Take Your Foot Off the Gas

I regularly find that I’m in a hurry to get things done (I rush and rush until life’s no fun…), and I often have no idea why. I just find that I’m rushing. I rush to get ready in the morning, to get my kids out of the house and into the car; I rush them into their classrooms at pre-school so that I can rush to work. I eat quickly, I walk quickly, I write quickly, I talk quickly . . . and I drive quickly. I am constantly weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, waiting until the last minute to change lanes for an upcoming turn or exit. But it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve tried to pay attention to, and rectify, my driving habits.

A curious thing happens, though, when I realize I’m speeding. Often times I’ll look down at the speedometer, realize I’m driving well over the speed limit, and I’ll let up a little bit on the accelerator in an attempt to slow down gradually to a (more) legal speed. Interestingly, and I can’t explain it, I’ll watch and even though I’m easing up on the pedal the speedometer just doesn’t move at all. Even though I’m easing up on the pedal, my car just doesn’t slow down. Or at least I think I’m easing up. It feels like I’m easing up. I’m trying to ease up.

The reality is, at least for me, if I want to slow down at all, I have to take my foot completely off the pedal.

What I’m really learning, though, is that this is the case across all other aspects of my life. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a challenge I had been given to create space in my life so that those things that are most important could come into better focus. It spoke of the graphic design/advertising concept of White Space. I forwarded that challenge on to you guys. And I accepted that challenge myself.

Two weeks later I wrote a post about just how much one can accomplish over the course of a day.*

The problem is that I’m in a constant state of hurriedness and more often than not I try to slow down my life the same way I try to slow down my car. I try and ease up on the pedal just a little bit. I try to do just a little less of everything or I try to will myself to do everything as usual, just a little bit slower. And it never works. Sure it might work for a day or two, but after a week I’m right back where I started: in a rush. Maybe it’s time to take my foot completely off the pedal.

But what does that mean? What does it look like to take your foot off the accelerator? How do we accomplish this? I have a couple ideas.

One idea is to seek solitude. I’ll let Curtis speak to this one. He wrote a post at the inception of TTAF on the benefits of solitude, and I think he did a great job. If you’re hurried, maybe a little time alone, and without distraction will help you take a breath, organize your thoughts, and evaluate your priorities.

Another idea is to cut something out. Completely. Cold turkey. This might not be the case for you. You might have an okay workload or a manageable social schedule. You might be able to just cut back a little on some of the things you’re currently doing. I’m not in that place, and I know there are some things I can do without. That thing for me, of course, probably isn’t the same for you. But if you are like me, if you desire to stop something cold turkey, allow me to give just one tip. Spend a little time thinking about those things that energize you and those things that drain you. Make a list if you need to. And when you’re trying to determine what it is you’re going to cut, choose from the list of things that drain you. Of course, a lot of things on that list will be necessities. Some of them will be aspects of your work that you just have to do. Large gatherings might drain you, but if you’re a salesman, you sometimes just have to network, whether you like it or not. But if there are things on your list that are not absolutely necessary, nor do they energize you, these are things that might be candidates for cutting out of your daily routine. Whatever you do, don’t cut those things that bring you respite or that energize you for the day.

Today I reiterate the White Space challenge. I’ve seriously attempted the challenge the past few weeks with little to no success. I’ve seriously attempted over the past few weeks to ease up on the gas pedal. But I think it’s time for me to do something a bit more drastic. It’s time to take my foot off the pedal completely. Could it be time for you to do the same?

*To be clear, I don’t recant either of my original posts. I do indeed think it’s important to slow down, but I also think a lot can be done in a day and I uphold that challenge as well. The latter post assumes, though, that what you are trying to get done is a worthwhile venture. That what we are working toward is something that will change the world for the better. That it’s a noble cause. That we’re not rushing for the sake of rushing, but to create the world we want by impacting it significantly. Also, it’s the twenty-first century, so what does it matter if I uphold two seemingly contradictory aims.

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Categories: A First Faint Gleam

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