I won’t give it away here… Read on to find out what it is! 🙂
I’ve long felt that my life was too fast.
When I worked in management consulting, we used to pride ourselves on getting a lot done in a short time. We were bright, fast thinkers. We wanted to be one step ahead of our clients, in order to advise them well. We were leading fast-paced change projects alongside them – role-modelling efficiency and productivity – so they could get results quickly.
These are all valuable reasons, yet made for a work life in the super-fast lane. There was so much information to assimilate in a short time, so many new people to get to know and work with, so many actions to tick off our endless To Do lists. And never enough hours in the workday to do it all.
The quick, practical stuff was easy to get done. What was difficult in the busyness of our work days was finding the space to produce the important stuff, the stuff which took longer, as it required deeper, creative thought: Insightful analysis, wise strategies, new designs, or clever recommendations. I used to work on these in the evenings, in the quiet of my hotel room – which made for rather long work days! And I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore…
Now, don’t get me wrong:
There is a place for Fast
Fast is stimulating. Fast is exciting. Fast is liberating.
Think of all the instantly available information on the internet. Of jet travel. Of machines churning out squillions of goods in seconds.
Or think of speed itself:
One of my most thrilling life experiences
is a slightly out-of-control horseback canter along an Irish beach.
Don’t ask. 🙂
Fast has its uses, too: I’m guessing none of us would like to go back to our grandparent’s time and spend backbreaking days doing the washing in cold river water. Or even to the days when there was no internet, and obtaining information was a slow task involving asking people who might know, or searching physical books or articles in libraries. There was a certain charm to the latter – but it could take forever!
Speed absolutely has a role in our life.
Though I would add: In the right place. In the right moment. And in the right dose.
But we’ve taken it too far
In today’s modern societies, everything’s gotta be fast – and it’s getting to breaking point:
Over my 10-years in management consulting, I certainly noticed clients getting increasingly fed up with organisational change. I believe this was due to being subjected to it at increasing pace.
When you’ve just put a lot of enthusiasm and hard work into
creating one particular change, and are just about getting used to the new way of doing things,
and then the next change comes along, and the next change and the next…
You’d get tired of it after a while, wouldn’t you?
Of the effort this takes. And of never having the time to really take on board one change before the next.
Besides this, workload and deadline pressure in many jobs today are at a point where it’s humanly impossible to keep up with them, no matter how productive we are, or how we rush things:
The volume of stuff thrown at us is greater
than our capacity to take it in, never mind process it.
As a result, burn-out and stress are rampant among working people of all industries – and increasingly among the younger ones, too. The extreme of this must be Japan, which has the term karoshi for death by overwork, which apparently is measured and reported on by Government.
And the turbo’s on not just on at work. Speed is increasingly becoming a way of life, as we now have:
Speed reading. Speed yoga and speed meditation. Virtual speed dating at 3 minutes per date. Speed friendships with our 3256 Facebook friends.
You might have come across your own Speed Something examples.
There’s even the One-Minute-Bedtime-Story:
Tick – done; children sorted.
Or you can do ten stories in ten minutes for maximum efficiency.
This kind of Fast is about the strange greed, or even addiction, of doing more and more in less and less time. It’s about rapid consumption and quick reward. Doing a lot whilst just skimming the surface, and forgetting to dive into some things in-depth.
And we’re paying a price
Not just in terms of stress or burn out. But in terms of losing out on our life experience and joye de vivre.
By trying to accelerate the unacceleratable,
speed becomes our trap, and it changes our brain:
Multi-tasking makes us tired and ineffective. We’re restless, constantly looking for the next thing to keep us entertained. We get frustrated and angry when something stops us or slows us down. (Road rage, anyone?)
We harbour a constant, anxious feeling of racing against the clock, or never being able to properly finish things, or missing out on something important if we don’t follow all that’s going on. And we’re not giving our brain the time to form rich and vivid memories anymore, and our life starts to look all the same to us.
And there’s more:
We don’t really engage with activities or people anymore, and whilst we’re getting them done all right, we often don’t really get any joy from them. We are obsessed with getting there – wherever there is; it seems like it’s a moving target. And we have lost our ability to look forward to things, and be able to really enjoy them when they arrive.
This means we miss out on the pleasures of thinking deeply.
Giving things the time they take to do them well.
Taking the time we take to do them well.
And therefore nourish our soul, which thrives on slowness and depth.
Speed makes it impossible for us to find those places of inner calm, from which we can digest our experiences, reflect, get in touch with feeling and intuition, understand what’s really important to us, and make decisions that are right for us.
Too much speed cuts us off from ourselves and our inner wisdom. And probably accounts for quite a bit of the seemingly paradoxical unhappiness among people in industrialised, so-called ‘rich’ countries!
Now our speed-paradigm is backfiring, which is not a bad thing. Because:
It’s often when we go overboard with something,
when we become so ill at ease with how things have become,
that we start thinking about how to correct course and make it better.
The backlash is coming
It started some years ago with Slow Food. And now there’s: Slow dating. Slow libraries. Slow reading. Slow travel. Slow email. Slow leadership. Slow sex. Slow homes. You name it, it’s there.
Which ones have you come across? Which ones are you longing for?
Carl Honoré has written an international bestseller a little while ago, called In praise of SLOW – How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed, on which I’ve partly drawn for this email to you. It’s an enlightening read.
Here’s my take on this matter:
The one thing to get right for increased happiness is…
To live life at the right pace for you.
For most of us in Western, industrialised societies this means: Slow down.
That’s it. Consciously and deliberately.
Read about my 3 Ways to Slow Down and Live at a Right Pace for You
What do you think of that?
Is your life too fast – or perhaps too slow?
And if you’re the former: What do you do to slow down?
How do you manage the transitions between fast and slow?
As ever, I love to hear from you – so why not share your views in the comments box below?