One of the best books I have read in recent years is In Praise of Slow: How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed by Carl Honoré (Orion Books, 2004). Our increasingly fast-paced world is taking its toll on our health, relationships and work. In this book Honoré describes how many people are now choosing to slow down and to lead more balanced lives. The Slow Movement includes Slow Food (which in contrast to fast food is “dedicated to the very civilized notion that what we eat should be cultivated, cooked and consumed at a relaxed pace”), slower ways of getting from A to B (walking or cycling instead of driving), preserving local traditions and encouraging better city environments and neighbourhoods. It is all about improving our quality of life. As defined by Honoré, “Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections – with people, culture, work, food, everything”.
In my own life over the past four years I have made a deliberate choice to slow down. I have changed the way that I work and the hours I work. I have more time for the things that I enjoy doing and for the people that matter to me. This has dramatically changed my health and level of happiness – I am more light-hearted, more inclined to laugh, less serious, and hence more fun to be around! I may have less money in the bank, but the benefits are priceless.
I would challenge you to do just one thing every day to slow down. Don’t fill up every hour in your diary with meetings or activity. Give yourself time to recharge, to connect with friends, to sleep in if you need to on the weekends, to enjoy eating a meal slowly, to cycle on the beachfront or to get out into nature. Allow your brain to recharge by switching off the laptop and the cell phone for a few hours or, if you are daring enough, for the whole weekend! You will certainly notice the difference.