Slow down

In a day and age where speed is king, an essay about slowing down may ring a bit out of touch. But I argue that slowing down is more necessary than ever. Our lives are full of stress and that stress ultimately leads to medical conditions. We don't sleep enough. We eat horrible diets. It feels like we need to fit more and more activity into less and less time.

What if you slowed down? What would you lose? Perhaps you’d be less competitive. Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll miss out. We all have a finite amount of time. Society pushes us to cram in as much as we can, but what if we chose a different route? What if we chose quality over quantity? Instead of accomplishing many things poorly, we can accomplish fewer things better.

Let's be clear, I'm not telling you to be lazy. I'm simply saying that we should prioritize our activities. The Internet makes it possible for you to study and learn about virtually anything. That’s a blessing and a curse all at the same time. One cannot possibly absorb all of the information available today, we must instead decide, “What do I care about? What matters to me?” These are questions that only you can answer. Society may try to answer for you, but living according to others’ standards will likely lead to dissatisfaction.

Have you ever stopped to think about why you’re so busy? It's probably because you need to pay the bills. You may argue that you have no choice in the matter. The other day I was talking with my girlfriend, Kate, about how I enjoy adulthood more than childhood, because of the former’s freedoms. I like the fact that I can choose what to do with my time. Most of the drudgery that society deems mandatory is actually choice in disguise. Is your cell phone bill necessary, or did you choose to have a cell phone? Is student debt obligatory, or did you choose to go to college? Is your job nonnegotiable, or did you choose to work for someone else? If we really want to change our lives we need to start changing our choices. We need to become more aware of the ramifications of small decisions.

So yes, slowing down means that you won’t be able to accomplish as much as you do now. But much of what you're doing now is probably not as important as you think. Imagine you’re going to die in one year, what will you do with your remaining time? Will your habits and routines change? I suspect the answer for most of us would be “yes”.

So how can you cut through the noise, and live a better life?  First, you need to take a break from your goals. I know that sounds like heresy coming from me, but it's foolish to aggressively pursue unqualified goals. I’d hate to see you charge forward with your objectives only to find that accomplishing them is unfulfilling. We’re stepping away from goals to give you time to decide what you really want to do with your life. What are your values? Why do you do the things that you do?

Now that you’ve stopped making plans, you should step away from the noise. Go on regular technology sabbaticals. Abandon social media, and instead interact with people in the real world. Go for a walk in nature without your phone. Turn off your television, and stop reading the news for a little while. Hell most of the stuff in the news is garbage anyway. Stop consuming information long enough to allow your brain to process the information you've already consumed. How can you form your own opinions and desires if you're constantly listening to the opinions and desires of other people?

Who gives a shit about productivity when you’re on your deathbed? I suspect that you'll wish you had more time with your loved ones, or that you took that trip to Europe. We put these things off because we believe we’re supposed to do something else. We're supposed to be “responsible” adults. What if living an intentional life is the best way to contribute to our communities? The world needs fewer consumers and more dreamers. We have enough gadgets and gizmos, but we don't have enough vision. Wake up and slow down.