“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”
– Viggo Mortensen
When you slow down and breathe, you give yourself the chance to do two things — to recalibrate and reevaluate. We all know the saying that you cannot give from an empty cup. Yet, people who care a lot and work in organizations and industries to make the world a better place tend to work themselves into the ground.
I’ve been there many times over, so I am not speaking entirely from outside that box. But, having worked with and in organizations over many years with people who care deeply and having crashed a few times myself, I have learned to be so much more aware of my energy and appreciate how recharging directly affects our ability to succeed at anything we try to do. Whether material things are driving us or we are energized by altruistic goals, if working around the clock — we fall apart.
Some of the people I have worked with receive prestigious international awards for their work. Some have saved lives. Some have helped build futures for theirs or other children. But when you do not recharge there must be predictable consequences. Wellbeing and health are what we enjoy on a mental, physical, emotional and communal level. When we don’t have those, despite sometimes wins along the way, we are not succeeding in the long run!
Life is not a race. Life is meant to be lived. To live truly, deeply and fully means you have to recalibrate. If you’re not convinced, read what people have to say as they lay on their deathbeds. Bronnie Ware, an internationally acclaimed author wrote a best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Through intimate conversations she had as she sat by the bedsides of dying people, Bronnie discovered five common regrets people have. These are:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me;
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings;
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends;
I wish that I had let myself be happier; and
I wish I didn’t work so hard.
I let myself be happy more often. With exception, I anchor myself in what brings me joy daily. I recalibrate through writing, reading, sometimes taking my daughter out shopping, connecting with my son in the things that lights him up, sharing ups and downs with close friends, spending time doing outdoor sports, play, being silly.
The lessons Bronnie teaches us through her work are premised on reevaluating what success actually means. My hardest lessons have included pulling back from racing to try to save people, both literally and figuratively, realizing that by doing so I was ensuring the wellbeing of my own children, and to do so realizing that I had to take care of my wellbeing physically and emotionally.
This is not at all selfish. Givers have a hard time with the idea of doing what is fun and joyful. If anything it can be a strategy. If I need to, I put in my calendar when I’m off doing what anchors me to wellbeing. When I am well, I am productive.
That often requires having the courage to be true to oneself and let go of judgement. Now when I look back at specific events where I pulled back, among the key people I feared would judge me a few are not doing all the wonderful things they were — either because they burned themselves to the degree of no return, literally, or they were not who I thought they were.
“Go slow to go fast.” When you allow yourself permission to take a step back from the race, you give yourself the opportunity to refocus, see from one more perspective, become more aware of how what you’re doing fits into the bigger picture of life itself. I have reevaluated what “impact” means to me so many times to come to yet another conclusion. You can’t do that when you’re going too fast. It’s okay to step out of it all for a bit, to even take two steps back alone while everyone seems to be whizzing by. Maybe, just maybe that will be the act that gives you the ability to protect burning your candle, and so when you’re ready to pass on many many years from now you will have no regrets — you have lived purposefully, joyously and successfully.
Bronnie, Ware. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Hayhouse, 2012.
Originally published at medium.com