When was the last time you kicked back, did absolutely nothing and investigated what it feels like to be bored?
I'm guessing you might be challenged to pinpoint the time.
Avoiding boredom, staying busy, working longer hours, not taking care of yourself and celebrating that you can function on less sleep, won't help you achieve your goals faster.
Living our lives in this way, won't serve us, or others well. And in the long run it's likely going to cause illness and burnout.
Why then, do so many of us get stuck on this hamster wheel that keeps going faster and faster and doesn't stop unless we choose to stop it - or worse - when we're forced to?
(Big hint*) if you want to be more effective and reach your goals faster, you gotta slow down.
As a motivational speaker and mindfulness educator, I've spent several years speaking about the brutal realities of modern day stress and why more of us today are frustrated and less able to manage the pressures of work and private lives.
For me the answer is pretty clear.
For one thing, technology continues to speed up life, giving us access to instant information and each other. The sheer irony is that it's meant to save us time, but because of our innate need to be busy, we fill that time with more stuff to do.
And two, stress shows up more often than we realize. It can take on many forms, like a faster heartbeat, short breaths, tight chest and elevated reactivity with others. But (and I know this first hand) it's far too easy to ignore these things, because we get kinda entangled in our own sense of importance and are too busy to notice it.
One of the simplest - and at the same time - hardest things in the world to do is to slow down and take a conscious breath.
There are a thousand moments in our day when we could take a conscious breath, but our mind gets so busy planning, worrying, and trying to figure out how to get the 67 things done on our daily to do list, that we convince ourselves it's not important or we can 'do it later'.
And then later becomes never.
We get caught up in our own narratives and the stories in our head. We listen to our inner critic or worse, we're unaware of this almost non-stop conversation going on in our heads and it yanks us around. I enjoy Tony Robbins take on this, in his film "I'm Not Your Guru", he explains what happens when we get caught up in our own stories and is famous for saying: "Stay in your head you're dead."
When we make it a habit to slow down and take a conscious breath, we gain an edge.
This simple act, strengthens our focus and sense of presence with others and ourselves. It helps us create a space between our emotions and our response, helping us see more clearly and be better prepared for the ups and downs and challenges that come at us in our day.
There are some simple things you can do, to slow down, without adding to your to-do list. It has to be a conscious choice and you may want to consider finding a trigger (like setting your phone to buzz a few times a day) to remind you to slow down.
Here are three ways you can intentionally slow down:
1. Drive slower
When you get in your car, notice the feeling of your seat in the chair, feel the touch of the steering wheel in your hands and drive slower, which means driving at the speed limit, as opposed to the usual 10/20kmh faster. It's a great way to be more present and less on autopilot and you'll probably avoid more accidents. You may even reduce stress, given commuting and being stuck in traffic can be pretty stressful.
2. Eat slower
Mindful eating is a simple practice we can do during any meal time - and another brilliant way to slow down and not add to your to-do list. When you're eating your next meal, intentionally notice what your food looks like, the colours, the textures. Notice what it smells like, try taking smaller bites, chew more slowly, notice tastes and textures. Notice the sensation of the food after you swallow it and your body begins to digest. Notice any sounds from chewing. Bring some awareness to where your food has come from and how it came to be on the plate in front of you. If you practice this regularly, you may notice you start eating less, more healthy foods, lose some weight and feel better. If you want to learn the art of mindful eating, check out our upcoming retreat.
3. Walk slower
Mindful walking is simply attending to the experience of walking while we're walking. It's a fabulous practice you can do all day long - and one of my personal favourites. It's especially good to do on your way to a meeting or an event, so that you arrive feeling energized, present and focused. The next time you stand up, take one deep slow breath and let your attention drop to the soles of your feet. Notice the sensation of each foot as you walk, the heel, the arch, the ball and toes of each foot. Notice any pressure or tightness, warmth or tingling. Try expanding your awareness to include your whole body. Then let your attention drop back into your feet.
My invitation for you is to pick one idea (right now) from my list above and try it for yourself today.