On a recent errand-running trip through our neighborhood, I bumped into no fewer than five people I knew, in the span of stopping at four destinations. That’s one of the wonderful things about living in a walkable/bikeable community…except when you’re in a hurry, of course.
I didn’t spend much time speaking to the first few people I bumped into. I probably did a decent job of communicating that I was in a rush, as my niceties likely appeared somewhat artificial.
However, after seeing the third or fourth person, I had to stop and ask myself: Why am I actually in such a hurry? I couldn’t even answer the question! I had completed most of the important tasks I had set out to achieve for the day, and had plenty of time before my next scheduled commitment.
What drives us to do this?
This likely varies for each person, but one possibility is that acting is more comfortable than taking the time to define where it is we’re ultimately going. In some situations, acting can actually be a form of procrastination.
But wait, how can that be? Isn’t action the solution to procrastination? Yes, but only if we have at least a reasonable idea of where we’re going. By keeping ourselves busy with the smaller things, either through constant physical action or filling our minds with clutter, we may avoid the initial discomfort of dealing with some of life’s larger questions. These questions and their answers may lead us toward significant change in our lives-in areas such as career, relationships, living environment, and so on.
When we’ve already developed long-standing habits of busying ourselves all the time, it takes a conscious effort to keep ourselves from snapping back into rush mode, even after we have begun to tackle some of the larger questions. And even when we don’t need to be in that much of a hurry.
This has a number of negative impacts. We stress ourselves out, and we may miss many opportunities to enjoy the present moment. We miss opportunities to connect and learn in a way that advances our growth. We may rarely be fully present and able to enjoy life.
Also, when we’re constantly hurried, we expend most of our emotional and physical energy on thoughts and actions that aren’t necessarily moving us toward where we want to go.
When we’re more relaxed, and clearing our minds of the smaller and less important things, the larger and more important items have room in the playground of the mind. We’re more aware and open to input from other people and from our surroundings that is pertinent to these big questions.
Following this realization, I made a conscious effort to slow the rush when I had opportunities to relax.
A week later, on our way to do some backwoods hiking and camping, my partner and I stopped at a river to enjoy some natural rock slides and miniature waterfalls, and to go for a swim. Although we had originally planned on arriving at our trailhead by a certain time, we ended up talking for well over an hour with a person we had never met.
We learned an incredible amount from the conversation, covering everything from the river’s best attractions to eco-friendly housing, folk music, and even economics of pharmaceutical industries. And it inspired me to have a few additional realizations about my own life, and the value of pursuing what energizes us.
I don’t always have this much time. There are many situations where I’m on a schedule. However, it’s worth the effort to discern between cases where I need to watch the clock and cases where I should stick my watch in my pocket.
The next time you’re in a hurry just to do something, anything, stop and ask yourself:
Where am I in such a rush to go?
Do I need to be in a rush right now?
Am I missing out on something even more important?
How might slowing down benefit me?