I’m asking simply because people appear to be moving faster and faster. I see it mainly on the road, but also in check-out lines, in shopping aisles, and frankly I HEAR it in conversations. And when working with clients, especially couples, I discover that each individual is in a big, big hurry to say what he/she feels the need to say. I sometimes hear myself suggesting: take a step back, slow down, think about what you want to say …
Perhaps the easiest “test” for rushing for almost all of us, since we are frequently driving a car, is to check on behavior in traffic. So here’s the first question:
– How hard is it for you to drive at the speed limit, especially in zones that are 35 to 45 mph?
I often suggest to clients who express moderate to extreme stress to test themselves with a “speed limit exercise.” Simply drive the speed limit and watch for two things: 1) how it feels to YOU; and 2) what you observe in the driving behavior of others. So what happens? Most people frankly dislike trying this exercise, and perhaps even hate it. So what’s going on? While I think it will surface many different attitudes or feelings, most find it quite stressful to SLOW DOWN when in fact it should be relaxing. It should feel a little less stressful to move a bit slower. So if it doesn’t it’s a good idea to explore what’s going on.
Most people drive too fast when it’s not at all necessary, and in fact, causes more accidents in traffic to and from work. At the most simple level, many just get caught up in the behavior of the majority on the road …which is driving too fast. And most count on the “knowledge” there’s that 5 mile window allowed before being pulled over for a traffic ticket, AND that somehow allows pushing the envelope just a little. Next question:
– Are fast drivers actually getting to a destination faster than slower drivers? Test that idea by identifying a car that flys by you and see if that vehicle actually ends up at the same red light where you arrived a few seconds later. BUT as a client once reported, “I feel like I’m losing a contest when I let drivers pass me!” Do I actually need to say “that’s not a great sign for the person’s stress level?”
If it’s really hard for you to slow down, please pay attention to the feelings that surface when you try it. You truly aren’t going to be late if you go slower …well, maybe two or three minutes? And next ask:
– Is this challenge to drive slower hard because I rush in other parts of my life more than I realize?
Just think of the speed limit test as an indicator that it’s a good idea to look at your “speed” in general. Rushing through life keeps people from BEING PRESENT in THIS moment …from experiencing the “juice” in life — in both personal and work relationships. If you are rushing to the next thing, the next meeting, the next conversation, you are missing far too much of the NOW!
And if I rely on my years of listening to individuals describe the conflict, the challenges, and the pain in personal and work relationships, it’s far too regularly about people just not taking the TIME to talk things through; to finish conversations; or listening closely; and allowing the other person to COMPLETE what they are saying before interrupting to make your own point. It’s again about MOVING TOO FAST to get to something ELSE …even if you couldn’t accurately describe what the SOMETHING ELSE OR NEXT might be.
Basically, rushing allows us to be less present — to FEEL LESS of what we likely need to feel but are perhaps too fearful to feel … and in my experience with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in therapy or workshops or speeches or consulting …fear stops most of us. And the fear is typically unrealistic. Regardless it’s common and I think it makes many of us rush …to SPEED UP …to create more stress and consequently to rush even more.
So what’s the worst thing that could happen to you if you decide to move a little more slowly …with more intention, with more focus, with more listening both to YOURSELF and to the OTHER PERSON? Just don’t try the most difficult thing first. Start by experimenting with the speed limit test. Even pay attention to how much you rush around at work or to and from lunch, or through your day in general. Take your time and see if you feel better …maybe a little less stressed. You do deserve to feel better. And as always, if you have questions, talk to someone …and always feel free to contact me.