Ever heard of the expression, ‘good things come to those who wait’? I would like to change it ever so slightly and give you this advice instead: ‘good things come to those who take it slow.’
If you find yourself being constantly stressed out and overwhelmed at work or at school or in your life in general, this article is for you.
My ex-colleague would call it the ‘zen’ or ‘chill’ attitude to life and to everything that it’s throwing at you. He was the first to introduce me to this approach to how to live your life. It doesn’t involve meditation, as opposed to what you may be thinking (although I should probably get into that as well; to be discussed in a next post, maybe?). But the concept of slowing down is nothing new.
In fact, I discovered that it is a primordial technique in piano playing. It’s a rule, a habit, a must-do when you learn a piece for the first time and especially difficult ones. Actively engaging in what pianists call ‘slow practice’ helps you feel the music, get into the meaning of the patterns of the notes, and develop an elaborate interpretation of the piece—all of this so you can perform it with control and confidence.
How do you apply this ‘slow practice’ concept in real life?
First I have this YouTube video to thank for being so eye-opening and which lead me to write this article in the first place:
It’s a perfectly detailed explanation of the ‘slow down’ concept. Although it is mainly geared towards pianists, it rang a bell for me, as I linked it to my colleague’s ‘zen attitude’ advice.
Especially as he talks about this particular analogy in the video: say you were driving at a curve, which requires you to drive at a maximum of 51 miles/hour to prevent you from missing the curve and falling off a cliff. Would you drive at 50 miles/hour, knowing you are 1 mile away (this close) from death, or would you rather drive at 35-40 miles/hour, knowing you have more leeway to accelerate, if need be, without risking your life?
You don’t need me to tell you the answer.
To sum up, you need to give yourself enough space to BREATHE.
Let’s move on from the piano, and give a hard look at life in general. The opposite of being overwhelmed and stressed out is to be in control, going strong and stable. That way, you give yourself enough leeway to prepare for any stressful eventuality. Basically, if you are always stressed on a regular day, what will happen when you eventually face a stressful day?
You’ll burn out. You’ll break down.
You’ll go over the limit of how much stress you can tolerate. And it’s terrifying.
Let’s take work as another perspective. A normal day at work and the usual pace of tasks shouldn’t be overwhelming 365 days a year. A normal day at work should be just that: normal. (In fact, if the atmosphere is constantly stressful and exhausting, your team may be understaffed or maybe there’s no proper organisation in terms of management and job objectives.)
If a normal day at work is demanding, both in terms of overtime and energy, then what happens during the peak seasons of the industry you work in? Do you… just die? Become another burnt out Elon Musk? How do you take additional work when you are already overloaded?
It’s become a hit in the media to talk about people getting out of their comfort zones and facing immense challenges, but remember that the media only shows you the sensational, not the mundane. And you can’t have sensational without mundane. Get out of your comfort zone, yes. Push yourself to your best potential, yes. Just do it in spikes, not in a linear line. Occasionally: a healthy dose to keep the passion going.
Success comes with patience.
Success never happens overnight, as you’ve heard many times. So allow yourself to slow. down. Master the basics, know the foundations before you take the next step. If you want to be good at what you do, keep doing it. Stay consistent, make it a habit, ingrain it in your routine. It’s just like learning your lines for a role you got at the local theatre group. Or working out to have that perfect body.
Keep. at. it.
Even if you fail. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most importantly, be patient with yourself.
Slowing down is all about taking a step back and staring at your passion or work or life right in the face. It’s about taking the time to take it all from the core and work your way up (if this makes sense).
One last example I’m going to use is the transition from being a university student abroad to going back home to enter the real adult world. It wasn’t easy for me, and I didn’t make it better when I wanted to settle everything at once. I wanted to focus on giving my best on my first job while mastering my new eating habits, my piano practices, my workout routine… it was just too much at once. I not only wanted everything, but I also wanted everything fast and perfect.
Spoiler alert: I failed miserably at all of them. My career progression was a mess; I couldn’t find a workout routine that fit my new lifestyle; I couldn’t control my eating habits and everything else was unstable. Now that I’ve learnt my lesson, I’m going to take baby steps, one thing at a time.
For instance, once I properly settle in my job, I can focus more on mastering my hobbies. I can also start by implementing one habit at a time, like going for a run every Sunday, then as this becomes more ‘natural’ in my routine, I can add other physical exercises in my daily life.
Focus on getting things under control, one step at a time, at your own pace. Soon, you’ll reach where you want to be, slowly yet surely.
D. K. Waye.
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