How often do you take a step back to reflect on what you’ve experienced or learnt?
I certainly don’t do it often enough.
Until recently, I thought that doing nothing was the same as wasting time.
My time was spent rushing. Rushing to work. Rushing to the next meeting. Rushing to have lunch in 30 minutes. Rushing through a task, a conversation, a call. Rushing to be on time for my gym class at 7pm. I didn’t like the way I was living, and I didn’t like who I was becoming in the process.
It’s sad that we live in a society that glorifies busyness. Today, busy is how we give meaning to ourselves. Busy makes us feel we’re somebody. That we matter. And we’ve become addicted to it.
In January, I stopped working and started studying almost full-time. It’s a privilege to be able to take the time to do so in midlife, but it’s also a challenge.
As employees, most of our time is driven by the pace and expectations of our employer. And we can use this pressure to justify why we don’t have time to slow down or reflect. When we stop working, however, and our time becomes our own again, one word looms before us every day. The word is CHOICE.
What do I choose to spend my time and energy on today?
What’s really important to me now that the expectations and pressure of others on my time and focus falls away?
Finding your own pace again, and treating your time with the respect and conscious choice it deserves, is not as easy as it sounds. Over the years, we’ve become addicted to the rush of, well….rushing. I went for my first 10km walk in as many years recently. All I’ve ever done was run. Learning to slow down is a learning on its own.
In Transformational Presence, coach and author Alan Seale speaks of “showing up fully and authentically”. It’s not a small ask, and one that is easy to put aside ‘for now’ when you’re working full-time. But once your time becomes your own, the question is more pressing: how do I want to show up in my own life?
This past long, hot summer, I took that time. After six months studying, I promised myself to take a step back to reflect. Every day, I packed my backpack, jumped on my bike and found a quiet, secret little spot in the fields to reflect and meditate…on the courses, the learnings and the people I met.
Here’s what slowing down this summer has taught me:
- Learning happens in layers. There’s the stuff you ‘get’ while you’re in class. Then there’s the stuff that sinks in that night in bed. Walking to class the next day, some more stuff sinks in. But the lightbulb-goes-on kind of learning comes weeks later. It bubbles up from the depths unexpectedly in quiet moments.
- The process is the learning. This has been a big revelation for me personally over the past few months. Answers are not neat little packets of information given to us along the way. Every step in the journey is a part of the answer. And the answer deepens as the journey continues.
- Creativity, insight and innovation happen in the quiet moments.
- Insights can’t grow to become wisdom if we don’t take a step back. There’s a quote that says: “The more knowledge we have, the more wisdom we need to ensure that it is used well.” We should really encourage employees to include time to reflect in their weekly agendas. Just like regular feedback on performance or team-building time. It’s how they – and business – will thrive.
It’s high time we stop glorifying busy and see pushing the pause button for what it really is: taking a step back in order to take a step forward.