This is a guest post by Mariel Boldis from Project Simple Life.
Once you slow down your driving pace, you’ll no longer have to wonder why the driver in front of you is always traveling slower than you are” – Elaine St. James, Simplify Your Life.
Pushing down the accelerator, the notches increase. 45…. 60… 83, the speed, the excitement in the air is electrifying. This situation is all too common on the roads with many of us guilty of pressing the gas pedal just a little bit more.
Many of us have pushed our limits hoping to pass the slow pokes successfully, get somewhere faster, or even just for the hell of it. When we speed, our bodies react with an increased level of stress, our blood pressures rise, our tempers tend to become shorter, and it’s all done for what? For fear of being late or missing out on something important?
The reason I bring speeding up is because this is something most of us can relate to doing a few times. Now, you are either the one shaking your head in disapproval at this or you are the one who zips down the road with the occasional finger flipping in the air. Either way, the idea of speeding can be applied to society’s unrealistic ideals of what it means to strive for a successful life today.
We have bought into these ideals at the expense of living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Here’s how…
1. We Speed
We step on that gas pedal. Slowly at first, just to warm the engine up. Then we go faster and faster passing the speed limit, and before you know it, you’re going at “supersonic” speed.
In life, we have adopted into this lifestyle of speeding —to move fast through life. Tasks are finished quickly especially when we have multiple forms of technology at our disposal. Social media is a 24/7 hub of constant information updating so frequently we are able to keep our eyes glued to the white screen making sure we don’t miss out; and yet, we feel we are never caught up enough or know enough information.
Since our culture has bought into this whole idea of living the “fast life,” once we are going 100 miles per hour, it seems almost impossible to stop. Heck, we are probably so busy speeding and getting ahead we don’t even have time to think about anything but. That’s our innate need for speed. Go figure.
2. We Feel Exhilarated
Our adrenaline is pumping. We feel exhilarated and almost unstoppable when we are on the road. We buy into the selfish thought, “I’m superhuman.”
When we are getting something done, whether it’s a project at work, writing an article for a blog, or deep cleaning our homes, we feel a tingle of excitement when our efforts are exceptional. It’s our ego driven selves telling our minds we are being productive, awesome, and total ass-kickers.
Just as we feel when we are going a million miles per hour on the road, we channel the same energies into the “busy life.” Our minds welcome danger, always looking for the next “high on life”—on our egos. Why stop and wonder what there is to do next when you can just keep going faster and faster after the same rush of excitement?
3. Slowing Down
In a matter of moments, the excitement abruptly disintegrates as soon as another driver just ahead of you is driving at the speed of a turtle. There are cars all around you, and there is nothing else you could possibly do to bypass the slow nincompoop just ahead.
According to the ideals of society, slowing down has become the equivalent of being lazy. Slowing down means you have time to reflect, and who has time for that when you need to save the “world” from the next pending disaster? Your mind plays tricks and you begin to compare yourself to others. Slowing down means you have to think, and “thinking” more than “doing” is considered “bad.”
When a slow driver is directly in front of your car, it’s instinctive to place blame on them for why you will be late to your destination, or why this task or that task won’t get done, and why the sky is blue and blah blah blah blah. Right?
4. Frustration Sets In
That’s right, you begin to get frustrated and “nincompoop” doesn’t even begin to describe how you are feeling about the driver(s) “blocking” your path right now.
In the world of driving, frustrated drivers are on the road left and right. If someone is inhibiting you from getting to your destination, it’s so easy to be short tempered and angry because what else are you going to do, right? You think if you would have taken route B over route A, these drivers wouldn’t be there to stop you. If it wasn’t for these nincompoops, you would be able to just continue being your awesome, productive self.
This selfish mentality can definitely be applied to real life situations. When we slow down, we immediately place blame in something or someone other than ourselves. If a certain task isn’t getting done how we like, or something isn’t going our way, we don’t like to think it’s our faults. Just as frustrated drivers do, we curse and mutter under our breaths; and at times, we take it out on our loved ones.
We feel we will fall behind, and miss out on something important. We feel if we don’t get back on track our spot will be replaced—our well-deserved place in life. We think, if we slow down now, how else would we get ahead?
5. Passing/Going Around
Just when you thought it would never end, there is finally room to pass and as you Speedy Gonzales your way through, you get back into focus and realize nothing is going to stop you from here.
Whether it’s that project with an approaching deadline, or your hosted cocktail hour with friends, whatever was inhibiting you from finishing up with the task is now history. You are focused and will do whatever it takes to get it done.
This may mean cutting corners and speeding through details just so you accomplish the task at hand. In the process, you may sacrifice your health, time with family, with friends, with yourself, which will ultimately leave you feeling exhausted and irritable.
Much like driving fast and passing everyone around you, you may miss the colors of the sunset, the herd of deer across the road, the mother kissing her child off to school, or the smells of the wildflowers and pinecones wafting through the neighborhood. We may be focused on being productive and busy; however, we lose focus of the little things around us—the things that keep our sanity.
Pressure to be more efficient, quicker, faster, and better are qualities praised and this leaves no room to allow someone to feel anything but the need to multitask and get ahead to make a successful life.
The idea that there is no time to relax is exhausting, and it’s depressing millions of Americans today. At the end of the day, we fail by continuing to repeat this 5-step speeding process. We fail to realize that not only is speeding on the road a dangerous recipe to our death, but speeding through life will also bring death—to our minds, hearts and souls.
With that being said, why keep living up to an ideal we cannot ultimately compete with? Why keep digging ourselves into a physical and an emotional tumultuous hole?
What I have found out after going through my dark and tumultuous hole is that it’s never too late to slow down and quit speeding. Even after discovering minimalism 2 years ago, I am still working on the “slowing down” part. I do like to speed—on the road and in life—and part of simplifying my life includes practicing to do the opposite.
Here are a 5 ways I have slowed down to live a more meaningful life
1. Practice awareness
If I’m speeding on the road, rushing through my homework, or running irrational errands in a hurry, I try to catch myself doing it before I react negatively.
2. Take a deep breath
Once I realize I’m hurrying along, I stop what I’m doing and just take a few deep breaths and remind myself there is nothing in the world worth stressing my mind and my body over.
3. Write what’s on my mind
I will scribble, draw, or write a few short sentences describing how I feel at the moment. This works as a sort of release for me. Once it’s on paper for me to see, the situation I’m speeding through seems absolutely ridiculous to fuss over.
4. Take a walk outside
Taking a walk outside for at least 10 minutes puts my mind on refresh. If it’s too cold or there is no way for me to go outside, I will usually look out the window (or roll my window down if I’m in my car). Nothing beats getting fresh air for your body.
5. Turn all things technology off
Sometimes I do this for a few hours, a day, or even an entire weekend. In the beginning, being in social Siberia freaked me out big time. I felt “naked” without my phone… or the computer… or the TV. But with time, I’ve made a conscious effort to just be with myself, with people or with my project or task—in the present.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a long ways to go as far as “slowing down” goes. I fall into the delicious temptation of speeding along; however, I have to say I do find more peace and harmony when I take a breather and just let life happen. Being in the present is much more rewarding than being on the fast track “to success.”
By practicing awareness, I am able to counter effect speeding by applying any of the 5 principles I stated above. No one is perfect, but if you slow down at least one area of your life, you might be surprised at the gratifying results produced. Just remember, nothing is more rewarding than living for the present because the here and now is all that’s guaranteed.
*Note: I’d like to thank Elaine St. James for being my inspiration for this piece. You can find her book, Simplify your Life on Amazon along with some other titles she has written. For a great review on Simplify your Life, visit Zen Habits. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
About The Author
Mariel is the name, and I’m a 20-something city girl with a country girl heart. I am a recovering perfectionist, a chai-a-holic (if there even is such a thing,) and I have a knack for taking photographs of people, pets, and antique keys. Project Simple Life is about downsizing life and expectations, learning lessons, moving forward, and finding happiness along the way.
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