The Merits of Slow.

I’ve spent 2 years since leaving the corporate environment slowing down. Re-evaluating and rediscovering my relationship with time. Going from scarcity to abundance. Moving away from never having enough time and always being rushed and making compromises, to taking my time over things, confident that I have enough time to do everything I want to do and therefore achieve a level of peace and harmony in my life.

My first shift was to make time the currency, rather than money. I started to value my time as the energy to base everything on. A move from “if I do this (work hard) I’ll get money and then I can buy stuff and that’ll make me happy and safe and secure” — a fairly standard measure of success, to “if I do this well, and enjoy the time taken to do it, then I’m rich.”

I vowed to focus on the journey, not the destination — to allow myself the enjoyment of production, not racing towards the result. And this was quite a big shift. I chased success for many years, success being the product of what I did. Not the learning, not the doing, but the finish. Some way to live, huh? Racing through all the loveliness, ignoring the countryside, to get to the next meeting. Chasing the next project instead of doing the current one to its best.

Then I asked myself why that was important. What need does it satisfy in me to have a better relationship with time? What does it matter whether I run or walk? Why do I need to see what’s around me? Why does happiness come from being the tortoise not the hare?

And as I pondered this, I discovered a number of reasons why. First, it enables me to listen to my needs and act to satisfy them. And that was very new for me. Its taken me 2 and a half years to start to hear my own needs above those of everyone else. As someone who has judged their worth a lot on the opinions of everyone else, pleasing them and meeting their needs to the complete exclusion of my own, this was unchartered and unnerving territory.

A door was unlocked when I listened to a talk on non-violent communication by Marshal Rosenberg. In it he says that if your needs aren’t met, everyone pays. And that resonated — in my attempt to satisfy everyone else’s needs before my own I had developed resentment — a belief that I was not important and not worthy. And that made me angry. But because I couldn’t hear that it came out as passive-aggression. And we can use passive-aggression to mask our anger, but it doesn’t really work — its pretty obvious to everyone else that you’re not happy.

So I started playing a game with myself — I pretended that everyone could hear my inner dialogue. If I wasn’t happy for some reason — because some need of mine (conscious or unconscious) wasn’t being met, then all the vitriol I spilled internally about myself or the person I thought was “preventing” my needs being met, was out in the open for everyone to hear. And I didn’t really want that to happen. So when I felt those feelings and that dialogue started, I asked myself what I really wanted to happen. What were my needs and how could I meet them in that situation? And then I started acting on it.

And here’s what I learned. Speaking my truth, articulating my needs, is quite uncomfortable. Its vulnerable. It exposes me to losing favour with others, feeling selfish, letting others down and ultimately not being loved by others. So I have to be brave. But the few minutes of discomfort that I feel while articulating my needs is grossly outweighed by the joy and relief I feel once my needs are out on the table and I can act to satisfy them. And generally people know (consciously or unconsciously) that I am speaking my truth, and they respect it and treat it gently even though they might not like what I am saying. And, more than that, if I am gentle with the articulation of my needs, then together we can reach a mutually supportive solution.

So the first reason to slow down is to be able to pay attention your needs. Especially when they are deeply buried and need time and space to make themselves known.

The second reason I have discovered is a bit of a strange one — the less you do, the more productive you are.

This one relates to the Pareto Principle — the 80/20 rule. In which we observe that 20% of our activity brings us 80% (the most) results. So the trick to be massively effective is to focus on that 20%. But how do we know what that 20% is?

Well. Spending time paying attention to what’s going on within and without you allows you to tune into yourself and the universe. To listen. Have you noticed that the best answers come to you when you are not concentrating? When you are doing something totally different? Well that’s how it can work. Now, when I have an important thing to do, the first thing I do is go away from it and do something completely different. And I let my subconscious process the problem, and trust that the solution will come to me. And it always does. And when it does, I can complete the task in a fraction of the time it would have taken if I had to solve the problem while doing the work. So now I work for a maximum of 4 hours a day (usually a lot less), and I am more productive than I have ever been. Because that 4 hours is fully focused on effective and efficient work. And I do no more and no less than is required. And this frees me up to do loads of other stuff.

So I do more by doing less.

Then there’s doing things at the right time. The current paradigm of action action action means that we push for things to happen, when perhaps they aren’t ready. When I was a contractor I spent hours pushing pushing pushing people for my next contract, only to run into brick walls all the time. Then suddenly, in a moment of serendipity, I’d meet someone for a coffee, or publish an article which sparked someone to get in touch, or make a phonecall, and that person had a need that I could meet, and I would get a job.

What I learned from that is that if we wait, if we listen to that inner voice, hidden so deeply in us, that always knows the right thing to do, it tells us when to act. That voice tells us not just what but when to do the right thing.

Doing the right thing at the right time is everything. The sheer joy of taking time over things to se the beauty of life and enjoy what you are doing.

So there we have it. The case for Slow. The case for stopping a while, relearning to listen to our needs, and tuning into our inner wisdom which always knows what we need and how and when we need it.

I don’t think slow and steady helps you win the race. I think it stops you being in the race and allows you to define your own path and your own success. And that’s got to be worth something.

At theslowcoaches we live to 4 principles of slowing down, tuning into what you need, determining your gifts that you choose to give to the world and living life to your own design. We are in service to others, helping them do the same.