This is from the Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:59 AM PDT
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Dave Ursillo of DaveUrsillo.com.
If there is any one indication that life is best lived slowly, it’s that among all of the busyness, racing to fulfill tasks and rushing to complete goals, there is one race that nobody wants to finish first: the race of life itself.
Our culture has a mild obsession with racing — not racing for the sake of sport or simple competition, but racing through many aspects of our lives, so as to fulfill a sense of productivity.
When conquer sprawling to-do lists we hopes that we will feel accomplished.
But “productivity” is a false-comfort.
When I remember back to my college days, I recall seeing fellow classmates who were so obsessive about fulfilling the idea that they needed to be constantly working, racing, striving and even suffering that they would spend as much time as humanly possibly within the confines of the campus library.
It’s not that they didn’t have work to do or need to accomplish assignments (they did).
But what I realized was that it was almost an obsessive-compulsion to simply reside — as if subconsciously reinforcing a feeling that they were being “productive,” and obliging a widely-shared notion by our culture that said, “if you aren’t constantly working, you are falling behind.”
Do you do the same?
Outside of a collegiate environment, as adults we still largely obsess to fulfill the idea that living in a constant state of unrelenting work is good.
The obsession is a quiet, subconscious, subtle cultural meme that we all inherently understand as members of our society.
And so we spend a significant portion of our lives tirelessly racing to an imaginary finish under the guise of “productivity” — only to realize that the finish line never comes.
Before long, we forget that life itself is about experiencing the journey — not racing to the finish.
And considering that take so many measures to prolong the length of our lives and increase the quality of them, wouldn’t it logically follow that we ought to slow down each and every day, and escape this senseless “race” mentality?
I’m as much a victim of the “race” mentality as anyone else. But what I have discovered is that the pace and quality of my days are largely dictated by how I start my days each morning.
When I wake up, part of me feels obsessively compelled to “dive in” to my work and to-do lists. Having recently written and published my first book, on recent mornings my “race” mentality would even take the forms of physical anxiety, shortness of breath and nervousness.
However, each morning I strive to quell those feelings by starting slow.
- I will go for a run or immerse myself in nature.
- I’ll do an hour of slow yoga.
- I will practice mindful breathing while accomplishing a short t’ai chi or qigong routine.
- I’ll read a chapter or two of a good book.
Starting slow is less about what you do, but beginning the day in accordance with a sense of inner peace, patience, and contentment.
And, don’t get me wrong: starting slow can feel like an agonizing affair on some mornings.
Our self-imposed demands to constantly work, strive and race feel like an overwhelming addiction — and all we want to do is quell those subconscious demons in our heads that tell us that slowness, quietness, and simple “being” are wrong.
However, every morning that I choose to “start slow,” something amazing happens.
I am calm, relaxed, and balanced throughout the day. Each moment feels like a gift, and not merely an “opportunity” to accomplish goals or fulfill tasks — as if sand in an hour glass that needs to be consumed by “racing.”
When I start slow, I am naturally more productive — and feel more accomplished by the day’s end.
How to Start Slow
Here’s how you can start to begin your days slowly:
- Write a list 5 activities, hobbies, or practices.
- Choose activities that are positive, constructive and/or healthy.
- Try one for every weekday morning of next week.
- Wake up earlier or go to bed sooner to best ensure you have plenty of time and energy to experience the moment.
- Focus on patience, pace, and calmness when you “start slow” each morning.
Starting slow paces each day in accordance with a natural internal balance: a meaningful peace within that resonates with our human core, and denies the obsessive addiction to the race.
Life itself is not a race. Nobody wins by finishing first. We all strive to live as long as we possibly can.
And when we make the little effort to “start slow” each morning, we remember to dedicate ourselves to the journey of life itself — and not the race to reach its finish.
Dave’s new book, Lead Without Followers: How to Save the World By Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership is now available. He can also be found at his blog, DaveUrsillo.com.