So, you want to slow down? Where do you start? What does slow living even look like in the real world? You’ve got commitments and responsibilities! Don’t worry, slowing down doesn’t mean you’ve got to ditch everything and park yourself up in a hammock.
My approach is “slow not lazy” – slowing down doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact, slowing down can help you to achieve more of what really matters.
My commitments and responsibilities used to leave me feeling worn out and overwhelmed, but today, I thrive on them. What changed? A lot, but the most important thing was my mindset.
“Everyone’s rushing around, and look at you – sitting there all calm!”. I was at a women’s networking breakfast in the lead up to Christmas. The meeting was due to start and everyone was rushing in flustered and fussing around as they took their seats. When a colleague leaned in and made this remark to me, little did she know the burst of pride and empowerment I felt.
I was calm. Not because of my schedule, commitments and responsibilities, I was calm despite of them. I’d just dropped my son to preschool. I had to leave the breakfast meeting early to tutor a class for a sick colleague (swinging past home on the way to pick up my husband who needed the car). After finding a ride back to my office, I had an hour to finalise my work for the year before back-to-back meetings until it was time to collect my son. It was one of those crazy days. Days like these used to leave me a frantic, frazzled mess. But there I was – calm, focused and present. Surrounded by a tide of busyness, I felt its presence, but it didn’t sweep me away. This is slow living in the real world.
First steps to slowing down
Unfortunately, you can’t just flick a switch – transitioning to a slower lifestyle takes time and work. You can take the first, small steps from where you are now.
- Ban busy
Stop telling the world how busy you are. Experiment with removing “busy” from your vocabulary and watch what happens. This simple change can bring real results. Recounting the long list of things on your plate every time you bump into an acquaintance at the supermarket only serves to feed your stress. This can be a tough habit to break – what do you say instead? But it goes deeper.
Busyness has become synonymous with worthiness. By shifting your day-to-day conversations away from a focus on how busy you are, you’ll start the important process of separating your worthiness from your busyness. This opens the door to letting go of the commitments and responsibilities that no longer serve you and empowers you to claim that space in your life that you crave. Change your words, change your world.
- Re-think your to-dos
Lengthy to-do lists are overwhelming. Rather than helping you, they can be a hindrance. Yes, it’s fun to cross things off, but don’t get that confused with actually achieving something. If you’re forever crossing things off, but don’t feel like you are making progress, adding more things to your list is unlikely to help – at least not without out some subtraction first.
- Sprinkle some slowness
Rather than trying to hit the brakes on your life, aim to cultivate pockets of slow. Start to add some space and mindfulness to your day. Look for little opportunities to slow down. You could eat your lunch without checking your phone or email, do a minute of deep breathing, or pause to notice the sights and sounds when you step outside. Anything that helps to bring your awareness to the present moment, rather than rushing to the next thing.
Even with the best of intentions, you will experience crunch times, where your stretched, your days are full, you’re pulled in multiple directions and pushed for time. Life happens. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure at slow living or that you need to throw your slow lifestyle aspirations out the window. I find that these are the times when all that slow living practice comes into its own and gives me a real edge. I’ve learnt that it’s not always how much you’ve got on, but how you approach it that matters. As it turns out, techniques like mindfulness and single-tasking – the tenets of slow living – are also great tools for getting things done.
You can start to adopt a slow mindset today. By seeking out slowness in the life you have today, you can set yourself on a path towards a slower tomorrow. You too can become the calmest person in the room.
What challenges do you face in slowing down? What’s your favourite way to add some slowness to your day?