The smorgasbord concept became a part of the American restaurant scene after the Swedish brought this part of their culture to the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Most baby boomer generation families will remember the original all you can eat concept as the smorgasbord. Somewhere over the last 30 years or so, the term smorgasbord has been replaced by the All You Can Eat buffet in our current vernacular.
Regardless of the term we use, the all you can eat buffet concept is still with us today. What a wonderful blessing. I can eat all I want of a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, soups, and of course, desserts, for just one low price. In addition, the different likes and dislikes of everyone in the group are seamlessly addressed and there are almost no complaints about the choices.
Unfortunately, we all know what often happens at the buffet. We eat way too much. We regret the choices we made as we walk out the door and uncomfortably squeeze into the car for the drive home.
In today’s world, we have a virtual smorgasbord in every area of our lives. The old-school industrial concept of whoever is in power determines what styles are stocked on store shelves, music stores, bookstores, and certainly what we watch on television, has been flattened with the efficiencies of point and click convenience in today’s world.
We all can get what we want, when we want it, often for prices that seem unbelievably low…many times for free.
As we continue to build and strengthen our character, the “all you can eat” lifestyle presents us with some challenges to ensure we don’t overeat in too many areas and to ensure we take full advantage of the opportunities to customize and support our own unique style.
Here are a few ideas to help guide us as we walk up and down the smorgasbord table of today’s reality:
- Choices. The number of options in life has exploded. We can start our “dream” business overnight with an easy to build website. We can customize the sneakers we buy. We can watch our favorite TV show when we want to watch it. We can go to classes at Harvard online for free. Now, more than ever, we have to determine priorities and make choices. “Winging it” with all of the opportunities available to us today, will cause most of us to overeat everywhere and regret not making specific choices.
- Responsibility. With choices, comes responsibility. We can no longer say, “Well, I just did not have the opportunity.” We are no longer confined to what is on a store shelf to get what best fits our unique style. We are no longer confined to the public library or an expensive degree program to get a formal education. When we overeat at the dessert table instead of eating some fruits and vegetables, we can’t play the blame game.
- Individuality. Many times in life, our unique talents, gifts, and desires get minimized in the mass production model of our industrialized world. We picked certain careers based on what we saw around us and some perceived set of expectations. We wore the clothes that seemed to help us fit into those expectations and through it all, we have minimized our own uniqueness. Today’s “all you can eat” opportunities give us a chance to re-birth our uniqueness in areas of work, family, fashion, and culture. We all should do a little soul searching to make sure we did not lose who we are based on some past confinements. We should exercise the courage to be ourselves.
- Time. We all have some uncommitted time. Time when we are not on the job or at school, taking care of critical responsibilities at home, or working in some other area of service. With today’s “all you can eat” entertainment offerings, we run the risk of overeating on entertainment under the concept of just needing some time to chill out, veg out, or honestly admitting to wanting to be a coach potato for the evening. Our point and click entertainment choices combined with everyone’s personal electronics presents a unique and complex challenge to “family time” being customized to everyone going into their corner of the room with their own entertainment device. The entertainment industry no longer controls a limited offering of watching Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news or I Love Lucy to make us laugh. We all need to be vigilant to ensure we use our uncommitted time wisely and keep some family time as “together time.”
With today’s “all you can eat” lifestyle, if we don’t guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions with principles like moderation, self-control, and discipline, we will soon realize that we can’t make pants or belts big enough to contain our habits. When we effectively leverage these principles, combined with cultivating our own uniqueness, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to learn, grow, and have a positive impact on those around us.