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Slowing Down Is The Biggest Weakness Of High Achievers

Taking a break to recharge, can speed up the overall process

Where are my dreamers, high performers, high achievers, hustlers, workaholics, and the rest of the ambitious beautiful people, who are working on making their dreams a reality and the world an even better place? You are family to me because I am one of you and I understand the way you think, the way you feel and why you do what you do. Although we all have different backgrounds, stories, goals – we simply have different lives – we have tons of things in common. We work hard, consistent, passionate, we love everyday, Monday through Sunday and we know it takes patience to build our dreams (which doesn’t mean we are the ultimate embodiment of patience, rather the opposite but we work on it because we understood the importance of patience) and we learned to see any kind of challenge as the springboard to personal growth. 

We don’t fear challenges, we wait for them to arise, we accept them, and we make the best out of it. We knowingly expose ourselves to challenges all the time. We work on things we haven’t had in our lives, we create something completely new – that in itself is a challenge. 

That is what we do. That is what we love to do. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are very intuitive people. Often covering it with logic, numbers, or studies and our crystal-clear mind – but eventually we would always choose our gut-feeling over anything or anyone else. Where there is light, there is shadow. Yin and yang. Let’s just call it balance. We do not only have these very helpful skills and personality traits in common but also some that make our lives harder and interrupt our constant want to keep working on our dreams. Our weaknesses. We struggle with things. In fact, there is one thing in particular that gives us a really hard time: Slowing things down.

We know things take their time. We dominate the art of knowing when it is time to slow down, in order to work on the details and perfect things. Or when it is time to speed up the process, because things need to get done, we can perfect them later. Obstacles slow the whole process down, we know that. As I mentioned, we are waiting for those obstacles coming our way. Waiting for the damage, waiting for the unpredictable, which is sometimes necessary to see things in a different light and create something even better than we originally planned. This is not the slowing down I mean. I talk about slowing down everything and especially the processes on our mind and often also our body.

When it comes to slowing things down and taking care of ourselves, we are all at different levels. Some of us still haven’t had the chance to learn its importance. Whereas others take great care of themselves, have their routines like meditation, exercising, enough sleep and so on. Things are thankfully getting healthier amongst us. Most of us somehow know, that in order to keep up our speed over the long run, we need to recharge our batteries. And yet it is just not in our nature to the extend we would need it and we have a hard time making it second nature. There seems to be a gap between us knowing and understanding the importance of self-care or giving things their time and literally taking two steps back in order to move forward, when we are in the middle of something seemingly more important.

What is the gap between understanding the important of taking care of ourselves, slowing things down, and actually doing so?

I asked myself this question many times. Recently I found myself in one of those situations. Everything told me to slow down, to reconsider, to rethink, to wait for something before I could move on with a big project – but it was a feeling, I couldn’t really grasp. The gut-feeling that is such an important part of who I am, the things, that helps me so much with making the bold and risky but eventually right choices and yet, in this case I was not ready to listen to it. I thought it was just not information, to risk the deadline. Stopping right now? Just a few weeks before the deadline (I set myself) until I wanted to finish the new project? To wait for something, without knowing what I was exactly waiting for? I couldn’t give in to this feeling. I took a day off, relaxed, did all the things I did to recharge my batteries and relax my mind and body. I must confess that I worked hard and a lot the past few months. Not just work but also working on my personal development, took a lot of energy. But I love all of it and I thought, I got really good at balancing my energy already. I had a great time during my time off and went back to work, even stronger. But the feeling was still there. I felt like I wanted to wait for something. I decided that it was simply stress and some emotions, triggered by the soon release of the new project. Just thinking of taking a real break at this time, meant taking endless steps back and I was not willing to do that. I made this plan for a reason and I will stick to it and work through it.

Until I wrote about that we often need exactly the things we refuse to do the most. Something I teach, I believe in, I had experienced many times myself and with others. An hour later, while peacefully drinking a cup of tea, it hit me. The resistance towards taking a step back in this project was so massive for weeks now, that I knew I had to reconsider my decision about it. All of a sudden, the events of the past weeks, my thoughts, my emotions, my gut feeling – everything convinced me that I needed to slow things down. I knew that would mean, that I wouldn’t be able to finish it in the time planned. I knew, that there was no one involved but myself until this point, so being honest to myself, I knew I could reschedule the deadline. I was fully aware that I had no idea what I was really waiting for. But I could clearly feel, that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Every cell in my body told me to wait. It already had been telling me that for weeks, I simply refused to listen to it. Because, you know, I want to get things done.

I stopped working on the project, started to take time for myself. I checked in with my body, my mind, my thoughts, my inner truth and worked on recreating my balance. When I need to process things, I write – a lot. It is expressing myself, my creativity, processing and organizing the chaos within. I worked out, I practiced yoga, but I also had days where I wouldn’t do anything expect for some stretches and slow walks in nature because also my body needed to rest. The only thing I did every single day (because I knew, it was what I needed), was my daily meditation. I meditated every time my head started circling around the project again. I was not grounded, not centered – as we workaholics and super ambitious people often aren’t – and meditation helped me with that. Instead of taking a step back for one or maybe three days, I ended up doing it for over a week. I wouldn’t be able to finish the project until my deadline. I made a decision, most people around me questioned and they were asking me, if I was sure that this was the right move. People questioning my decision because they think it is totally counterintuitive, is one of the most exact ways to tell me I am doing the right thing. It is a very reliable way of assuring myself that I am back on track and on the right path. Because this is what we do. We do things a little differently than most people. We don’t care so much about making the safest choice but the right one, the one that feels right for us, that aligns with our truth. And that might very well also mean to change our point of view, just shortly before the finish line. Just days before a release, we decide to stop, to change it or to completely redo it.

Once we took the time to bring our complete awarenesstowards what we are doing at the very moment, we can see clearly, and we are connected to our truth. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the gap I was referring to before. The gap between us knowing and understanding the importance of awaiting the right moment or giving things their time and literally taking two steps back in order to move forward. It is awareness. Bringing awareness to the present moment. Not just living for the future, working on the future but looking at it through the lens of the current moment. What seemed to make perfectly sense yesterday might, frankly, look absurd today.

This is our problem. We are born with this innate need to make things happen, no matter what. Not simply because of something shallow like success or money or recognition from others. But because we are so passionate about what we are doing. We choose the things we do for a reason. We love what we do. And just like love, we don’t always have a tangible answer or explanation for our decisions, but we know it is the right thing to do.

Just like love, we can get carried away by the plan we created, the deadlines we set, the way we created because it made perfectly sense, the other day. Our strength is our consistency, our ability to adapt and react to change, to balance the pace of a process, and our ability to listen to our intuition. Which we are only able to hear, when we are centered, grounded and bring our awareness in the present moment. This is the gap between knowing and acting according to what we know. Being aware of what we are doing right now, why we are really doing it and if it is still the right thing today.

There is just one more thing.

We know failing is part of the game. It is, just like any other challenge, a time of growth – and we are born to work through the valleys of success and failure, aren’t we?

And yet there is something deep inside us that makes us lose sight of the current moment and plays into the reason why we have such a hard time to slow things down and to take a step back. Something we often don’t see within ourselves yet or don’t admit. It also doesn’t want to be seen really, because once we bring our awareness to it, we know we can handle it. We know it is just another part of the game. And that is why it hides, because it wants us to make the safe choices, trying its best to protect us.

It is covered by seeing the world through the rose-colored glasses of the love for what we are working on. While we think, we act out of love, we are sometimes looking into the eyes of fear to feel not enough if we fail, in the guise of love.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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