“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu
Consider the above quote from Lao Tzu, (perhaps mythical) father of Taoism: how can it be true?
Is it possible to never hurry, but to get everything done?
It seems contradictory to our modern world, where everything is a rush, where we try to cram as much into every minute of the day as possible, where if we are not busy, we feel unproductive and lazy.
In fact, often we compete by trying to show how busy we are. I have a thousand projects to do! Oh yeah? I have 10,000! The winner is the person who has the most insane schedule, who rushes from one thing to the next with the energy of a hummingbird, because obviously that means he’s the most successful and important.
Maybe not. Maybe we’re playing the wrong game — we’ve been conditioned to believe that busier is better, but actually the speed of doing is not as important as what we focus on doing.
Maybe we’re going at the wrong speed. Maybe if we are constantly rushing, we will miss out on life itself. Let’s let go of the obsession with speed, and instead slow down, stop rushing, and enjoy life.
And still get everything done.
Let’s look at how.
A Change of Mindset
The most important step is a realization that life is better when you move at a slower, more relaxed pace, instead of hurrying and rushing and trying to cram too much into every day. Instead, get the most out of every moment.
Is a book better if you speed read it, or if you take your time and get lost in it?
Is a song better if you skim through it, or if you take the time to really listen?
Is food better if you cram it down your throat, or if you savor every bite and really appreciate the flavor?
Is your work better if you’re trying to do 10 things at once, or if you really pour yourself into one important task?
Is your time spent with a friend or loved one better if you have a rushed meeting interrupted by your emails and text messages, or if you can relax and really focus on the person?
Life as a whole is better if you go slowly, and take the time to savor it, appreciate every moment. That’s the simplest reason to slow down.
And so, you’ll need to change your mindset (if you’ve been stuck in a rushed mindset until now). To do this, make the simple admission that life is better when savored, that work is better with focus. Then make the commitment to give that a try, to take some of the steps below.
But I Can’t Change!
There will be some among you who will admit that it would be nice to slow down, but you just can’t do it … your job won’t allow it, or you’ll lose income if you don’t do as many projects, or living in the city makes it too difficult to go slowly. It’s a nice ideal if you’re living on a tropical island, or out in the country or if you have a job that allows control of your schedule … but it’s not realistic for your life.
Take responsibility for your life. If your job forces you to rush, take control of it. Make changes in what you do, in how you work. Work with your boss to make changes if necessary. And if really necessary, you can eventually change jobs. You are responsible for your life.
If you live in a city where everyone rushes, realize that you don’t have to be like everyone else. You can be different. You can walk instead of driving in rush hour traffic. You can have fewer meetings. You can work on fewer but more important things. You can be on your iPhone or Blackberry less, and be disconnected sometimes. Your environment doesn’t control your life — you do.
I’m not going to tell you how to take responsibility for your life, but once you make the decision, the how will become apparent over time.
Tips for a Slower-Paced Life
I can’t give you a step-by-step guide to moving slower, but here are some things to consider and perhaps adopt, if they work for your life. Some things might require you to change some major things, but they can be done over time.
Try these things out. Life is better when unrushed. And given the fleeting nature of this life, why waste even a moment by rushing through it?
Remember the quote above: if nature can get everything done without rushing, so can you. 🙂