Ever since I can remember, Mum encouraged me to be independent and to get a good education. I’ve also had the role model of a father from a family of go getters, always achieving, always coming up with new ideas and incessant thinkers. Add to that being brought up in a fast world and out comes a very driven and constantly achieving young woman living life like it’s a race.
What I never realised until recently was that my fast habit was also being propped up by an element of my physical condition, adrenaline.
After inadvertently pushing my body into ‘mechanical failure’ through a simple visit to some hot springs and then sitting in full on rev mode for 6 months, I’ve now arrived at this virtual ‘resting place’. Virtual because, due to my now known physiology and an aging body, I have to really manage the compulsion to be busy. This body just doesn’t do busy anymore so the only choice for me has been to slow down. Not easy when everyone else around you is still on warp speed!
Many a day I still spend frustrated and trapped with this physical incapacity and a brain that likes to respond how I used to. I’m perhaps lucky that my physical issues have been non negotiable and really forced me to slow down. The ‘no’ of my brain is now much stronger than my ‘yes’ but it has still taken two years to get here.
Life feels longer. Much less blink and miss it. Much more body appropriate!
So what about for those of you where ‘fast’ has also become an indelible mark on your soul and you want to slow your life down but perhaps it’s not a massive health event driving you (yet)?
The answer still lies in the strength of your motivation and in getting yourself the right support and environment to bolster your resolve.
What is the benefit to you of slowing down? What is motivating you to change? Is it because you want to spend more time with your family? Are you fed up with the repetitiveness and pressure of being on the stress treadmill and being dragged into the politics of work? Is your life passing you by? Do you just want to feel happier and lighter? Have you just had enough? Perhaps your health is already starting to suffer?
Whatever that underlying reason, think about it some more. Don’t squash it. Focus on it. Wallow in it even. Make it as big as you can. Health is often the motivating force behind massive life change because it is by its very nature the biggest attention grabber you can get. Find your motivation that makes you sit up and take notice. Make the reasons important enough to get you off the starting blocks and to solidify your commitment. Don’t let yourself get sick before you do it.
And here’s the nerdy stuff about what it means to change a habit and why developing that motivation is important….From a neuroscience perspective, it’s clear you can’t get rid of old habits or ways but what you can do is create new pathways that become so amplified they cause the old ones to fade into the background. The trick is starting down the new track, repeating the new stuff enough times (doing it heaps) and acknowledging yourself for the wins you create along the way as you do things differently. Then repeat, repeat. The brain loves certainty so the more you can make the change familiar to your mind the quicker you’ll get there. It will become your new norm.
Which is why creating that underlying motivation or continued sense of urgency to change is so important. It keeps you at it!
Big life changes and the old habits that come with that will take years to move away from and will not be an easy task for anyone (not to daunt you but that’s just how it is). Finding your motivation and drawing on the strength of that is critical.
And after years of doing the opposite it will need to be a pretty special combination to crack the safe.
To bolster up your motivation, it can be helpful to find ‘support’ or ‘prop’ mechanisms so you don’t feel alone as you work through your change process. For example, spending time with someone independent, like a coach, visioning your new calmer future can help you identify the steps needed to get you there and the interventions you need to take when the fast life attempts to creep back in. Someone else as your running mate can really help. No different to getting a personal trainer to get fit. A life coach can help you get the life you want.
In my case, it helped to be a little impulsive in stepping onto our new stage even before I think we were ready for it. We moved house relatively quickly from the large suburban house to the smaller house by the sea. This enabled all of us (not just me) to get into the headspace of what our different life needed to look like so references to what the old life was could become more of a memory.
Whilst our move was fairly traumatic at the time (a bit like stage fright actually!) it has been an absolute godsend in re-framing our future and getting us focused on a slower, simpler life more quickly than perhaps we otherwise would have.
If you think you can simply turn off old ‘fast is good’ habits and beliefs with a click of your fingers think again. There are too many societal reminders for it to be that easy!
What you can do is identify the new ‘go slow’ habits you want to create and then bring them to life through the actions you take — and just keep at it.
Set up the elements of your new stage for your life and keep practicing. Keep doing the dress rehearsals.
The more you do them the more they will become ingrained in your being and before you know it you will have achieved what you wanted to achieve.
It’s all down to you to make it happen.
Originally published at medium.com