In today's world, it's hard not to feel rushed when demands of what needs to be done seem to be overpiling - yet it is at times like these that slowing down may be the best way to manage. Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net
The old tale of “The tortoise and the hare” that was related to many of us in childhood contains within it a profoundly important message for people today living in the ‘needs to be done yesterday’ world.
It relates the story of a patient tortoise who true-to-life, decides to slowly take it at his own pace in response to an invitation to partake in race from a rather hyperactive hare.
The hare would probably function quite well in today’s world – where a frenetic pace to achieve a goal almost seems a compulsory attribute.
Surely, moving quickly can’t be that bad, can it? Goals are achieved quicker, we please the boss, we earn money, we get to A to B more quickly and "don’t waste time" on useless pursuits.
I know I for one am a headlong, impulsive, ‘type C’ kind of person – I almost feel uncomfortable when I slow down. I know I am not the only one.
Firstly, what are the costs of this? True, it is not ‘all bad’, and certainly many of us don’t have a choice, when we have our boss breathing down our neck, plus the need to juggle many life demands at once – care of our family, as well as work, paying the bills, and the list goes on.
However, when our thoughts slow down, we actually change our brain-wave pattern. “Beta waves” are associated with that brainwave state that many of us are functioning with – and goes hand-in-hand with the kind of thinking most of us do, with the attendant anxiety that today’s life renders almost inevitable.
When we choose to slow down, as though we didn’t have any stress, even though in reality we might, our brain waves alter to become “alpha” – slower, and with greater amplitude.
Our thinking becomes efficient rather than fast, and we are more effective workers. Our concentration improves and with impulsivity under wraps as we make decisions more deliberately, we are likely to be more effective, and make less "silly mistakes" due to rushing. (Remember the hare who was over-confident and oh-so-fast, but ultimately got lost!)
I know somebody who is the oppositie to me, and would be the prototypical example of somebody who functions using alpha waves. He is calm, collected and very rational and clear headed. I often come to him rushed and frantic with some problem I am having. I never cease to be amazed at how methodically and quickly he answers or comes to a solution for whatever pressing urgent problem I am having. He doesn’t rush – ever. He thinks things through logically.
It would seem somewhat genetic what are predisposition is with respect to how we think through things: however, my assertions that alpha-wave thinking is more efficient may not seem convincing. However, research it on the internet, and you will be surprised to find that slowing down does have benefits.
From your own experience, consider what you have noticed. When you feel rushed, you are going to be more likely in an anxious state of mind. For example, how great is your memory when you are madly trying to think of an answer? When you are calm, how often has it just popped into consciousness? When you have lost something, when you are in fast-mode, how quickly do you find what you are looking for? How often are you just retracing steps in a mindless manner, rather than systematically looking? When you need to make an important decision, if you are rushed do you even know who you are making the decision for? Are you out to just get someone “off your back”? Have you sat for an exam when you are rushing through the answers, ultra-anxious? Have you performed much better when calm, (but motivated) and thinking much clearer?
Don’t confuse speed with efficiency. Efficiency means accomplishing the most work with the least energy expenditure both cognitively and physically.
At least, try it: For sure there are times when going fast can get a lot of work done – but leave you frazzled, confused, on edge and with a short fuse. Try to ignore external pressures. Tell yourself you are trying an experiment to see if you slow down, whether you get the same amount done, but feel a lot better for it.
I can’t guarantee you will get the results you want. Each task is different and a lot of the pressure comes from who is standing over you demanding results! But try not to let the frenetic pace of this world put you into a mode that is counterproductive, bad for your health, and not achieving more than slowing down, thinking it through and coming out on top.