Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
By Stephanie Marston, MFT
It is one of the greatest challenges in our lives. To "be" or to "do," and how to strike a balance is the all important question. Our culture abhors idleness. The adage "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" grew out of the Puritan ethic of keeping busy.
Have you noticed that since we can't slow down the things around us we try to speed ourselves up. We hurry, rush, we hustle. We run ourselves ragged trying to get ahead or stay even or to catch up. And then we occasionally encounter someone who seems to have time for everything and for everyone. He doesn't hurry. He doesn't seem stressed, rushed or impatient. It's almost as if he's got nothing to do yet he gets so much done.
Consider for a moment, stressed people are always in a hurry. People who hurry are always stressed. People who don't hurry aren't frustrated. People who aren't frustrated don't hurry. Which comes first? Does hurry cause stress or does it result from it?
Is it possible that our attitude and our approach to life actually affect how fast our time passes? Is it possible that we're a little like a hamster on a treadmill who by running faster and faster succeeds only in making our world spin ever faster. And perhaps if we consciously slow ourselves down and become a little more patient, a little more aware we can slow ourselves down and find that we are able to accomplish more with less hurry.
I have to admit that slowing down is a challenge. I was recently on my way to a meditation retreat to learn how to slow down when I was pulled over by a state trooper. I was in such a hurry to learn how to slow down that I got a ticket for speeding. So I'm not saying that slowing down is an easy thing to do. It isn't. Many of us think that we are cheating when we "do nothing." We think that we have to get sick in order to have an excuse to take time for ourselves. Yet if we adhere to society's dictates to do, do, do, we become automatons and lose touch with our humanity.
We think that fast is equated with happy, but it isn't. In fact the faster we go the more stress we have in our lives. Ask yourself, "What's my hurry?" Hurry is your enemy. We do a lot of rushing around trying to squeeze in more stuff than we should, leading us to do all of it less well and making it all less enjoyable. Why hurry? You probably answer because you have to. But that's simply not true.
Don't fill in all the time with new activities, but rather let the rest of what you do proceed more leisurely. By doing this, you can slow down. This will make you both more effective and more fulfilled. Our information overload has conditioned us to require more speed, more stimulation to feel engaged and not bored. We're on the fast track.
Do you know where your time goes? Most of us budget our money down to the last penny, but very few people budget their time. But let's fact it, time is much more important than money. We spend it, we waste it and we "kill it." Time is a finite resource, but we behave as if it were infinite.
Consider for a moment, if I said I would give you $86,400 every day for the rest of your life, but you had to spend it wisely or you'd lose it what would you do? Of course you'd do everything possible to spend the money wisely. Yet each of us is given 86,400 seconds every day and the same proposition challenges us: spend it wisely or lose it. You'll never get back the hours you waste at work, etc. that time is gone forever. The way you spend your time separates the successful people from those who continue to struggle. If you are continually amazed at people who live a calmer life than you do, take charge of your time.
If time is flying you have to be the pilot. Guard it as a treasured possession-because it is. Spend it thoughtfully because you can't get it back. But slowing down requires courage and commitment. It means swimming against the societal tide. We must learn when to "do" and when to "be." How to strike a vibrant balance between the two becomes crucial.