“The greatest thinkers in history certainly knew the value of shifting the mind into low gear. Charles Darwin described himself as a slow thinker. Einstein was famous for spending ages staring into space in his office at Princeton University.” – Carl Honoré
What is now known as The Slow Movement began back in the 1980s in protest to the opening of a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Rome. The protestors promoted the benefits of “slow food” and the need to take time over food preparation and sitting down together to eat. This became a cultural revolution that spread to other aspects of life, and in 2004, Canadian journalist Carl Honoré published In Praise of Slow, a book in which he puts forward his thoughts on how “slowing down to speed up” can bring enormous physical and mental benefits to everyone in everyday life. He describes it this way:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
Doing Everything as Well as Possible
It’s a sad fact that we’re conditioned to look for quick fixes in modern life. We want fast results in everything we do – and marketing companies know it. We’re also conditioned to believe that living fast and working fast makes us more “important” in some way. As Carl puts it, “When people moan, ‘Oh, I’m so busy, I’m run off my feet, my life is a blur, I haven’t got time for anything,’ what they often mean is, ‘Look at me: I am hugely important, exciting and energetic.’” We might not want to admit to it, but “slow” is synonymous with “lazy” or even “stupid” – right?
In the workplace, there’s a culture of pushing on and moving fast to stay one step ahead of the competition, but here’s the thing, doing everything fast doesn’t necessarily equate to doing everything as well as possible. Advocates of slowing down to speed up believe that time allowed for thinking and reflecting in the workplace promotes innovation, greater collaboration, and ultimately increased performance or productivity. This belief is backed up by a Harvard Business Review study:
“… the companies that embraced initiatives and chose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge ended up with lower sales and operating profits than those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track. What’s more, the firms that ‘slowed down to speed up’ improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period.”
Pausing to Get on the Right Track
The slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace, it’s about recognising when it makes sense to go fast and when slowing down or pausing represents the best course of action. In other words, knowing when to shift the mind into low gear.
“Even instant gratification takes too long.” – Carrie Fisher
I think it’s fair to say that many of us are guilty of giving up on goals too quickly simply because the outcomes we want are not materialising fast enough, but we’re also guilty of chasing goals, meaning we fail to take the time to consider whether the actions we’re taking are the most effective. Taking time to pause and reflect on any progress made can be motivational, and when obstacles or barriers threaten to get in the way of progress, pausing momentarily to think things through and to look at the problem from all angles can help to ensure the decisions you make and actions you take are the best ones.
Are you stuck in fast-forward? Take a moment to consider that less can be more and slow can be better.
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach, Mentor and Key Note Speaker.
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