You may be looking around you, shaking your head.
You see people everywhere rushing around, seemingly in a race to nowhere. And you may conclude that society is out of control.
Yet – amazingly – those who rush around, speed on the highways, talk fast and check their smartphone every 30 seconds – feel as though they are on top of the world.
The speed addicts don’t see themselves as flawed. They see themselves as progressive.
Mental health professional Jonathan Alpert, known as the “Wall Street Therapist” says millennials in particular, proud of their fast lifestyle, are reporting mysterious headaches in record numbers.
Many are turning to drugs.
Instant communication made possible by technology, insane work schedules and a gradual devaluing of human contact have all conspired to make “speed” for the sake of “speed” the ultimate goal.
We live in an age that waits for no one.
But the price we are paying, as individuals, and society as a whole, is enormous. Friendships and family connections are dying because we are “too busy.” Lives are lost as drivers feel the urgent need to check a text message. Millions are becoming diabetic, the result of poor eating and endless stress. Decisions and judgement are clouded by rushed thinking.
Being focused is increasingly rare.
A recent report called “Life in the Fast Lane” found that 85 per cent of adults who were surveyed suffer from indigestion, the result of eating too fast. 62 per cent reported “reduced interest in sex” because of a lack of time.
One in five of us work over the weekend to get finished what we couldn’t do during the week.
Most people report that they cannot remember the last time they had a full 8 hours of sleep.
It is now “normal” for people to check their smartphone right in front of us, in the middle of a conversation.
Being rude in the workplace is now also accepted as “that’s just the way it is these days.”
Mistakes, some of them fatal, happen every day due to needless speed.
When I walk down the street, I feel as though I am in a race. I can hear the footsteps behind me, rapidly trying to catch up and surpass me. People even walk fast. They are either chronically late, or their addiction to speed makes them do everything as fast as possible, whether it’s necessary or not.
Older people I speak with often tell me that they’re glad they won’t be around much longer because “this world is too busy to care.”
Many of us are asking: When will it stop? How can I get off this treadmill?
“I got fed up of doing everything fast.”
About a year ago, I got fed up of doing everything fast. I was tired of a life void of compassion, broken relationships and feeling as though I was falling down a mountainside, unable to stop.
I became mindful, putting my brain into the present. I blocked out large periods of time to focus on writing and doing work that is important to me. I turned off all social media notifications, my phone ringer as well, and closed my email program for a few hours.
At first, I felt lost, anxious and very uncomfortable. In a world that worships, and even rewards speed, it’s not easy to fight back.
I scheduled “quiet times” in my calendar.
I even changed the way I talk to people. Now, rather than trying to think of how I will answer someone – I just listen to what they are saying. I turn off my phone (and show them I am doing that). I don’t interrupt them. I make eye contact, and wait until they are exhausted – for all of their thoughts, emotions and reflections to come to a natural end. Only then do I speak.
An amazing thing has happened as a result of these changes. Not only do I feel better, but people tell me they really enjoy being in a conversation with me. Apparently, I have become a rare person who actually wants to hear what people have to say.
Frankly, I find that a little sad. Have we become so disconnected that when one of us slows down and listens – to be empathetic, to understand and be supportive – we stand out from the crowd in a big way?
Physical ailments I developed over the years, due to being under constant stress, are miraculously leaving my body now as I take “relaxation” breaks through the day.
As bizarre as it sounds, we need to remind ourselves to relax.
I close my eyes, gently move my head and think only of positive thoughts.
I call it “being in tune with the universe.”
I eat slower, drive only in the right lane where everyone is not trying to tailgate me and now start my day, not by checking emails, but by grabbing a coffee and spending 10 minutes listening to the birds outside.
I’m also encouraging others to live a more peaceful life of inner calm by giving them the time they need – to make their decisions, return my phone calls – even to help me when I’m in need.
Before my efforts to slow down, I found that I was often stressed for no reason at all. My mind and body had become so accustomed to stress, that I wanted it – even needed it. Being in a heightened state of alert was the default. My brain kept telling me that I needed to move fast in order to survive this world.
If you’re in a job where the culture is one of needless speed – rushing, just for the sake of it – think about getting out of there. Your life may be at stake.
Alternatively, remind your boss that a slower approach can improve accuracy, reduce mistakes and cut costs. “Slow” makes good business sense. In my own business, I often question arbitrary deadlines. Not everything has to be (and often should not be) done now or yesterday.
If people ignore you when you’re talking to them, explain that this behavior was considered very rude, before technology took over our lives.
You put little value on yourself when you allow others to disrespect you. I have eliminated such people from my life. I have fewer friends, but those I do have, are genuinely interested in me, and I in them. The transition has been immensely rewarding, and I do not miss those who had “no time for me.”
Eat slower, walk slower, exercise, turn off screens before going to bed, resist the urge to interrupt people when in conversation, schedule quiet times, spend time in nature, and turn off distractions as much as you can.
A transformation will take place. You will become a real human being, capable of contemplative thought.
Today, I still struggle with the pace of things. But overall, I have my life back. The one that gives me the gift of what Albert Einstein once called “the pleasure of thinking.”
What if we all slowed down, even just a bit?
Would we have more fulfilling lives? Would we have a better world – one in which people took the time to truly understand one another so they could care about each other, rather than criticize and hate?
What are we doing to ourselves? Life isn’t a practice run. It’s the real deal. Let’s slow down to enjoy it, while it lasts.