For the second time in less than 12 months, I find myself recuperating from surgery. I have doctors orders to take it easy and as most of you know, that’s probably the only “acceptable” reason that would get me to slow down and take a break. Despite every bone in my body’s objection to this, I have actually come to enjoy this down time. I have time to catch up with friends, write, get plenty of rest, enjoy delicious meals and sneak in some online shopping.
As a culture we have become addicted to being busy. We are taught to be well rounded, to work and volunteer, to experience as much as possible, to be super productive at work. If you are like me, from the northeast, busyness is worn like a badge of honor. When a deadline is looming or you are about to host a party, busy is fine but being chronically busy can take its toll. Not just on your productivity but also on your relationships and your health. As strange as it might sound, I want you to honor your inner tortoise. When you slow down, you have a chance to “see” what is going on around you, to clarify what’s important and as Thoreau once said “suck the marrow out of life.” Check out this article by Christine Northrup on how to break the busy cycle.
I’m not just saying this because I want you to have more time to get organized, although that would be a great benefit. I’m telling you this because we all deserve a life well lived. My forced time off has made me a happier person. I won’t lie, I was scared about having lots of time off. I thought I would go crazy being home bound for months on end. What would I do with all this free time? Like any good work-a-holic, I filled it. But I filled it with things I never would have had time to do with my former work schedule, things I had been meaning to do for a very long time, things that were very important to me but kept getting pushed aside by my day to day responsibilities, such as making a memorial video of my grandmother, researching professional development opportunities and drafting an outline for my book.
With all the time on my hands, I’ve been thinking a lot and I can tell you life in the slow lane is pretty great. I’ve noticed a change in my mind. I am less harried, more present. My memory is better, my body is less tense and my anxiety is gone. I’m happier too. It’s great to not feel like a chicken running around with it’s head cut off. As if all of that weren’t enough, I’m more productive. Strange right? You have to slow down to be more productive? YES. When your mind isn’t running all over the place it’s easier to focus and get things done. Who knew?!
I want you think about why you are so busy? I can tell you what drove my busyness, an immense amount of societal pressure to produce, to make my business bigger, to help more people. It is hard to say no when someone needs help. This is a skill I am building stronger each and every day so that I can reach more people.
What else drives me? Peer pressure. Otherwise known as keeping up with the Jones’s. No one wants to be left behind. We all want to be proud of our accomplishments and happy with our achievements. We are afraid of not doing something. What if I don’t get my Ph’d? What if I don’t buy a house? What if I don’t get the promotion? It takes a lot of clarity to reframe your thinking but you can do it! Keeping up with the Jones’s is overrated. Being happy is waaayyy better. Leave the rat race behind. Get out of the daily grind and slow down.
So how can you do this? It’s all about choices and baby steps. I don’t think you’re just one day going to stop and slow down, unless you too get doctor’s orders. I would love for you to start the process by taking an honest look at why you are doing what you are doing? What’s driving you? Assess your life. What needs to be done each day? What do you want to do each day? What would make you happier? Then choose three things to start with and decide when you will do those three things to move closer to your goal, one day at a time. It took me several weeks before I was able to embrace the slower mindset. It felt strange. Several months in to this process, it feels strange to be busy. Our minds are funny that way. If you stick with it, it will work. I promise.