Every now and then I feel the need to pause, think about and write about why it is important for me to slow down. How about you? And now that I know from my Enneagram* test that I am a “7” it is even more vital. That’s because I have an almost compulsive need to do more, experience more, learn more, research more, have more fun, etc. You can see how critical the concept of slowing down can be for me. But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who is super busy and overwhelmed these days. So, this morning, after listening to one “more” new podcast, I heard a speaker who got me thinking about why we all seem to resist the idea of taking things slower—even when we know better. That’s when I came up with five big myths that I believe are at the root of the problem.
Myth #1: We think the more we hustle the better our lives will be. The idea for this post came from Jeff Bethke, the author of a book titled, “The Hell With The Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World.” While I resisted the idea to listen to more than one of his podcast interviews and have not read the book, I get the idea of letting go of the hustle. Even though I am nearly 65 and sort of “semi-retired” I still often feel like I should be out there hustling my blog, my books, my health, my politics, etc. Do you?
Now I get that there are still things I like to do and intend to accomplish in my life. But the big point that I believe Bethke is making is that we are under the impression, the myth, that if we just keep running as fast as we can that somehow we will be happier and more fulfilled. While the truth of the matter is that finding satisfaction, joy, purpose and meaning in our lives—no matter what things look like on the outside—is the true key to our inner fulfillment. And face it, hustling for anything implies that we aren’t enough and that we don’t have enough. Instead, slowing down and accepting ourselves as we are and seeing the good that is already in our lives is probably what will really make our lives better.
Myth #2 If I don’t stay connected and involved I’ll miss something important going on in the world/life. This myth (or some would call it an excuse) is what we tell ourselves when anyone suggests that we put down our iphone or step away from the computer for even a day. It is also a myth/excuse that we use for refusing to turn off television news—as if it were even remotely possible we would miss something critical if it actually applied to us personally. The real problem is that we are drowning in information and just can’t seem to put on a life-saving jacket. According to Bethke, most people today absorb the same amount of input and information in two days, as a person in the medieval times did during their entire lifetime. Were we really created to be nothing more than receptacles of such overwhelming data? And is it possible that if we try to keep up with that data, we see ourselves as nothing more than computers with skin?
Myth #3 We must stay connected with everyone we know and love 24/7 in order for them or us to be safe. Wasn’t it just over 20 years ago that most phones were landlines and pay phones were the only way to stay in touch when out and about? Yet, in an incredibly short period of time most of us have become addicted and attached to our cell phones so that it is almost inconceivable to leave home without checking to insure we have it with us. Plus, we demand that our spouses, parents, kids and family members have phones so we can stay in touch with them as well—just in case. Now perhaps those that grew up in the digital age know no different. But most of us reading this blog lived the majority of their lives just fine without the 24/7 connection. Sure it is convenient to be able to call or text everyone we know at the slightest impulse, but is that really in our best long-term interest? Again, are we sacrificing meaning, purpose, peace of mind, and wellbeing for that tether?
Myth #4 If I hustle hard now, I can slow down and relax later. Here is another myth/excuse I often tell myself. I tell myself, “Once I get this blog post done, then I can relax.” Or, “Once my next book is published, then I can enjoy myself.” Once…once…once… The trouble is if we put off today what really matters in our lives for tomorrow while we are hustling something else, we might never ever find the fulfillment that we seek. Bethke stresses the idea that the new American Dream seems to be one focused on having and getting as much as possible as quickly as possible. However, as I’ve shared before, “The trouble with winning the rat race is….you’re still a rat!”
Myth #5 I’m the only one who struggles to keep up with the hustle, while everyone else seems to be nailing it! If you watch others on Facebook, observe the ads on television or in magazines, it seems like everyone else is just fine with our frantic pace of life. What’s the saying, “You can have it all!” But like most of us who have lived a certain number of years, we know that is seldom true. And if you do manage to “have it all” for a while, it will catch up with you. We all have to make choices. There are always tradeoffs. Yet unless we know others very intimately, we seldom see what it is that they are sacrificing to keep up the hustle. There will always be people who have more money than I do, are healthier than I am, have bigger homes, nicer cars and better vacations. When I accept that, I can stop comparing my life with other people and I can focus on what matters most to me. If I can slow down on a regular basis and savor what is in front of me, I can find the peace, wellbeing and meaning that I think we all seek.
I suppose I could write more because I’m sure there are even more reasons why we believe we can’t slow down. But I’m going to resist that temptation and take my own advice to slow down right here. After all, the SMART approach is to remember that when we stay conscious and aware we will likely discover that slowing down just might be the best thing we can do right now.
*I wrote about the Enneagram a couple of weeks ago. If interested, here is the link.