  Now I’ll be upfront and honest, I don’t normally preview my route; I trust my technology to get me where I need to be and I’m not usually picky about how that happens.  As long as I get there, I don’t mind the drive.  But perhaps I should have been a bit concerned when suddenly my route looked like this:

blog3Regardless, I did as I normally do, and obediently followed my GPS as it instructed me to head down New Albany Road East and then turn around in a shopping complex around the bend.  I did just that and found myself back at the same intersection where I turned left and began searching for the righthand entrance into Starbucks.  A righthand entrance, I might add, that did not exist.


By the time I turned around, proceeded to drive past the shopping complex I needed, pass back over the highway from which I’d exited, turn around yet again, and finally found my way into the complex via a lefthand turn on New Albany Road East, my path looked a little something like this:

Now if there’s one thing that irritates me, it’s moronic inefficiency.  And I would certainly qualify this trip to Starbucks as such.  There’s getting lost, and then there’s just straight up ridiculousness.  I sent screenshots to my boyfriend, an avid Google advocate, and after months of telling me to stop using Apple Maps, all he sent back was, “Told you so.”

If I’ve learned anything from travel it’s that the journey is far more important than the destination.  But unlike resolving a delayed flight or lucking out on finding a hostel with an empty bed, this journey was just honest to goodness avoidable.  Later that night, as we sat watching our nightly episode of Netflix, I looked over just in time to catch Josh switching out my Apple Maps Mobile App for Google Maps.

His simple gesture got me thinking – the only reason I used Apple Maps was because of convenience.  Muscle memory knew right where to click for directions, so I never went out of my way to use Google.  I would have had to swipe to a different screen and dive into one of my cluttered app folders to find it.  But all it took was swapping out one app for the other and suddenly my muscle memory instead opened a far more efficient and accurate technology.  I didn’t have to change where I clicked, but the results were far more reliable.

Smartphones come in pristine boxes, but your life should not.

We get into these habits that become so routine we can’t conceive doing it any other way.  It’s muscle memory.  We react to certain situations the same way, have the same perspectives, maintain the same daily activities, and when it comes time to switch things up we often struggle.  For example, in the face of stress, I used to become immediately aggravated and on edge.  My brain would go into overdrive and I would become so preoccupied with the fact that I had so much to do, that I wasn’t able to actually accomplish anything.

Then I started reading about mindfulness and how pointless it is to be worried about something you can’t control.  I started considering what kind of attitude or perspective would help my stress become more productive.  Keith Bell, the second oldest doctoral student to graduate at Ohio State and an incredible man with whom I had the pleasure of speaking with last week, said it perfectly:

Stress arises from 2 things:

  1. The things we can’t control
  2. The things we can control, but don’t

(If you didn’t click on Keith’s name up there, go back and do it, you’ll want to read that article later.  Keith is incredible and his story involves a 12-foot shark.  Can we say #epic?)

If you’re stressed, it means you haven’t performed or prepared to the full capacity that you could have.  Stress is being aware that you didn’t do all that you could.  This year I’ve had far less stress than usual.  Work has yet to evoke long-term anxieties and my book, although a hefty project, is something I look forward to working on.  I’ve still had days that are crammed with too much to handle, tensioned conversations amidst family drama, or a to-do list of things I have no interest in doing (adulting isn’t always glamorous).

But the difference this year is that those stressors haven’t shut me down.  Instead of instinctively reaching for the panic button, I reach for a deep breath and some logical reasoning.  I ask myself if these stressors are something I can control and if I can, what the best way is to handle them.  This year, I swapped out my panic app for a 2-minute meditation and self-check-in, and it has been working wonderfully.

Perhaps we try to overcomplicate things too much.  Perhaps we assume that swapping out perceptions or attitudes is as complicated as swiping to a new screen and digging through category folders to find what you need.  What if it’s just not that difficult?  What if it’s as simple as swapping an app?

Never doubt yourself, my friends.  Never assume that change is difficult because of the way others talk about the changes they’ve made in their own lives.  Never doubt your ability to swap apps and keep on living.  Not everything has to be complicated.

If I were a smartphone, and I was on the shelves of your local tech store, I would not come in a fancy box nor with any promises of proper functionality.  I would come pre-labeled with, “May lose battery life faster than anticipated,” and, “Prone to unwanted reprogramming.”  My reviews would say that after a period of time, my apps no longer function as expected.  But that’s the only way I want to be.  I don’t want to be a predictable and unadaptable device; I want to change with the tides and swap apps as I see fit.  I want to look life in the face and be able to say, “I can handle that.”  I want to get rid of the apps and mentalities that no longer serve me, and swap them out for more productive and meaningful programs.

If you were a smartphone, which apps would you ditch?


Special thanks to Judy Clapper, Amy Irvin, David O’Neil, Carollynne O’Neil, and Cat Timmons for their investment in the publication of Gui Ren!  Learn how you can add your name to this list and receive exclusive content by visiting www.Patreon.com/GuiRen

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