I’m not proud of it now, but I used to the Queen of the Rush. Not the good rush of goose bumps you get when you experience something awesome. Exactly the opposite, in fact. The rush through life. The rush to shave mere seconds off each task in the day, in a feeble attempt to gain a minute or two back.
Sure, my plate was full and I could certainly use a few extra minutes to myself. But the sad reality is that in the constant whirlwind of running from one thing to the next, my head was completely out of synch with what my body was doing. I was thinking mostly of the future (or sometimes the past) but never the now.
The Cycle of Busy
Let’s see if this sounds familiar to you:
Alarm. Wake up, check email. Stumble out of bed. Quick shower, think about pending chaos of the day to come. Get ready, get the kid up, make breakfast. Bolt from the house like a bat out of hell. Rush the kid to school. Rush yourself to work. Whirlwind day of meetings and calls and rushing around there (including making apologies for being late because you had to take a potty break on your way to the 10th meeting of the day). Scram out of work to go pick up the kid. Get home. Throw dinner together. Homework, bath, story, bedtime. WINE. Collapse on the couch. Fall asleep checking Facebook. Rinse and repeat.
I know for sure that this was not just my story. In fact, this was one of the most common narratives I’d hear from my friends/coworkers/family members. Ask people how they are and get the usual: “Things are fine, just suuuuuper busy.” Are we all really that busy? Why such RUSH?
Our Society is Set Up For This
Our society is set up to feed us more and more and more. We are pinged constantly by IMs, phone calls, emails, social media notifications, and text messages. Commercials on the radio and TV blare their messages at us,whether we notice them or not. This diminishes our attention span down into almost nothing, and we jump without purpose from one thing to the next without ever really just being where we are.
In addition to having to manage so much additional stimuli, we also use the “Busy Badge of Honor” in conversations with friends and family. “Busy” has become a totally bonkers status symbol that we throw around at eachother like some weird game of catch. Are we bragging? Are we complaining? Why are we doing this at all?
In a fascinating study called Conspicuous Consumption of Time: When Busyness and Lack of Leisure Time Become a Status Symbol researcher Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, set up an experiment to gauge how a specific type of social media posts would affect the reader’s assumptions about that person. Bellezza presented study participants with two types of social media profiles – one with status updates that stress a consistent busyness at work, and another with status updates that reflect a more leisurely lifestyle. The goal was to find out what the participants would think/assume about these people. The results were abundantly clear that in the U.S., people think that the busier person is, the higher their status must be. Hmmmm. This makes me think of the fly that kills itself by banging into the same spot on the window for hours while try to get outside. That little guy is definitely really busy, but dropping dead of exhaustion – while still inside – doesn’t seem like it qualifies as a high status activity to me. I felt like that fly, exhausted and getting nowhere.
My Turning Point
One day, on my rush home from work (so that I could begin rushing my evening at home), I was pulled over. I had been going dangerously fast in a residential zone. The cop that stood outside my car asked a plain question: “Why are you speeding?” I opened my mouth to answer him but nothing came out. I had nothing. There was no excuse for me to be rushing so much. The truth is that I was on auto-pilot, with my one speed set to GO NOW. I suppose my frazzled and lost look inspired the cop to let me go with a warning, and I drove off with his words ringing in my head: “SLOW DOWN.”
This small interaction took maybe 10 minutes of my time, but it planted within me a seed of “maybe I don’t have to rush so much?”. That day I got home 10 minutes late, and lo and behold, the world continued to turn. I began to see subtle signs and indications that encouraged me to stop rushing. Those signs were not as clear as a policeman standing beside your car, but when your mind is open to accepting them, they can be just as powerful. For me, this showed up as a general sense of feeling incomplete and unfulfilled. I felt an itching jealousy when other people shared their good news. I felt a constant, low-grade worry that I was missing out on my son’s youth. These indications (and so many others) are impossible to fully feel or understand when your head is disconnected from your body. But when I finally started to take notice, the message was clear: it’s time for a change.
How to Stop
Over time, and with some heavy-duty soul-searching, I came to the realization that there are only so many hours in the day, and all my rushing around could never change that. But what I could do is create more depth in the time that I do have, by reattaching my head to my body and fully experiencing the present moment. I developed a routine of a few simple steps to follow each time I felt myself getting sucked in by the rush. Next time you catch yourself rushing, I dare you to try it.
Take a Breathe. Countdown from 5-4-3-2-1 and take long, rejuvenating, conscious breaths as you go.
Focus on what’s around you right now. Tap into the senses that you were gifted with. They work, use them! Look, listen, smell, taste, feel. Experience!
Don’t resist the present moment. Focus on whatever you are doing right then, and enjoy the beautiful simplicity of whatever it is. Keep your head in the game. If you have trouble with this, repeat steps 1 and 2. Bonus: How about attaching some gratitude to this? Stuck in traffic? Well, shit, that means you have a working car and places to be. Try to be mindful (and thankful) for that.
Benefits of Slowing Down
To say that I don’t ever rush around anymore is not true. I do. But I’m better able to spot it, and therefore, better able to stop it. When things start to blur for me, I have conditioned myself to remember that there is no point in looking for extra minutes in the day because they just aren’t there. But I can expand the minutes that I do have by shifting my mindset, breathing into the present moment, and fully experiencing what I’m doing.
If having more depth, more peace, and deeper experiences sounds good to you (and if you are reading this I bet it does), just stop rushing. Everyday, ordinary moments that you are actually present for and can experience with all of your senses will begin to feel new. You will be rewarded with more awareness of the journey you are on. And that, my friends, could be the catalyst that opens the door to a myriad of changes (for the WAY BETTER) that are already within your reach.