There’s No Such Thing as ‘Quality’ Time
When you’re too busy aiming for it, you miss the moments in front of you
While the phrase certainly comes from a good place, there’s a disconnect: The perfectionist side of our brain, fueled by movies and Instagram, wants everything to be special, to be “right.” But that’s an ideal that the busy, ordinary, doing-the-best-we-can versions of ourselves can’t always live up to.
The result? An inevitable sense of disappointment. We feel awful for the deficiency, so out of guilt, we plan elaborate vacations. We project enormous expectations and pressure on ourselves. We think “Oh, if only I had more money, or a better job, or lived in France where the child care benefits were different, then I could be happy.”
That’s not fair. And it’s also damaging.
The reason is that there is no such thing as “quality time.” Jerry Seinfeld, who has three teenage kids, put it well:
“I’m a believer in the ordinary and the mundane. These guys that talk about ‘quality time’ — I always find that a little sad when they say, ‘We have quality time.’ I don’t want quality time. I want the garbage time. That’s what I like. You just see them in their room reading a comic book and you get to kind of watch that for a minute, or [having] a bowl of Cheerios at 11 o’clock at night when they’re not even supposed to be up. The garbage, that’s what I love.”
To be fair, Seinfeld is the master of the mundane. Banality has made him a near-billionaire. But there is a deeper truth to what he’s getting at. Special days? Nah. Every day is special. Every minute can be “quality time.”
I remember when my book The Obstacle Is the Way first starting making its way through professional sports, I was invited to see the Seahawks training camp up in Renton, Washington. I had just gotten married and my career was really firing, so I asked Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll how coaches manage to make a personal life work with such insane hours. Pete, who has been married for more than 40 years, looked at me and said, “You have to…