I’m not certain where the obsession with fast began, but somewhere along the way our society decided that being busy was a status symbol, or perhaps a solution for something that we didn’t even know was a problem.
After all, if we’re needed in eleven different places at once, then we must be important, and if we’re busy all of the time, then we must be worthy. We compete for the “Busiest Award” over cocktail party conversations, and the allure of busy fools even the most self-aware among us.
The problem is that fast is addictive – and fast is cool, fast is hip, fast is sexy. Worst of all, fast is easy. Fast is also misleading. Fast tricks us into thinking that we’re getting things done, without us realizing that we’ll probably have to go back and correct careless errors we missed whilst rushing.
Fast also tricks us into believing that we have everything under control. Multi-tasking, the sister of fast, whispers in our ear that we can do even more if we’ll only divide our attention.
But fast begins to show its cracks at some point. It’s difficult to look serene when we’re harried, it’s difficult to be polite and really listen to others when we’re constantly pressed for time, and it’s difficult to live in the moment when our mind is racing about all we must accomplish by the end of the day.
Slow, on the other hand, can seem old fashioned, outdated and boring. It can lead others to think that we can’t keep up. It can make us feel as if we’re behind the times, and that we just can’t compete in today’s world of fast.
Or so I thought, until I went geocaching with my former work group, and was taught the phrase “slower is faster”. We were taught to pay attention to clues and signs on the road, and to our instruction sheets, rather than forging ahead unprepared. We were taught to listen to, and to consider, each team member’s opinions before dashing off with a half thought out plan. In other words, we were taught the value of slowing down.
That’s when I discovered that slow is so much more elegant than fast. It all comes down to the luxury of being able to take the time necessary for anything we do, rather than always rushing. For instance, taking the time to enjoy a phone conversation, rather than being irritated by the intrusion and sending only vital information via text.
It’s taking the time to sit out on the terrace with a cup of coffee in the morning, rather than mindlessly drinking it in the car, or taking the time to talk to our children as they get ready for school, rather than barking orders and being angry when they innocently and naturally practice the art of slow. Yes, slow is so much more elegant than fast, and I’ve become such a fan.
Slow also helps us think more clearly and enables us to make better decisions. If we just slow down a touch, we look more calm and in control, and we make those around us feel much more at ease with our leadership skills. Slow tells us to listen to every word our partner is telling us about their day, so they’ll know their importance in our lives. Slow allows us to stop working at five o’clock for yoga class, even though there are three more presentations to build.
At work, those that deliver with a calm demeanour seem more in control than those who appear over worked, flustered and exasperated. Slow is the reason we sit and talk with our child while they’re in the bath, rather than multitasking and doing the dinner dishes while they aren’t underfoot.
Slow helps us remember the life we’re living, and the day we’ve just finished too, rather than arriving home in our car without knowing exactly how we got there. Slow doesn’t make us sweat.
To be fair, there are times we must all be quick. We have deadlines at work, split second decisions are sometimes required in life, and the train is never going to wait if we’re strolling through the terminal. But many times, we’ve created situations that force us to rush. Pressing the snooze button one more time, and procrastinating on work projects come to mind. Some people spend too much time on social media in the morning, and then they’re irritable as they rush out the door to get to work or school on time.
The digital age that was intended to give us more time has been allowed to steal our time instead. It’s also stolen our peace of mind, stolen our free time, and it’s even stolen our human connection in some cases.
Slow takes effort for most of us, though. After a lifetime of being told to hurry up, to be more productive, to squeeze one more thing into our day and to require more of others, it’s difficult to deprogram. Luckily, we can relearn what we lost as we grew up. It takes remembering the value of being present. That is the elegance of slow.
If we watch children or dogs at play, we can see it. If we watch girlfriends having a long, leisurely lunch, we can see it. If we watch two people deep in conversation, and deeply in love, we can see it. There isn’t anywhere else they’d rather be, or anything else they’d rather be doing.
As in everything, it’s all about finding the right equilibrium for each of us. It’s about knowing when we’ve gone too far and too deep into fast, and how to find our way back. It’s about having the yin of fast and exciting, balanced with the yang of slow and experiencing. It’s about having the luxury to take the time when we want to, and the ability to be present wherever we are. It’s also about relearning the art of living and enjoying life.
We may accomplish less when we regain a bit of slow, although the jury is still out on that fact, but we’ll remember and enjoy and give quality time to more of the things we do keep on our priority list.
You want to know the very best part of slowing down though? It’s that it’s absolutely free, and yet adds so much value to our life.
To help you get started with adding doses of slow to your life, download our free guide, A Whole Year of Slow.