Last week I attended a parenting workshop at my son’s elementary school on peace-based education. The seminar offered kids and parents models for conflict resolution and ideas on how to more mindfully navigate our relationships.
The entire time I sat listening to our two amazing, seasoned teachers share the importance of listening from the heart (rather than from the head), taking time to really “see” and hear one another and being present so you can respond rather than react in the moment—I kept thinking of the reminder that I often hear from my son and husband as we move through our always too busy week: “Slower is better.”
Does the thought of slowing down make your heart race as you look at the mountains of obligations, daily tasks, household chores and work duties before you? Think slow is for slackers? I used to, too.
Slowing down and doing less are easier said than done, and they require a radical paradigm shift for most of us. It requires us to distinguish our inner life from our outward productivity and asks us to be willing to release old habits and ways of being.
When I was thirty years old, I was a public relations director in a very stressful job. I fit the persona of an overachiever, and I loved the strokes that came with overachieving; I was addicted to having a super busy mind, schedule, and life. I was also exhausted and frankly doubted I could sustain this pace (really, this level of mental activity — or insanity). Over time, my job, relationships, and well-being were all suffering from my speeded-up life.
I began working with a great therapist/presence coach named Frances. She teaches clients how to slow down on the inside so that you can actually be more effective and wise in all areas of your life. For a long time, I thought (somewhat smugly), “This will never work for me. She just doesn’t understand my world. How can I slow down and still get things done?” Successfully juggling and anticipating solutions for ten different projects simultaneously was my hallmark! But slowly I integrated her coaching into my life, and I began to understand the connection between my inner state of being and how I see and respond to my outer world. As I cultivated more awareness for my inner world—and began to slow down on the inside– it had a huge impact: I lived more in the present, decreased anxiety, and improved my mood in large part by creating more space between my thoughts and my reactions. From stillness also came discernment: I began to see what really mattered to me, and my life purpose and path became clear. And, I actually did become much wiser and more effective at work!
My work with Frances during those years led directly to the model for balanced living that I teach and try to live by today, focusing on five key insights: practice “good is good enough,” learn to manage your energy and say no, ask for and receive help, practice self-care, and live more in the present. Integrating these five practices into my life over the past 17 years has had a profound impact on my well-being.
Do I believe slower is better? You bet! In many ways slowing down and pausing–especially when your plate is really full–is like a secret weapon. It’s the only way I know to navigate the 24/7 modern world we live in. The challenge is just to remember this moment to moment.
Invitation: In Texas and want to learn more about the power of slow while connecting with others in a beautiful, relaxed environment? Join us this Wednesday (3/20 from 6-9 p.m. in Austin, TX), the first day of spring, for a mini-retreat: Nurturing Your Soul: An Evening of Self-Renewal. If you can’t make it to this magical event (which also celebrates the launch of my new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family), check our calendar for other upcoming spring workshops and retreats across the U.S.