Slow down, you move to fast.
You got to make the moment last. – Simon and Garfunkel
Ten years ago I bought a book entitled Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey. The fact that it took me ten years to finally read it is a hint about the speed at which Iâ€™ve been living. Or perhaps, I really needed to read it this year.
I do know the importance of being fully in the moment, and yet, somehow, I havenâ€™t been living that way. Iâ€™ve experienced extended times where my thoughts, beliefs, values and actions are in synch. Like a well oiled machine, everything falls into place, work feels like play, and I feel like Iâ€™m living on purpose. Ahhhh, yesâ€¦those are the good days. And once youâ€™ve tasted this way of life, it is hard to live without it.
Remember a time when you were overflowing with enthusiasm, imagination, exploration, and curiosity? Life was just one big adventure. When you fell down, you got back up, full of confidence and energy. What if you could experience this groovy state of being most days? Is it possible? I think perhaps it is. And no, Iâ€™m not living a charmed life (trust me). But Iâ€™d like to share the ingredients with you for living in a state of creativity and serenity.
This is where Slowing Down to the Speed of Life comes in. The premise is to be fully present in the moment, not one step removed from life. Take a deep breathe and be where you are. Clear your mind of all other activity except the one thing you are focusing on. For now, stop worrying about tomorrow and reliving yesterdayâ€¦because the only thing that is real is right now. This moment is real, every other moment (past and future) is just in your imagination.
The Power of Perception
Our thoughts create the reality we perceive and we can control our thoughts. So what channel are you tuned in to? What if your innate happiness is like a 100 watt light bulb, burning brightly every day? â€œThe light we see in our lives is limited by the aperture of our thinking in the moment.â€
There was something about the light bulb metaphor that woke me up. Now, when the world starts looking dark, I realize that I can open my eyes and find the light by the way I think.
Two Modes of Thinking
The biggest lesson for me in this book was the importance of recognizing the two modes of thought and learning how to shift into the most effective mode based on the moment. The two modes of thought, according to Carlson and Bailey are:
- analytical â€“ resembles the way a computers process information, storing existing data and dealing with situations that require solutions where all variables are known. Analytical thinking works extremely well when we have all the pieces of the puzzle. The downside comes when we use the analytical mode when we donâ€™t know all the variables; this leads to mental churning and rethinking the problem without results. The repeated use of process thinking when all the variables are not known can cause stress, anxiety, worry, depression and many more negative emotions. The analytical mode of thinking is so highly valued in society that we overemphasize it and neglect the free-flow mode
- free-flow â€“ best suited for solving problems when one or more variables are unknown. It is also known as effortless thinking, creative intelligence or reflective mode. The primary purpose of free-flow thinking is to enjoy life while operating at peak performance and efficiency. Perhaps you think of it as intuition, creativity, inspiration, wisdom or insight. Flow thinking allows us to use info we have in memory but in creative and efficient ways. In free-flow, thinking takes no effort. Effort, in fact, will shut down the free-flow mode.
After reading these definitions, I realized how much energy Iâ€™ve been wasting applying the analytical mode at the wrong time. So, time for me to recognize that Iâ€™m in the driverâ€™s seat and live life at my speed, right here, right now.
Now, I leave you with two quotes:
Instead of living at the speed of life, we move too quickly, missing what we already have, right in front of us, and look for something else. Itâ€™s almost as though weâ€™d rather be anywhere other than where we are.â€ â€“ Slowing Down to the Speed of Life
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not when I die, discover that I had not lived. –Henry Thoreau
P.S. In case you wonder, I donâ€™t think any one book has the complete solution to living life fully. This is an important piece of the puzzle for me that I balance with lessons from Getting Things Done and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (to name two).
What you are describing is also the basis of Buddhist philosophy. If you are so inclined I would recommend for your reading pleasure “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by the Dalai Lama. Another interesting book in this area is “The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life” by Cecile Andrews. It has a bit more of an anti-consumerist view, but I found it thought-provoking. (She also quotes Thoreau frequently.)
Awesome recommendations Jason! And would you believe that I just watched the Dalai Lama’s archived webcast from the Texas Union? I’m throwing both of these books on my “reading list”.
I can’t wait to talk to you about this in person.
Lovely post, I’m going to use these ideas right now. Very cool indeed, imo, thank you.
As the song goes…”where have all the good times gone”. Hippies these days are too strung out. They are too health conscious and read too much gobbeldygook. I feel sad at the whole new rich so called “cyber hippies”. What ever happened to protesting on the grass. Now It’s…the secret…this…and ….what the bleep…that…I thing the indoor couch potato hippy has taken over. I miss the flowers in the hair.
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