One evening I was slowly eating dinner with Heather. She waited and waited for me to finish and finally asked me to hurry up. I told her I was mindfully savoring every bite of the delicious meal. She suggested I “savor faster.”

“Fast savoring” is an apt oxymoron for our time. We have an epidemic of fractured focus and fatal distractions in our society. As Edward Hallowell writes in Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap, “some of us are simply unable to slow down. Others frankly don’t want to. In today’s world, free time or downtime — time to do nothing but just hang out and think or feed or listen and watch — has become as rare as silence. Instead, we hop to. Gotta have action. Keep driving, don’t stop for long don’t pause to linger, wonder, or think. Those activities are slow, which is often simply a code word for difficult or demanding. No, the modern imperative is to keep moving, eyes roaming, attention on scan, cell phone in hand.”

Slowness is a Superpower

In the whirlwinds of rapid change, we can become victims of a speeding frenzy. It’s easy to confuse taking care of busyness with effectiveness. A big challenge of our time is finding the right speed in an ever-faster world.

Author and speaker Carl Honoré has been called “the world’s leading evangelist for the Slow Movement.” His many books, TED Talks, and presentations show how we can thrive in a speeding world by slowing down. “The constant pressure to do everything faster means we race through life instead of actually living it. When you use the SLOW gear, everything falls into place. You connect more, create more, focus more and achieve more. You become more.”

Mindful Speeding: Slow Down to Think About Your Thinking

Slowing down, paying attention, refocusing, and strategically using our time speeds up our effectiveness. Cognition and mindfulness help us to think about our thinking.

We all have cognition. BUT…we often don’t have metacognition or awareness of our automatic thinking patterns. Cognitive psychology pioneer, Aaron Beck, modernized ancient wisdom on the value of paying attention to how our mind works and our thinking.

Here are a few suggestions to slow down, step back, and better control speeding thoughts:

  • Practice regular meditation to keep yourself centered and relaxed. Take meditation training or experiment with this powerful force on your own. There are many online resources available. I’ve used the free app, InsightTimer, for many years. It has over 100,000 guided meditations, courses, workshops, and countless background music/sounds.
  • Watch your mind. Monitor your thoughts. You might even say out loud, “There’s worry,” “I see anxiety is back,” or, “Today’s to-do list is clamoring for attention.”
  • Get in the habit of monitoring your emotional state. “How am I feeling right now?” Observe your “monkey mind” (how Eastern philosophers describe our racing thoughts) and smile as you watch it racing to chase one shiny thought after another.
  • How are you framing turbulence, adversity, or changes in your life? Are you making them bigger or smaller? What color or tone are you accenting? What is the reality that the frames you’re using create for you?
  • Do you often wear R.A.P. glasses? Is your natural tendency toward pessimism or optimism?
  • Notice how you explain good or bad events. A pessimistic explanatory often means we P and should ourselves. The ABCDE model has been proven to help reframe pessimistic thoughts.
  • Ensure you take vacations and regular time off to recharge your batteries and keep your life in balance.
  • Adapt the mind of a photographer. Be still. See the light, texture, and colors around you. Observe without judging.
  • Physical fitness is a big factor in how we feel. If you need to get into shape, consider hiring a personal trainer, getting nutritional counseling, joining a weight loss program based on lifestyle change (not fad diets), find a “fitness buddy,” join a gym or recreational club.
  • Practice regular humor therapy on yourself. Look for the humor in your situations. Hang around funny people. Read the comics, listen to comedians, watch funny movies, or just practice belly laughs in front of the mirror.
  • Study books that deal with deeper issues like the soul, mysticism, spirituality, prayer, purpose, and meaning. Combine this with meditation and reflection.
  • If your current work is draining and exhausting you as white-knuckle each day? You have three choices: (1) do nothing but wish for your “fairy job mother” to magically appear and straighten out your life, (2) realign your work with your values and strengths, or (3) figure out what your ideal job is and go find or create it.
  • Carve out regular R & R (reflection and renewal) time for yourself. This is vital oxygenation so you can more effectively lead others.
  • Beware of confusing your work or roles with who you are. Separate your being and innate value from your accomplishments or failures.

A report on crowd control techniques provides a powerful example of slowing down to speed up. A major — and sometimes deadly problem — at large venues with huge crowds, such as stadiums or concerts, is everyone jamming the exits when it’s over and time to leave. Engineers in Japan found a counterintuitive solution; obstacles speed up the pressing hordes of people eager to get home. Strategically placed obstacles slow the crowd down just enough to better control the flow of people through narrower exit points. This allows more people to exit more quickly.

In “The Creed of Speed,” The Economist advises, “Forget frantic acceleration. Mastering the clock of business is about choosing when to be fast and when to be slow.”