Sunday, April 11, 2010

Slow down, you're moving too fast

(Pausing for a moment in the City of Sin. Photo de moi)

When life is going particularly great, and our personal, professional, and social needs are all being met (maybe even exceeded), the tendency to keep it all going instinctively kicks in. Often, we will even tend to speed up the pace at which we're moving, as if out of some unfounded (yet certainly dangerous) fear of losing it if we're snoozing during it. I say 'unfounded fear' with a tinge of hesitancy, because I realize there are times and professions out there that require fast-paced progression for success; yet, I'm talking about the whole grand picture: a career, a social life and family, and fulfilling personal time.

This hyperactive mentality has been fed to us daily for generations, and subsequently, our culture feeds into the mentality. The ingrained, and all-too-pervasive nature of the message can be said to have created a society of mindless drones who pass through life on a high-speed conveyor belt, stopping only when they are forced off or fall. But that's too easy a criticism. Because after all, aren't we responsible too? Who creates each tool and gadget designed solely to maximize our productivity, to make efficient our time, so that the fast lane can become even faster and we can short-cut/compartmentalize/schedule and otherwise sell ourselves short when it comes to actually and fully enjoying the life we are living. 

But I am not here to talk about that clich├ęd, and oft-dramatized scenario. Because in my opinion, the solution to that is pretty simple. The real problem is when life is moving along at break-neck speed, and rather than being annoyingly obnoxious or morally degrading, the near entirety of it is chock-full of worthwhile, fulfilling, and otherwise enjoyable little goodies. When this is the case, let me tell you, the very last thing you want to do is slow down , even when your body begs you morning, noon, and night; and your brain attempts to reason with your proud defiance.

Of course, at some point; not listening will cause you to lose. And you'll be stuck inside not working, not playing, not anything but nose-blowing for a lot longer than you would have if you would have taken one night or one half-day off. But if you're smart, your reasons for slowing down will be motivated by more than just a fear of getting sick. You'll actually take time to sit and reflect and absorb the day; because your mind, your body, life, and yes, your productivity will benefit from it. Because my life is so jam-packed with good stuff, I need to time to sort through everything, to connect the dots of events and places and people. To focus, and extract meaning; fit it into the larger, over-arching model for living and working that I will follow tomorrow, and the day after, and the next year after. It's not laziness, it's smart. And it's sustainable. 

Shouldn't this be the goal we are striving for - clarity, focus, enjoyment out of life and work - rather than double-bookings and 60 hour work weeks? Leo Babauta wisely puts it this way:

If our goal is to create, to produce amazing things, to go for quality over quantity, then rushing is not the most effective way to work. Slowing down and focusing is always more effective.
Rushing produces errors. It’s distracting to flit from one thing to the next, with our attention never one one thing long enough to give it any thought or create anything of worth. Hurrying produces too much noise to be able to find the quiet the mind needs for true creativity and profound thinking.
So yes, moving quickly will get more done. But it won’t get the right things done.


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