Is it possible for an entire nation to slow down all at once?
Here in London, it feels like we’ve been taking it easy since April.
Between Easter, the Royal Wedding and our May Bank Holidays, we’ve had an endless stream of days off work. Couple that with the warmest spring on record, with lots of sunshine and a vacation mood has prevailed.
I think people here have twigged that not working can be quite the enjoyable experience. Rush hour has been a bit less rushed, people are ambling rather than striding, eating has moved a bit more al fresco.
Personally, I’m loving it – it’s quite different from the usual endless rush to get things done. It feels like an ebb in the endless flow tide of life here.
Of course, this contrast is quite natural. Nature provides a clue of the importance of ebb and flow in life. The different seasons provide a cycle for the natural world – different times for growth, seeding, mating and resting.
Each aspect provides a vital link in the chain of continued life – if you’re a squirrel the hibernation is just as important as the times of frantic foraging for food.
It’s easy in this 24-7-365 world to assume that the pedal needs to be constantly on the metal. There’s a fear that if we’re not at full steam ahead we might fall behind and never catch up.
Yet we are far more multidimensional. We have complex bio-chemical systems that need care and maintenance to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Our bodies naturally go through cycles of fitness, and illness which impact our lives.
We also have a wide range of needs, desires and motivations for acting. We need the basics to survive physically, a range of mental stimulation to survive mentally and then have more complex drivers that bring happiness and fulfilment.
Life is not a simple game of do as much as you can – it requires ebbs and flows to run smoothly.
A little respect
Respecting our ebbs and flows means not trying to boil the ocean and do everything at once.
There are times of peak activity when we can focus on particular aspects of life that rise to the top. In these times we really do feel a flow – taking on big challenges seems natural and rewarding.
At other times, there’ll be ebbs – moments when it is important to recognize the need to slow down or de-prioritise a certain area. Like a farmer with a fallow field, sometimes we’ll need to leave an area of life to recover for a while before we can return to it.
For me, this less busy time has provided a great lesson in ebbs and flows. At first I tried to push hard with work to keep growing the business, but it just felt sticky and difficult.
Rather than continuing to bash my head against the wall, I’ve focused on other aspects – finding a new associate to prepare for the next spike, and starting to write my first book.
Slowing down a little has let me re-prioritise other aspects of life. I’ve been able to spend more time with family than ever and am loving that so much. I’ve focused on exercise and meditation and feeling more centred and focused.
It’s been easier respecting the natural flow rather than struggling against it. By tuning in to what I’m feeling a bit more, I start to get better feedback on what is working and what is a no-no.
Similarly watching the way the world is responding to my actions, there are clear signals as to when to twist and when to stick.
Taking cues internally and externally has helped to find a better balance and avoid frustration.
Take a moment to think over the ebbs and flows you’ve experienced in 2011.
What are they telling you?
Are you ebbing of flowing right now?
Which areas of your life are coming easily?
Where are you stuck?
What is most important at the moment?
Enjoy your flows, and ride those ebbs – they are guaranteed to be less ordinary.
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