In an era of hustle, side-hustle, and crush it, there’s a perception out there that the more you are grinding it every day, the more successful you are. Chances are, you are working harder than ever for some moment in the future when you will feel freer. Right?
It’s no wonder that burnout is one of the hottest topics in the new year. Especially if your New Year’s resolutions look like one big to-do list!
The problem is that if you don’t make time to slow down and check-in with your gut sense of what you or those around you need on a moment-to-moment basis, you are robbing yourself of a deeper resource for making your best decisions throughout the day.
The Science Behind Speed
University of Amsterdam psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues confirmed the power of slowing down to access our deeper intelligence. Researchers invited some participants to state their immediate preference after reading, say a dozen pieces of information about each of four apartments.
A second group, given several minutes to analyze the information consciously, tended to make slightly smarter decisions.
But wisest after all, in study after study, was a third group, whose attention was distracted for a time — enabling the subjects’ minds to process the complex information unconsciously and to achieve more organized and crystallized judgements, with more satisfying results. Faced with complex decisions involving many factors, the best advice may indeed be to take our time — to “sleep on it” — and to await the intuitive result of our unconscious processing.
The Thinking Paradox
The paradox is when you allow time to slow down for your intuition to find you, you arrive at a decision more quickly. By relaxing your mind and accessing your deeper consciousness, the answer is there, waiting for you.
Your subconscious mind processes information 500,000 times faster than your conscious mind. In other words, when you disrupt your normal way of thinking and are not just moving from one task to the next. You are able to connect the dots that your conscious mind can’t possibly hold.
An Octave Deeper
This is why intuition works so powerfully. Intuition operates at a different rhythm than our daily thoughts, and at an octave deeper. Our everyday rational mind can only review and analyze the past or project into the future. But when we get present to our experience right now, we allow room for our intuition and new possibilities to find us.
In other words, when we interrupt what we know and open up to a more receptive space of what we don’t, innovation awaits. When he was stuck on a problem, Steve Jobs was known for getting out of the office and walking around the Apple campus outside, barefoot, in order to slow down and shift his state of mind. This allowed for creativity and a fresh perspective.
Slowing Down Takes Practice
As we’ve become wired to power through our day with coffee, nonstop stimulation and entertainment, how can you build in buffer time that allows for reflection? Whether it’s going for a run or a bike ride, getting out in nature, engaging in mindfulness practice, or going into the sauna, what helps you downshift your mind so that you can open up your creative genius, and lead your day and your life from a new reference point?
Here’s How You Can Wind Down and Tap In
- Interrupt Your Routine. Remove yourself from your desk. Do what is necessary to let people know that you will be out for thirty minutes or whatever time you need. This is a great practice in setting boundaries and self-care, which can be really hard for some.
- Move Your Body. Take a walk outside of your office space if possible. If there is a residential area, park or trail, find a route that inspires you and doesn’t overstimulate you. If you are in the middle of a big metropolitan area, see if there is a park or trail that is close enough to you.
- Get Present. Begin your route and let the thoughts of the day go and let yourself be immersed in the present moment fully. The key here is to get outside of your normal way of thinking and allow for more wide-open awareness and slowed down movement. Feel each step land on the ground and this will help keep your attention in the moment. When you slow down you tend to take in more information.
- Breathe. Let yourself take several breaths and relax into each step you take. The more you let go of your thoughts and come back to your breathing and feeling your feet on the sidewalk or trail, the more present you start to become to your experience in the present moment. This takes practice, but you are starting to shift from “do” mode to “be” mode.
- Slow Down. Keep slower pace than your usual walking pace and see what happens when you purposely slow things down and choose to stay present to your experience. Let yourself feel each step you make, as you slow down from your normal rhythm of walking.
- Ask Your Question. Once you’ve slowed down and found your new rhythm ask any question that you’ve been pondering. This is the perfect opportunity for some of the larger decisions you are facing. Whether it’s hiring a new employee, deciding your next career move, or reflecting on your relationship, this is the moment to ask your question and stay with the question. See if you can just let the question rest. There can be a tendency to seek an answer. To know the right choice. Intuition shies away from this type of demand. Hold the question lightly, and as I’ve said, let your intuition find you. After a while, something unexpected may arise.
Keep practicing this whenever you need to get into a different space to think strategically and change up your environment. Innovation and creativity are waiting for you.