We all have choices to make. However, our current state of slow living wasn’t one of those choices. And yet, it resonates in so many ways. It feels that things are moving in slow motion. Certainly, many are struggling to get some momentum. Others are grateful for the respite to rest. Moving forward, perhaps we need to learn how to choose a slow living lifestyle.
After several weeks of staying home, the uncertainty of it all remains. How long will this go on? And, that ambiguity leads to other questions: “When it’s over, how do we integrate back into the world? What will normal look like in a post-pandemic world? Will I be different? What will I remember from this experience? Can I keep semblance of a slower lifestyle moving forward?”
In her Sunday Paper newsletter, Maria Shriver pondered her own questions of what the future will look like after we come out on the other side of this. And, although she admits not knowing the answers she pointed out that how she sees herself matters. And how you see yourself matters, too. Shriver brilliantly shares that “what will really matter most – what will really be essential – is who we are on the inside”.
THE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER
It’s fascinating to watch how the emotional roller coaster has manifested itself over the last few weeks. In the beginning, I witnessed many doing all the things they never had time to do. Baking, cleaning, writing, jigsaw puzzles. At the same time, others couldn’t muster the focus or energy to do any of it. We tilted so far that pandemic shaming became a phrase.
The flip side was that many wistfully hoped that a life-altering experience such as a global pandemic would surely instigate collective change – for the better, of course. We will live our future lives more meaningfully. We will focus on less instead of more. Be more compassionate, giving, loving, gentle. And, we will slow down and savor it along the way.
WHAT IS SLOW LIVING?
In simple terms, slow living is a lifestyle emphasizing slower approaches to aspects of everyday life.
Carl Honore, who wrote ‘In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed’, further described it this way:“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
A FRAMEWORK FOR SLOW LIVING
Simplicity From Scratch is on a mission to ‘empower women who give a sh*t about the planet to slow the heck down and build the deliciously rich and abundant life you deserve.’ That is to say, embracing slow living to usher in joyful changes in your daily life.
Simplicity From Scratch suggests this framework for the concept of slow living:
- Slow living rejects the belief that faster is always better
- It values quality over quantity
- Slow living makes time and space for what matters
- It’s about being intentional with our attention
- And, it is about embracing imperfection
So, whilst slow living is most often equated to eating simple foods or not accumulating material goods, it can also translate to making life choices that create time and space in our routines, not overschedule our lives, and allow us to be present in the moment.
This pandemic proved that it can be done. That is to say, we were crassly forced to adapt our lives to slow living in order to thwart a virus that is threatening our global society.
FROM FULL SPEED TO SLOW MOTION
A few weeks ago, we were told to stop. Cancel everything, stay home, social distance, full stop. As a result, we were able to stop running around with exhaustive schedules and jammed calendars and endless task lists.
Personally, I have fully focused on letting go and slowing down over the last few years. The life I had created was not sustainable. For the most part, I regained peaceful control by managing my schedule and learning to say no.
Consequently, I began to deeply feel what those around me were experiencing. My coaching clients and those in Lighthouse’s mentor program were living lives that were habitually frantic, chronically busy whilst taking on more debt, less sleep and sometimes even fractured relationships. It all felt rather unfortunate and encouraged me to make changes so I could inspire others with tips and tools to do the same.
This pandemic is indeed a hard stop that has given people permission to hit pause. To reflect on what life was and how it perhaps didn’t serve them that well. To bask in emotions that accompany having more time. To process feelings that come along with fear, uncertainty and melancholy. And, that’s beneficial if – and only if – we do something with those realizations.
WHEN LIFE RETURNS TO NORMAL
However, evaluating and reckoning often induce excuses when life returns to normal. One thing that has become obvious is that people want what they want. We have all witnessed it. People that didn’t quite follow the guidelines of ‘staying in their primary residences’ during COVID-19 or visited public areas when asked not to. Because, they want what they want and contrive stories to justify it. It’s a symptom of living in this day and age and we all fall victim to it.
But, if life has taken on a different meaning and slowing down felt like a reprieve from pre-pandemic chaos, maybe it is time to make lasting change. And with that, a challenge not to resort to your own version of excuses as you revert back to ‘normal’ life.
LOOKING CLOSELY AT EXCUSES
Recall the earlier framework for slow living? That faster isn’t always better. Quality over quantity. Make time and space for what matters. Be intentional with your attention. And, embrace imperfection.
But, therein lie the excuses.
Faster is not always better.
Certainly, efficiency is important but speed often strips us of pleasure. Sprinting from one thing to another is void of thought. On the other hand, slowing down to consider what is important and creating space for joy, spontaneity and connection adds richness to our day.
Slow living is about living at the right pace. It’s about applying full focus to your work and not multi-tasking with lesser priorities. It is savoring your food to support your digestive health and pleasure. It is having your children take the bus to school instead of driving them there, so as to grab a few minutes to read a book.
Quality over quality.
Certainly, the slow living movement celebrates less but better. Conversely, a lifestyle mired in quantity and the escalating desire for more has resulted in anything from poor health to unhappiness to financial indebtedness.
Whether it centres on the environment (eating less meat, reducing your footprint), eliminating distractions so as to fully focus on conversations or living within your means, quality equates to a disciplined pursuit of slowing down.
Making time and space.
Nothing like a pandemic to hit this point home. Of course, circumstances have given us the gift of time but we can give ourselves permission to create space for what we want in life. Author Laura Vanderkam points out that being starved for time is the unquestioned truth of modern life. However, in her book, ‘168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think’, she rolls out how to spend more time on the things that matter, and less on the things that don’t.
After all, we have the opportunity to make choices on how we spend our time. Of course, we all have responsibilities and have to do things that may not be our favorite ways to fill in the hours. But, digging into what matters is a good start. Imagine if you eliminated most of what doesn’t truly matter? You would unleash time and energy to be of service to yourself and those around you.
Be intentional with your attention.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said,“What you put your attention on grows strong in your life.”
Fiercely guarding what you pay attention to and consequently, where you expend your energy will build awareness and consciousness in your life. The more we allow our life to overfill into a frenetic one, the more likely we are to gravitate towards negative situations and reactions.
Slow living equips us with the ability to direct our attention towards nurturing and positive possibilities. That may mean moving away from people that drain you, controlling your media consumption or learning to say no.
Be perfectly imperfect.
A few years back, the saying “done is better than perfect” became a mantra for letting go. A philosophy to just get stuff done and move on. Initially, I struggled because it felt like a permission slip for mediocrity. Our haste to get things done in a world that moves faster and faster has resulted in a complete disregard to high standards and attention to detail.
But, the original intention of this quote came from Sheryl Sandberg and the opinion that you’ll never reach perfection. No one ever has. Releasing your quest for perfection will free you to let go. To stop feeling that you are never good enough. That you have to be everything to everyone. In short, that you could tackle a task to the best of your ability and then let it go, rather than getting stuck in a mode of paralysis by analysis.
ONE MORE SECRET TO LIVING A SLOW LIFE
Sometimes it seems easier to go with the flow, even if that flow is frantic. We have the good fortune to give our children full and rich lives. It can feel good to go fast. To be super productive and achieve things. And it’s tough to say no if you’re a people pleaser. In short, making changes is damn hard and feels like an uphill climb.
As much as we need to stop making excuses, here is another secret on how to choose a slow living lifestyle: we need to break HABITS.
In his book, ‘The Power of Habit‘, author Charles Duhigg explains that every habit starts with a psychological pattern. The first part is the cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. From there, there is the routine which is the behavior itself. And the final step is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the habit pattern in the future.
We are creatures of habit but suppose we slowed down to explore how habitual behavior has generated our frenzied lives? And we chose to break those habits and build ones that allow for more space and slower living?
WILL WE GO BACK TO HOW WE WERE?
What if we sat down with our children or our spouses or our friends —- or on our own —- and debriefed on this pandemic experience? What have we actually enjoyed? What have we missed? Is there something that we don’t want to lose moving forward? What has to go because it doesn’t serve us well? What does a schedule look like if it blended what we truly need and want with more space? What if we crafted an agreement with ourselves or those around us committing to live a slower, more joyful and present life? What if we designed a creed so that when life threatens to consume us again – we can bring it out as a loving reminder.
How you approach your world post-COVID is your choice. Will you let your memory muscle take over and return to the familiarity of previous routines? And, if that serves you well that might be exactly what you want to do.
However, if you and yours were living lifestyles that stretched too thin or infringed on your joy, you may opt to shift that journey on a new path. A journey that allows time and love to seep in.
Intentionally choosing slow living gives us a chance to assess what is truly important, make decisions purposefully instead of out of habit, and weave in more gentle choices that give you space and grace along with the fullness of life.
What is ONE THING that you want to hold on to? Something that has made a difference and will share how to choose a slow living lifestyle. We all learn from each other so I’d love to know more. Reach out anytime.