All my life I have been constantly pushing myself forward and racing from one thing to the next. I would simply leap from one accomplishment to another, without even considering that I should be taking a break. For me, it was this nagging fear that if I slowed down, I wouldn’t be able to regain the momentum and fast pace I’d set for myself, and I would fail.
That tiny yet persistent voice in my head kept asking me:
‘Are we there yet?’ ‘What’s next?’ ‘How quickly can we get it done?’
Years and years of this mentality meant that I didn’t even notice how quickly I was heading in the wrong direction, and that my constant prioritisation of speed over clarity and balance would be my ultimate downfall.
‘Doing more’ does not equal ‘doing what’s best’
Then when I eventually decided it was time to slow down, it felt extremely uncomfortable at first. Initially I wasn’t used to it and my natural instinct was to speed up again. After all, I was used to multitasking and constantly switching and jumping between goals. I felt guilty even when I took a short break to enjoy my morning coffee, as I didn’t feel I was being productive.
However, that moment of quiet, where I didn’t feel like I was chasing my tail, like I was able to breathe rather than be constantly out of breath, the moment I feared most, was the moment I needed most. I realised that I had been solely surviving and not living, living to work as opposed to working to live. I realized that I did in fact have a choice. I was the one responsible for choosing the pace I wanted to live at.
In the beginning I started the practice of intentionally setting breaks for myself and just being there in the present moment with my own thoughts and feelings. Just being in the moment, even when it was just for few minutes was such a strange sensation. That initial feeling of discomfort soon turned in the moments of growth and prosperity, and I started to crave these moments more and more.
Put simply, I started to experience the benefits of slowing down.
Reconnecting with who I am
We are continually changing and evolving as people. This is a wonderful thing, event if sometimes it may feel uncomfortable. And if it does, it is just an indicator that we are growing. Much of the time, we think we know who we are and what we want. But I realised there were certain believes that didn't serve me any longer, dreams that no longer fit me. Taking time to check in with myself now and then, creating those quiet moments, where I can simply be, presented an opportunity for me to be able to reconnect with who I am, who I am becoming and simply hear myself.
Harness the Power of Emotions
Slowing down and pausing allows me to focus, to be completely and unequivocally present. It allows me to notice my thoughts and recognise my emotions. By slowing down I can truly feel the emotions I am experiencing, I can name the emotions, which enables me to process them, and ultimately use them to guide my decisions.
Deeper Connection with Others
Being present with myself, allows me to be more present with others. My listening and communication skills improved rapidly. The need to respond or to fix a problem for them as quickly as humanly possible, was replaced with the need to connect with them more deeply and be curious about them, learn from them, and be there for them in a healthier sense.
Reflection and Growth
Taking time to slow down, allows me to take time to process my experiences and reflect on my life and my work in equal measure. It grants me the opportunity to look back at my day, be grateful for the things I have, and what others have brought to my life. I can identify any assumptions or beliefs and look for the lessons that can be applied to improve myself.
Appreciate and Savour the Smaller Moments
Once I gave myself the permission to pause once in a while, I started to notice those small moments that brought me instant joy. A smile from a stranger, my first sip of a warm coffee in the morning, children laughing, the sheer amount of love in my mom’s voice when she calls me and asks how my day is going. Recognizing these experiences, that I used to think of as ordinary, can in fact make your day feel extraordinary.
It’s important for me to clarify that I am not rejecting speed, not for a second. My overarching point is that we as people are in control of the speed and the rhythm of our own life.
It's about recognising and adjusting the tempo and doing things at the right speed. It’s about finding a healthy balance between a fast-paced lifestyle and the beautiful stillness, productivity and rest, doing and being.
Slowing down doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything, it just means we should experience more of the things we do.
The best gift you can give yourself is the experience of slowing down!