In a recent class, one of our participants was responding to the concept of reflection.  He said, “I wish that it were more acceptable.  It seems like responding quickly is rewarded.  It means you’re smart, on top of it, and unafraid to speak up.  Obviously, a leader.  Responding more slowly or pausing to reflect on your response has somehow come to mean that you’re calculating and formulating your response to make yourself look good.” 

I wasn’t surprised, and it worried me that pausing even for a few seconds to respond caused individuals to feel suspicious about that person’s intent. 

Going slow goes against everything society is telling us; move fast or get left behind.  It seems we somehow have figured out a way to simultaneously pride ourselves on and complain about how many e-mails we’re getting while sitting in a meeting, how many back-to-back meetings we’re going to, the fact that we might only have 20-minutes of “free time” during our day, the fact that we can’t meet a good friend for lunch for a month because our calendars are so full, or how many airplane miles we flew last year.  I’m always confused when someone excitedly says to me, “I’ve been in meetings all day!  I haven’t eaten since my banana this morning.” 

Um… congratulations? 

We seem to be competing in the “Busy Olympics” where the gold medal is more responsibility, a bigger title, and even less time.   

I’m not great at slowing down.  I describe myself as a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, both of which are not conducive to slowing down.  I’m usually not too far away from my phone which means I’m never fully present with anyone.  It’s hard for me to say no which means at times I push myself into tight (too tight!) time constraints, re-arrange the family schedule, or have to ask for help at the last minute.  I have a real fear of slowing down and I don’t think I’m alone here.

I think the fear of slowing down is rooted in being confronted with our own reality.

The reality of being frustrated at work.
The reality of not feeling seen or heard.
The reality of still battling those feelings of inadequacy.
The reality of being passed up for a project or promotion.
The reality of our relationships.
The reality of kids growing up way too fast.

What does slowing down mean?

It means going against what it seems like everyone else is doing.
It means creating space for those around you.
It means being comfortable with silence.
It means getting better at saying no.
It means creating some stronger boundaries.
It means facing your realities.

For me it means not getting my laptop out at night.  It means not having my phone sitting right next to me.  It means being present and engaged with those closest to me.  It means leaning into conversations that can be painful or difficult and it also means finding time for quiet, so I can think and reflect on life, family and work. 

For me, slowing down means I’m a better me for me.
And for everyone around me.

What would slowing down mean for you?