Take Five, The Power of A Pause
(Read this in less than six minutes)“Don’t miss anything. Don’t miss the game. Don’t miss the performance, don’t miss the movie, don’t miss the show, don’t miss the dance. Go see everything and experience all you possibly can.” ~ Jim Rohn
When I get to the end of this article, I’ll explain the church in the picture. I promise, stick around.
I’ve lived my life stuck in high gear, trying to jam as much into every waking hour as I can. I walk fast when I don’t need to and I always talk too fast. I instinctively stab the “close door” button in elevators every time. I yearn for passing lanes in the mall and I’m terrible at waiting. I’m a checkout lane hopper. I always try to get “just-one-more-thing” done, so I often run a few minutes late no matter where I’m going. I measure my self-worth to a large extent by how much I’ve accomplished in a day and I’ve been pretty much that way as long as I can remember. I’m honestly embarrassed sometimes by the way I act.
Does this resonate with anyone? I know it must because I just read that “close door” buttons on elevators are usually the most worn even though they are often not even connected! (Truth!) A lot is being written these days about hurry sickness. It’s legit. It’s considered to be an actual disease defined as “the constant need to do more, faster, even when there’s no objective reason to be in such a rush”. Our “busy badge” is even applauded in many instances but it actually increases the body’s output of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and has been linked with weight gain and heart disease. Oh, great!
Here’s the conundrum, folks. I love Jim Rohn’s encouragement to make the most of every minute and live life to the fullest, believe me, I do! But somehow in the quest to find our why and make every day count and make all the right choices so we’re in alignment with the kind of person we are striving to become and always seeking purpose and meaning in life even though we never know how long our life will be and, and (insert a pause here to take a breath), and yet we have to find some kind of happy balance between going, doing, becoming and taking time to smell the roses. That’s a pretty tough gig, would you agree?
I wholeheartedly believe the absolute best way to learn something really, really well is to teach it. To break down all the small steps in any process until you can explain it very, very simply. That, my friends, is exactly why I’m so determined to have you help me and we can help each other find that sweet spot, the happy place where we’re living life intentionally and on purpose but not at Mach 5 with our hair on fire because you know what? In the long run, I’ll be darn if Aesop wasn’t right again when he wrote about the wise tortoise and the hapless hare; in the long run, slow and steady really does the trick.
That’s why you’ll continue to see more and more about the practice of mindfulness and the wisdom of simplicity. In a world that’s pretty much gone nuts with speed and constantly being “on” and never disconnected, we’ve reached a tipping point. The pendulum can only swing so far in one direction before it has to swing back the other way. Mindfulness has become mainstream and is finding its way into every part of life; in the workplace, in the classroom, in spiritual practices.
So what do the experts say we should do to “reverse the curse” of our addiction to speed? Unfortunately, I know of no twelve step program for this problem but there are some steps that are mentioned again and again. Thankfully they are small and easy to manage until we get the hang of taking life a little slower. Here are five that come up often.
- Begin the day with a short pause. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and simply breathe before grabbing the cell phone and checking emails or messages. Even better, think of things you are grateful for or spend a few minutes reading something uplifting or inspiring. Establishing a good frame of mind in the first minutes of wakefulness will pay dividends all day.
- Take mini-mindfulness breaks a few times a day. When you begin to feel that tightness of trying to get through your long to-do list, take a quick mental break. Even 5 minutes of getting up, walking around, getting a bit of fresh air will help you regain your focus. Humans were not meant to work for several hours without mentally “coming up for air.”
- Quit trying to multitask all the time. Few things are more over rated than trying to so several things at once. Focus on the task at hand and you will get through your list not only faster but with fewer mistakes.
- Put no more than three things on your to-do list. For real. Write down the big ones first, the ones that will actually make a difference. If you get nothing else done, you will have accomplished a lot. You’ll get real good at deciding. When those are done you can make another list.
- Stop before you drop. This one took me about 35 years to learn. Be smarter than me. It’s okay to leave some things undone. Nothing is worth the constant sacrifice of sleep (except maybe getting through the first weeks of parenthood.) An adequate amount of sleep is critically important to a strong immune system and mental clarity. Too little sleep is even linked to weight gain and premature aging.
I think we can work on those things, can’t we? As always, be gentle with yourself and gradual, yet firm in your approach to becoming the best version of yourself. I love the words of Saint Francis de Sales. “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about redeeming them, begin every day anew.”
Oh, did I say I’d tell you about the church in the picture? About a hundred times, I’ve driven by a striking structure that’s quite visible from the Interstate and thought to myself, “I’ll stop there sometime.” Well, my brother has said the same thing but this time, he did stop and the instant he entered the space he felt a peaceful presence that will stay with him forever. Every time he goes by it again, he’ll think of those precious minutes and remember the feeling it gave him. Out of a 168 hour week, he paused for 30 minutes or so and took the stunning photos that I’m sharing with you. That’s what a pause can do. What are we waiting for?
You say you want to go see this breathtaking place yourself? Here you go!