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Two weeks ago, I went through a patch of feeling pretty frustrated and disheartened. I was pushing and striving with all my might to achieve my personal and professional goals, and maybe not seeing the rewards I felt were deserved. How could it be that I was running at 100 miles per hour, doing so much and yet apparently getting so little back?
On reflection, I realised two things. First, it was time to put away the smallest violin in the world and lighten up. Second, in racing so quickly I was unable to appreciate the progress I was making. I realised it was time to slow down my thinking and look at bigger picture of my life. By good fortune, I had a week vacation planned in Tuscany and I’ve just got back from this. I was able to slow down, disconnect and get the perspective I needed.
On our break, we were in the middle of nowhere with no television, internet or telephone. We didn’t race around or try to do too much. A few days in, time seemed to slow down and the world started to feel less pressured. I was able to look at life from a fresh perspective and focus on thinking big about the future without the chaos of the now. The feelings and judgments that had been playing on my mind evaporated.
I took my journal on holiday and one thing I did was look at my goal setting from 2007 for the next few years. I had been too busy to open the book at home, yet on review I realised that I’d actually achieved almost every big hairy audacious goal I’d set two years ago. Although in the heat of the moment I felt like I was going nowhere, when I slowed down I saw my journey in a fresh light. I was encouraged to think big and set my vision for the next five to ten years of life. I took my time, reflected, dreamed and have sketched our some pretty exciting challenges for myself.
Obviously, I am now back in the “real world” and the challenge for me is how to stay in this slowed-down mode and ensure that I keep my perspective. I’m convinced that avoiding getting sucked into the daily maelstrom of life will help me stay focused and move faster toward the next horizon. It will also help me to meet the inevitable set backs and bumps in the road with the right attitude.
Here are some of my ideas for how I will “Slow Down to Speed Up”:
- Understand and use my natural energy cycles – science has shown that we all have a natural cycle and rhythm for our energy during each day. Some of us are larks and are highly energised in the mornings, others are nightowls and get most energetic in the evening. I took the time to map out my typical rhythm on a graph, plotting energy against the passing hours. I intend to use my early morning when I am at low energy levels to slow down and not force things. Currently I slam down a coffee and try and make myself work however not much really gets done. Instead, I’ll try to read, exercise and do some breathing exercises during this time. It’s a chance for me to slow down, reflect without losing out on my most productive time each day.
- Breathing and self-reflection exercises – I try to stop for between 5 and 15 minutes every day to practice breathing exercises. I find that this time helps me to feel more energised, have a better perspective on life and control my emotions. Some times, I simply follow my breath, sometimes I reflect on how grateful I am for my life and the world around me. It stops me taking myself so seriously and helps me to slow down. For me, each 5 minutes is the closest thing to a mini-holiday.
- Regular check-ins – One key observation from my holiday was that it was great to be able to share my reflections and planning with my wife. Having someone to remind you of your progress, laugh about your failures, and hold you accountable for the future brings a great perspective on life. We’re planning to set aside a regular time each week to slow down and check in.
I’m sure that by slowing down, I’ll actually be able to move forward more quickly than ever. The practices I’m putting in place will help me to be more focused both on external achievement and also more self-aware. Take time to think about how you can slow down and please share your comments with the Less Ordinary readers.
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