By Zannah Ryabchuk, Breakthrough Managing Director

There is a paradox at the heart of consistent high performance. Sometimes we have to go slow to go fast, we have to empty our minds to create the space to think, create, invent, solve.

We hear every day from our Breakthrough Community that life is overly hectic, busy-being-busy, and emotionally and physically draining, juggling too many professional and personal ‘priorities’. Many of us are now looking for ways to restore the balance in our lives.  We want to contribute to an organisation with purpose, where we are challenged, stretched and encouraged to grow, without being pushed into overload and overwhelm. Time moves faster and faster and we want to regain our mastery of time, our most precious, non-renewable resource, to feel present in an ever-changing world.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: 

Why am I going so fast?  

How can I slow down?  

In this blog we are going to answer: first, why we are going so fast. Secondly, why slow is better than fast.  Thirdly, how we can slow down to achieve success.  We know that there is a better way of living and performing, where pride evolves from delivering quality over quantity, consistently and sustainably.

Why are we going so fast?

Pace of technological change

The pace of technological change means that communication is instantaneous. The rate of change is exponential, but as human beings we think linearly. This leads to a state of tension and stress. Demands and expectations of faster and faster delivery from leaders and shareholders alike have become normalised. Rapid growth (without considering the cost) is displayed as a badge of honour. A conflation has emerged between efficiency and competition rather than progress. As a result, uncertainty increased and we fail to learn lessons from the past. 

To generate sustainable transformation and growth, to grow in a way that benefits ourselves, our consumers, our communities, and our planet, we can’t measure success quarterly. Long term approaches that build over time are critical. The world may be changing exponentially but that doesn’t mean that we should be swept up in the rush and find ourselves in a swirl of chaos. The cost of this exponential change has been the destruction of our environment, increased social and economic disparity, and has negatively impacted our mental and physical wellbeing. Leaders and individuals need to shift against this tide, and must recognise that it starts with each of us.

Modern life vs historic life and city design

The structure of the family and the ‘designated roles’ within that family have also changed. The way that our cities and towns were designed over the last 150 years does not account for these changes. Where both men and women work, there are added pressures of caregiving for parents or children, running back and forth from a city, to stores, schools, and doctors. Until recently, the added exhaustion of international travel to meetings meant that people have had less time to unwind, less quality time with loved ones. Statistically this disproportionately affects women, but everyone feels the impact.  

The shift to working remotely has the potential, if managed effectively, to alleviate some of these challenges. This is a key moment, an opportunity to evolve the way we live and work, to slow down. The risk is that if not managed effectively, the working day from home will become a 24-hour-work-day-never-ending-cycle where we are expected to always be at work when we are at home.

Isn’t slow boring?

Finally, fast can feel exciting! Our adrenaline is heightened, our sense of movement is confused with momentum, motion feels like progress, when we succeed in the short term we celebrate quick wins, giving us endorphins. But the long-term impact hits when excitement turns to fatigue, and these physiological responses negatively impact our health.

Why being slow leads to success

Silence, time to think, and meditation are habits that the world’s modern billionaires embrace daily. Over the past decade, huge amounts of research have proved the impact of mindset and wellbeing on performance. Exercising to energise our bodies and our minds, and practicing gratitude to ground ourselves how far we have come and to appreciate the here and now, are well known. And yet, how many of us practice them daily? How many of us allow ourselves ‘white space’ weekly or daily to contemplate our current situation, prioritise our outcomes, and visualise our future?

All of these habits are practiced by highly successful people. However, our limiting beliefs continue to constrain us; we think that by working harder, being busier, being fast, we will reach new heights and fulfilment. The result is the opposite.

Slowing down ensures that you take care of your health. You are less likely to suffer anxiety, stroke, and heart attack. Slowing down helps you to gain clarity and make better decisions. Human beings struggle to see problems or to generate solutions when they are in a state of stress. However, when we are calm and happy, our brain opens up solutions, becoming far more creative, innovative, collaborative and productive.

What’s the alternative?

The Slow Living Movement could be a solution to our fast lives. The Slow Living Movement is a lifestyle that emphasises slower approaches to everyday life. This includes our attitude towards fashion, food, work, business and money.

The roots of the Slow Living Movement began with the Slow Food Movement which started in Italy. It’s founder, Carl Honore wrote, 

“It’s a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better.  The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace/  It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed.  Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them.  Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible.  It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

As Honore explains, the Slow Living Movement isn’t about slowing down to a static place without progress, it’s about slowing down enough to move through your day and life with purpose. Physically slowing down improves and expands our experience of the world and makes us feel like we have more, rather than less, time.  Slow also stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic, and Whole – ensuring that we minimise our impact on the environment while we help to better manage ourselves.

How can I slow down?

We can all learn from the principles of the Slow Living Movement:

  1. Reject the modern belief that faster is always better
  2. Value quality over quantity
  3. Make space for what matters
  4. Be intentional with our attention
  5. Embrace imperfection

1-Degree Shift

What 1-degree shift can you make today that will help you to slow down in one area of your life? Here are some suggestions to spark your imagination:

  • Create a 30-minute window of ‘white space’ in your schedule, where you have no plan or agenda
  • Be present and listen fully in your conversations and interactions
  • Disconnect from your devices once a day by switching them off
  • Appreciate nature by going outside, or even spend time looking out of the window
  • Cook your own meals, eat them slowly, and notice how you chew your food
  • Avoid multitasking and focus on one thing at a time
  • Breathe deeply
  • Be grateful
  • Let go of something that you don’t have to do, give it a Full On No
  • Write a Not To Do List
  • Embrace the Italian sentiment of la dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing, to appreciate the simple pleasures in life

Do you agree that you need to slow down? Or do you think that fast is the best route to progress?  

If you want to read more about How to be Full On at Work & at Home while working remotely, you can read our blogpost on this topic.