Throughout my life I’ve gotten positive feedback for being fast. I’m a fast walker, a fast thinker, a horribly fast eater and generally try to get from A to Z in any activity as quickly as possible. My ex-husband called hiking with me a forced march. But being faster is not always better: like Navy SEALs and Delta Force military say, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Being speedy has definitely served me well but I’m starting to crave a slower, deeper lifestyle, and I don’t think it’s just a result of getting older.
Big life events, especially unanticipated ones, can cause major changes in lifestyle and values and make us to want to speed up or slow down. I have worked with several clients who, after the unexpected death of a spouse or child, changed things like career path, where they live, and even their religions. Those that speed up want coaching on things like improving efficiency and increased productivity and clearing out a space for an office while those that slow down want help with things like decluttering, feng shui and clearing out a space for meditation and yoga.
An unexpected divorce changed one highly social fashionista with a hectic work schedule into a super minimal black leggings and t-shirt stay at home mom—and she’s happy about it. My own divorce changed me from a film buff and avid reader who detested gardening into a person who can’t focus for more than 10 minutes on anything fictional and only wants to rake leaves and pull weeds in my spare time.
Personally, I am tired of rushing and all the mistakes made when moving too quickly. I tend to break things and bruise myself. A wise former speedy-in-all-things friend said, “I lived life like it was an emergency; I’m no longer willing to rush unless I’m late for a client or someone is bleeding.” My ex-husband was so slow moving and, with his wonderful Modoc County drawl, slow speaking that a friend of ours joked that his heart beat only once a minute. He used to tell me I lived life like it was a timed event. Ironically, it’s only after we’ve split that I decided to change–but isn’t that often the case?! It’s the earthquakes that cause the deepest shifts.
If you feel you’re moving too fast and it’s taking a toll on the harmony and order in your life, what is behind it? I’m starting to examine my beloved caffeine habit. I always swore that my triple Venti latte would have to be pried from my cold dead hands. But the magic coffee wand has lost its power. Caffeine doesn’t get me going as well as it used to and I have a lot of crashes and recoveries throughout the day. It’s an expensive compulsion that, like any drug to an addict, is finally causing me more trouble than benefits. I never thought it would happen, but I am determined to wean myself.
Also, speedy seems younger and sexier than slow. But it can also be brittle, rigid, closed while slow can be mellow, warm, open. Think honey, sunbathing, sauna time. The self-care that can happen when you slow down can improve your productivity and organization; you bring a healthier, happier mind and body to the party. You’ll also get fewer speeding tickets.
Even if you are on a fast track, it’s so important to slow down and take the time to create organizational systems. With a solid system in place, for example, a really thoughtfully organized file cabinet or office supply closet, you can move quickly but still smoothly. If you try to move quickly in a chaotic environment, it’s not only stressful but can be downright hazardous—try running down a staircase with clutter on every step.
Slowing down allows you to think things through to their conclusion. You can imagine the end goal for any activity, even if it is simply something like have fun on a hike, and get creative about ways you can enhance or improve the outcome. You start to notice subtleties and leave room for “happy accidents.” I always admire people who say, “Yes, and…” since I spent so many years saying no for fear that too many options would take me off the path that I was speeding along on. As a man observing me running on a treadmill once said, “You’re traveling awfully fast on that road to nowhere.”