Here’s an idea that I’ve heard before, but used to think was pure BS. If you want to go fast, slow down. I never believed it. My type-A, High ID style, go for it attitude says drive harder, drive faster. But I have learned a strange fact in the past year. You need to slow down to go faster. You need to take some time for solitude and mindfulness.
This started for me as a journey last year when I was at our FocalPoint International Conference. We had a speaker who was a retired Buddhist monk talking about mindfulness. Now, first, I didn’t know you could be a retired monk. But I guess that’s for another day. He spoke about mindfulness and led us in a mindfulness exercise. I have to admit, my southern Bible-belt upbringing was a little uncomfortable at first. But after practicing these techniques, I’ve learned to make them part of my habits so that I can be a better version of myself.
Slowing down to speed up
One thing I hear about athletes when they move up a level, whether from High School to College or from College to Pros, they talk about how they have to adjust to the speed of the game.
Earlier this year I was listening to an interview with a player with my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team. He’s a sophomore who is having a great start to his second season. He’s an extremely quick player. But this year, he is playing with much more control. He’s still fast, but you can see that he is in control of his movements and is less reckless on the court.
In the interview, he said that “the game had slowed down for him”. In other words, he doesn’t feel rushed while making those quick moves. He feels like it is part of his natural speed.
When asked what he attributed it to, he said that he had started a morning ritual of practicing mindfulness meditation with scripture reading and prayer. I was blown away that this Sophomore in college has discovered something that I am just now figuring out at 55 years of age!!!
Signs you need to slow down
First, you must decide whether you need to slow down. Most of you do. If you are reading this, you most likely need to. But here’s a brief list:
- You lie awake in bed because you cannot turn off your brain and calm down for the night. That voice in your head won’t let you sleep.
- You keep a radio, podcast, music, TV or another device playing at all times because you can’t focus in silence
- You never take time to just stop and pause. Whenever you get a break, you do something (email, text, social media, etc.)
- You hate being alone
- You never write notes in your journal just for yourself
If any of these sound like you. Then you are a likely candidate for needing to take some time to slow down. Read on and learn some techniques to do this.
Steps to slow down to go faster
I know you because you are me. You don’t have time. As soon as I say this, you say “there’s no way”. Bear with me. Try it. Just for a week. Then two.
Schedule time each day for some time alone. Start small. Carve out 5 or 10 minutes. It’s best to do this early in the day. If you have a door to your office, close it. If your computer is on, lower the lid or put it in sleep mode. Put your phone away from reach (preferably inside a drawer or in the next room).
If you have other chairs in your office, choose one you normally don’t sit in. Make this a special place for you to sit. Your “quiet place”.
In these 5-10 minutes, start small. Start by just relaxing and freeing your mind of its immediate worries. Focus on your breathing and what you are physically feeling in your body. By doing this, you block out all those external drivers that are taking you down those rabbit holes. We want you to relax. And the only way to keep them out of your mind is to fill it with something else.
Next Step Mindfulness
Once you’ve practiced this, I would suggest learning some medication or mindfulness techniques. There are many sources on the internet that can help you with this. There are audios that you can listen to, YouTube videos as well. There’s even some cool “mindfulness music” that you can play as a way of helping block those outside thoughts from entering your quiet presence.
Research shows that meditation practices actually alters your brain chemistry over time and helps you handle stress more effectively. It doesn’t happen after one session. But it can happen over time.
In the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”, Author Amy Morin suggests these ideas for practicing meditation:
- Sit in a relaxed position
- Focus on your breath
- Return your consciousness to your breath when your mind wanders
And to take it deeper, she suggests these steps for practicing mindfulness:
- Scan your body, paying close attention to every part, feeling any sensations or stress
- Count to Ten slowly, not allowing your mind to wander
- Consciously observe every object around you
- Eat and savor every aspect of each bite. Savoring every aspect and exploring it with all of your senses
Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes through that last list. But I promise you this. If you want to learn what it means to see life in slow motion, then you should try this. Park the eyeroll just for a few weeks. Set aside some time and practice mindfulness techniques. You will likely see changes to your physical self as well as your mental well being.
And a side note for my Christian friends reading along. I have incorporated this into my prayer-life, and believe that it has greatly enhanced that as well. Email me if you’d like to discuss.
As a performance coach, I often work with clients who need to find ways to maximize their performance. Slowing down and practicing these techniques is just one suggestion for those trying to raise their performance in this busy world. If you’d like to learn more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to share more about these techniques and other ideas.