Slow is so much more elegant than fast, and it’s all about the luxury of taking our time, rather than rushing to squeeze everything in. For instance, taking the time to enjoy a phone conversation, rather than sending only vital information via text, or taking the time to sit out on the terrace with a cup of coffee in the morning, instead of gulping 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 practice the art of slow. It’s difficult to look serene when we’re harried, it’s hard to be polite and really listen to others when we’re constantly pressed for time, and it’s next to impossible to live in the moment when our mind is constantly racing with thoughts of all we must accomplish by the end of the day. Yes, slow is so much more elegant than fast, and I’m quickly becoming a fan.
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. After all, if we’re needed in eleven different places at once, then we must be very special. If we’re busy all of the time, then we must be important. We compete for the “Busiest Award” over cocktail party conversations. The illusion of busy fools even the most well-lived among us. The problem is that fast is addictive. 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. It 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 split our attention.
Slow, on the other hand, can seem old-fashioned, outdated and dull. 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 team and learned the term “slower is faster”. We were taught to pay attention to clues and signs on the road, and to our instruction sheets. We were taught to listen to, and to consider, all of the team member’s opinions before dashing off with a half-baked plan. In other words, we were taught the value of slowing down. Slow helps us make fewer mistakes that must be corrected later. Slow helps us think more clearly. Slow enables us to make better decisions. If we slow down just 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. Slow allows us to stop working at five o’clock for yoga class, even though there are three more presentations to build. Slow is the reason we sit and talk with our child while they’re in the bath, rather than doing the dinner dishes right this moment. Slow helps us remember the life we’re living, and the day we’ve had 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 all sorts of time on Facebook in the morning, and then they’re irritable as they rush out the door to get to work and 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 human interactions, stolen our children’s time with us, and even stolen our lives 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 more in to 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 see it. If we watch girlfriends having a long, leisurely lunch we see it. If we watch two people deep in conversation, and deeply in love we see it. There isn’t anywhere else they’d rather be, or anything else they’d rather be doing. There are resources available to help with regaining our slow. The Human Performance Institute, for example, teaches that stress is good and very necessary for our growth, but that rest, and being exactly where we are will help put fast back in its place. It’s marketed for those in the corporate world, but it’s essential for anyone wanting to find their true priorities, and manage their energy to relentlessly guard those priorities. In Praise of Slowness is another resource dedicated to helping us understand what the demands of today’s world do to us and to our children, and how to counteract the competitive pressure to be busy, busier, busiest.
As in everything, it’s all about moderation. 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 about relearning the elegant art of living a complete life. We may accomplish less when we regain a bit of slow, although the jury is still out on that point, 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 lives.
So whether you’re working, playing, traveling, shopping, studying, or just enjoying life, slow down out there, and let me know how it goes.
The Power of Full Engagement
In Praise of Slowness-Challenging the Cult of Speed
Photo credit: Robin Wright – Vogue