For a long time I was purely action-driven. By which I mean unless I was doing something tangible and measurable every day, I would feel frustrated. Perhaps I have a natural inclination for short-term gratification, or perhaps my upbringing and corporate career pushed me in this direction.
I gradually became addicted to the rush of achieving something, anything in fact. Big or small, it didn’t matter. I just needed to feel I’d done something.
The problem was, the more I did the more I wanted to achieve. And people’s expectations of me also adjusted upwards all the time. Sticking to the maxim that ‘what has worked in the past will work again’, I put in more hours, slept less, did less of what I actually wanted to do. Just to achieve that immediate gratification. What I didn’t realize was that I needed to slow down to speed up.
So what’s going on?
The more pressure we are under, the more our autopilots engage, and we default to actions or behaviors without too much reflection. And sooner or later we are engulfed by our own stress, making others feel stressed, and making poor decisions.
But we are not machines! We have a choice in what we do. And a simple thing we can do is slow down.
Our pandemic-driven confinement creates a great opportunity to experiment different behaviors. First, boundaries among work, family and social lives are diluted. The sense that everything is happening at once can be overwhelming, creating general anxiety difficult to manage in autopilot. Second, a pandemic in which no one knows what to expect next creates a good excuse to do things differently.
Slow down to speed up
So let’s try new things. Start taking a few moments at the end of each day to reflect on what you did, why you did it, and what happened around you. Throughout your day, be mindful of how you feel when things happen. Ask yourself: Why did I feel like that? Why did I react that way? By taking the time to reflect you will naturally be slowing down. And soon your reflection will reveal patterns of behavior or decisions that you may want to question. The more you reflect, the more your mind will accept the need to reflect – one day it will become spontaneous. And reflecting is also an opportunity for personal focus, which is often challenging to achieve in these times of confinement.
So now I am not so action-driven. Of course, achieving tangible things is still necessary in my professional and personal lives. The funny thing I have realized is that by reflecting and taking more time, I actually achieve more, get better results, and generally feel more balanced. Both in immediate tangible things and in things that contribute to my longer-term happiness. So I actually slow down to speed up. ‘Logically counterintuitive’ yet somehow intuitively right!