Woodcut of people attacking giant snail

Slow Down: Rule for Intrepid Living #89

In a world where we’re always told to hurry up, do more, and go faster, one of the most powerful things we can do is slow down.

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You don’t realize it, but you’re probably going too fast. And oddly enough, that’s slowing you down.

I know, it sounds paradoxical, but it’s true. When we rush, we make mistakes. Those frustrate us and our emotional control starts to slip. We start to rush more to make up for it, elevating our heart rate, making us feel more out of control. Our coordination diminishes, as does our cognition. We forget something on the counter, forcing us to get out of the car and walk back into the house to get it. Then we’re really frustrated, maybe swearing, and slamming on the gas in the car as we head to work. All of that hurry, that rush, that frustration is setting the tone for our day, and it isn’t a positive one. That speed is making us more accident prone, less in control, more frustrated, and is counter productive.

What’s the best way to deal with all of that?

Slow down

Sloth on a tree... Sloths know how to slow down.
This guy knows.

My dad used to say, “haste makes paste.” My former Outdoor Education professor often relayed the saying, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Mountaineer and NOLS founder, Paul Petzoldt, used to say, “stop and smoke a cigarette,” before taking emergency action. One of America’s most successful track coaches, Lloyd “Bud” Winter, instructed his athletes to, “Just take it nice and easy.”

What do all of these things have in common? They’re different ways to slow down.

We go too fast

We live in a world that is obsessed with speed, efficiency, and productivity. We expect instantaneous responses and immediate results. But I think something is lost when these are our only focus. Faster and more efficient isn’t always better. After all, premature ejaculation is the quickest and most efficient way to have intercourse, but I would argue that it isn’t the best way — it certainly isn’t the most fun.

Quality trumps speed. High-quality actions may take longer up front, but when you slow down you avoid a great many errors, frustrations, accidents, and problems. For that reason, slow is faster than fast.

How to slow down

It’s hard to slow down when we exist in a world that glamorizes same-day results and instant action. Slowing our pace seems like a surefire way to miss out, but the opposite is actually true — when we slow down, we begin to exert a greater degree of control over ourselves, and by extension, the world around us.

To slow down, start by taking advantage of the body-brain connection. If you find yourself feeling rushed or hurried, slow your breathing. Take long slow inhales, filling the lungs, and then exhale slowly, expelling all the air from your body. Even a couple of minutes of deep breathing will slow your heart rate and enable you to make slower, more methodical decisions.

The next things I recommend is to physically slow down. Reduce the speed at which you walk to about 80 percent of your normal gate. Yes, even when you’re running behind. Especially when you’re running behind — sure, you may be five minutes late instead of two, but you’ll be more collected and in control.

Slow down to speed up

It may sound simple, but if you do these two things, you’ll start to slow down, exercise more control over yourself, and in doing so you’ll begin to exert greater control over your environment and the situations you are in.

In a world that urges you to go faster, embody a little symbolic punk rock rebellion, and slow down.

Punk rock graffiti

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