“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.” – Doe Zantamata
It’s a sad fact that we’re conditioned to think of living fast and working fast as important, and we somehow see “fast” as a good thing and “slow” as a bad thing. In fact, being “busy” and “not having time for anything” is a state of affairs that’s practically worn as a badge of honour. The busier and more run off your feet you are, the more important you must be, right? Wrong. You see, “slow” may be perceived as “lazy” but taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.
Champion golfer Walter Hagen once said, “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” These are wise words under any circumstances, but they’re particularly apt as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force many fast living and fast working people to slow down – and virtually come to a halt. It’s slow time.
If busy, busy, busy is your way of life, what happens when all the usual busyness is no longer an option? If not having time for anything is normal, what happens when you suddenly have lots of time with nothing to do? Clearly, for some, the sudden lack of “importance” will be a huge shock to the system, but this is when stopping to smell the roses can become an opportunity to get things into perspective.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mohandas Gandhi
The Slow Movement
What is now known as The Slow Movement began back in the 1980s in protest to the opening of a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Rome. The protestors promoted the benefits of “slow food” and the need to take time over food preparation and sitting down together to eat. This became a cultural revolution that spread to other aspects of life, and in 2004, Canadian journalist Carl Honoré published In Praise of Slow, a book in which he puts forward his thoughts on how “slowing down to speed up” can bring enormous physical and mental benefits to everyone in everyday life. He describes it this way:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
In the business world, research has proven that fast is not always best, and companies that take the time to pause at key moments to check they’re on the right track can see greater improvements and higher profits compared to companies that adopt a go, go, go approach. In effect, these companies slow down to speed up. There’s a culture of pushing on and moving fast in the workplace to stay one step ahead of the competition, but here’s the thing, doing everything fast doesn’t necessarily equate to doing everything as well as possible. Advocates of slowing down to speed up believe that time allowed for thinking and reflecting in the workplace promotes innovation, greater collaboration, and ultimately increased performance or productivity.
Smell the Roses
The same ‘slowing down to speed up’ attitude can be applied to all areas of life. You may have been forced to slow down, but it’s an opportunity to pause and check that you’re on the right track. You may have been busy, busy, busy, but has your busyness been leading you in the right direction; has ‘not having time for anything’ ultimately meant missing out on things that are more important at the end of the day?
Having goals in life is a good thing, but I think it’s fair to say that many of us chase goals, meaning we fail to take the time to consider whether what we’re doing is the most effective way to get to where we want to go. Taking time to pause and reflect – to smell the roses – is an opportunity to get things into perspective, and to get a better understanding of what it is you really want to achieve. Reflecting on progress made so far can be motivational, and pausing momentarily to think things through allows time to look at any potential obstacles or barriers from all angles, helping to ensure that the decisions you make and actions you take are the best ones, keeping you on track once the busyness returns.
Doing Everything Well
We’re conditioned to look for quick fixes in modern life. We want fast results in everything we do, so having to slow down is going to take a bit of getting used to. However, going slow doesn’t have to mean being lazy. The slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace, it’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Shift down a gear physically and mentally, slow down, and remember that it’s all about doing what you do as well as possible, not as fast as possible. You may be doing less, but why not savour the time you have to do those things you never had time to do before – and do them well.
Don MacNaughton is a High Performance coach having worked with thousands of people over the last two decades to achieve their goals and dreams.
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