I remember the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise starts out really slow. The hare almost gets to the finish line but becomes arrogant in his lead and decides to sit next to a tree. The hare falls asleep and the slow and steady tortoise passes the hare to win the race.
The point of this story is to teach perseverance and to see value in other ways of being when the addiction to speed compels us to rush through everything. Our need to do everything quicker, to seamlessly multitask, and to always be “on” to meet growing demand can feel like accomplishment.
The approach that I teach certainly values hard work and forward movement, but all while balancing the need to slow down to recover, regroup, and allow for insight about what you should most be engaged in.
I’m rooting for the hare. The hare runs his fastest, but he knows when to stop and relax a bit. He just needed to set a timer to wake up. It’s the tortoise that represents the nonstop movement narrative. Be slow and steady, instead of inspired and tired.
I’ll take being inspired and tired any day.
It’s the difference between playing music in the background all day and intentionally choosing to listen to music. When it’s just playing, you tune it out, go in and out of your thoughts, and it’s just a layer of your environment. Whereas, when you intentionally listen to dance music with your kids or friends, you jam to every song. Each song is the focus.
The tortoise represents nonstop movement; the hare is inspired and tired.
As professionals set up their practices or as anyone makes the move from a more structured environment in their job to owning their own business, it is easy to stay too busy to notice little things or have any deep thoughts about what you are doing. In other words, you may be living what you thought was your dream, but are you creating the time to take it all in?
How to integrate breaks and boundaries into a busy life
In our mind’s eye, we equate slowing down with stopping. Sure, it can be that. We know the pull to unplug and think we’ll get restored on vacation. But the positive effects of one concentrated getaway are hard to sustain.
Sometimes you’re just beginning to reconnect with yourself when it is time to jump back in. We all know that feeling when the stress begins to creep back in even before we return to our demands. When I talk about slowing down, I’m talking about reducing, eliminating, and stopping. In my version of slowing down, we’re building habits and setting boundaries to open the way for true elimination of mental fatigue and squandered spirit.
Paving the way for a more productive schedule
My approach alternates structured slow down with times of focused and compressed work. Throughout my work with thousands, I see the ability to alternate periods of sprinting and periods of pausing to be one of the greatest determinants of success. Sometimes it’s working sixty-plus hours per week to make a success of a dream business. Sometimes it is building a side-hustle to ease your transition from being an employee to owning your own business. Sometimes the rhythm is about phases of parenting or taking care of another family commitment, such as when you’re sandwiched between taking care of both parents and kids.
The reality is, life isn’t really a marathon where we never stop. Instead, it’s a bunch of sprints and rests; it’s like a pause button and a fast-forward button. What I teach clears the way and shows you how you can create a viable rhythm between work and relaxation that:
- Reduces stress
- Makes you more productive
- Ignites creativity
- Adds structure
- Supports action followed by enjoyment and rest
- Creates a sustainable system