Monday, January 25, 2010

Slow Down: Take a Breathe

As you may have noticed by the lack of a post in the past month or so, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic. I've spent the past few weeks running around like a chicken with its head cut off; since my last post I've moved, started a new job and had my schooling start up again. On top of that, add on trying to rebuild my social life. Madness.

The Western world lives in a culture of speed. We don't just want things now, we want them 5 minutes ago. Instant coffee, instant messenging, instant gratification. We are so attuned to instant gratification that, for some, anything less is unbearable. In "the wild" you can see this in the modern business man in the espresso line who, probably rushing late for an appointment in his insanely packed schedule, becomes agitated and even angry because the barista is taking too long to serve the person before him. As journalist and author Carl Honore says, "Even instant gratification takes too long."

Not only are we trained that we DESERVE things immediately, but our lives are filled with expectations of expediency. We live deadline to deadline, appointment to appointment. School, work and societal obligations pressure us to turn on caffeine-fueled turboboosters. Unfortunately, in our mad race to finish our to-do lists ASAP we, much like a car constantly pushed to its limits, begin to wear down.

In the workplace there is an insane pressure to become more and more productive.  Alas, somewhere along the line someone decided that to accomplish this we must worker harder and longer hours, and who needs weekends off anyway?  All nighters?  Necessary.  Ironically, productivity skyrockets when you take the time to be present in your work.  Sometimes you can achieve your goals with less volume and higher quality, or the fact that you are focused on the task at hand and giving it the attention it deserves puts you in 'the Zone', and before you know it you're done.

As a 20-something, many of my friends are in either college or gradschool - neophytes of the Cult of Speed.  Their to-do lists are their life, and any sort of leisure time or activity is looked at as a cardinal sin - something that is taken only with a whopping dollop of guilt, usually nullifying many of the benefits of kicking back and relaxing.  All nighters fueled by caffeine exacerbate everything, putting them into the disastrous state of sleep deprivation (which further inhibits their productivity, thus driving them to work even HARDER). Unfortunately, they are missing out on a lot of what makes us happy, healthy creatures.

Benefits of leisure time and slowing down include (but are not limited to):
  • Reduction of stress levels
  • Better self-image (if you actually take the time to slow down and be deliberate, you can feel a lot better about how much you get accomplished and reduce thoughts of "I'm not doing enough" - also ties in with stress)
  • Improves patience
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Lessens impulsiveness by fostering awareness of your actions
  • Improved relationships (slowing down leads to higher quality and more genuine interactions)
  • Personal satisfaction via participating in hobbies and having time for new endeavors
  • Increased productivity - take your time to do something and you will do it correctly
The list goes on and on.

We get so caught up in the "rat race" of daily life that we lose sight of what is important:  family, friends and ourselves.  If we're constantly going at 100 MPH, we'll pass them all right by.

In up-coming posts we will discuss some aspects of our lives that we rush through, and some things we can do to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Stay tuned!
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Man vs World by Aaron M Fraser is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.