In the past few days I’ve been contemplating the pace of life.
What is the ideal pace of life? Does an ideal pace even exist? If so, is it fast, slow, or maybe a mixture between the two? None of the above? Does it vary for each person?
I feel like a strong case could be made for all of the options, and I’m not completely sure of the answer. What I’d like to do now is just present the different sides as I view them, and maybe my perspective will help you develop your perspective. I do feel that to some extent, everyone has a different ideal pace. It will likely depend on the values, goals, aspirations, and circumstances of each individual person. In any event, here are some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of each one.
1. Life in the fast lane! What is it that makes a rapid-paced life so appealing? Well, getting a lot of things done is a good start; accomplishing goals left and right doesn’t leave much time for lollygagging around. Plus, having a sense of urgency is crucial to time management. Otherwise, tasks may end up taking longer than expected and overflow into time for other tasks (we’ve all written a paper in five hours that could’ve been written in two if we just worked diligently). But with a sense of urgency comes less relaxation and possibly more stress.
I like to do lots of things (clubs, sports, friends, school, church, etc.) and it seems like having a hurried pace is a necessary evil sometimes. Eating quick meals, running out the door, and coming home late every night are accepted as trade-offs for a jam-packed (but enjoyable) schedule.
There are so many opportunities available to us in life, and spreading ourselves thin may be exhausting at times but very fulfilling at others. For example, I am fortunate enough to attend a college with opportunities for just about anything imaginable. I take advantage of this by active participation in just about a dozen different extracurricular activities. But this means I’m always busy. But what’s the cost of not taking those opportunities? Less social interaction, skill development, sense of community, fun, return on college investment, and so on. When looking at it that way, maybe being constantly busy isn’t so bad after all.
But on the other hand…
2. Life in the slow lane can be good too! It’s important to savor and enjoy life, which often requires taking the foot off the gas. After all, the scenery becomes blurry when we’re cruising at 100+ mph. That’s why nature walks are so highly suggested in the health and wellness field. A walk requires you to move slowly, and by moving slowly you can release tension from your mind and body and admire nature’s beauty. This is conducive to self-reflection and other thoughts that a “busy-every-second-of-the-day” schedule might not allow.
In recent books I’ve read, Deepak Chopra and Norman Vincent Peale discuss pace as well. Chopra, in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, talks about practicing silence, of slowing down our minds and not speaking. He says “Stillness is the first requirement for manifesting your desires, because in stillness lies your connection to the field of pure potentiality that can orchestrate an infinity of details for you.” Dr. Peale, in The Power of Positive Thinking talks about how accelerated our lives have become and how people are destroying their physical and mental bodies because of it. He says “The pace of modern life must be reduced if we are not to suffer profoundly from its debilitating overstimulation and super-excitement.”
I recently had a conversation with someone for three hours (face to face!). It’s shameful to admit that even though I had no urgent work to attend to, I still felt a bit uneasy at times. In the hurried pace of my life, every second of every day being directed at accomplishing some goal, I wasn’t used to slowing down and talking with someone for that long. It’s just not a common occurrence any more, not with emails, Facebook, texting, and phone calls becoming the norm. But why not? Why not talk to someone for three hours? Why not relax and focus on one individual for a bit? The texts will be there when we get back. But I think this demonstrates the effects of too much fast-pace in our lives. If we move too fast all of the time, we may actually un-learn how to slow down. And by forgetting how to slow down, we miss all of the profound benefits of it.
3. Ultimately, I think pace of life comes down to balance. I know that sounds like a cliche answer, but I think that in general, life is about balance (balanced diet, balanced budget, balanced team, balanced schedule – all of which are better than the unbalanced versions). If our pace of life is always in high gear, pedal to the metal, eventually we will burn out. But if we move too slowly, opportunities may pass us by and go to those moving at a swifter pace. However, and this is an incredibly important distinction to make, a slow pace does not mean becoming lazy!! You can have a slow pace and still work twenty hours a day. The turtle (as opposed to the hare) wasn’t lazy; he just moved slowly. Now, I wouldn’t suggest this for Olympic sprinters. But, even though sprinters are in high gear when it comes to running, they don’t have to be in high gear with their families and friends, or with their jobs. It’s about balance.
As stated, this topic has been on my mind for some time now. Unfortunately, I don’t know the pace of life that suits you best, but I do think that to some extent, it will be balanced. And I hope that this encourages you to think about your own life-pace, and not just accept it “as is”. You do, after all, have control over it and the power to change it.
Some questions to ponder: When is high-gear appropriate in your life? When is slowing down appropriate? What is the “default” pace at which your life operates, and is that contributing or detracting from the quality of your life? What pace do you need to have to live the life you want? To fulfill your dreams?
“Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it: Spend time with your families.” ~Colin Powell
Photo by cienpies