In Praise of Slow

The older I get the slower I drive. I also get honked at more often by younger drivers hell-bent to arrive at their destination five minutes earlier than I would. The irony is that because of traffic patterns I catch up with these Nascar wannabes at the next traffic light.

Remember the Slowskis, the two tortoises on the TV ad reveling in a slower paced life. Maybe there is more to the commercial than just the product (faster internet service) being sold,

The result of a life of speed is that your blood pressure is going through the roof and your physician tells you “Slow down you are killing yourself“. In that situation you may justify slowing down but in the scramble to climb the leadership ladder, pressure to keep shareholder value up, and the desire to ‘beat’ the competition there is hardly time to take a breath. That is until your body or relationship folds under the pressure of your hectic rush through life.

A couple of years ago we moved to Mexico and in our town, at least, slowness is a way of life. This takes time for folks North of the border to get used to. I was standing in a bank line and a person was taking forever to use the cash machine. I muttered under my breath in English, “Is he taking out a home loan or something. Get a move on, hurry up”. I was surprised when a Mexican woman turned around and said “Sir, you need to calm down”

Lesson received.

We all know that having a more relaxed life style isgood for our health as well as our productivity.

Why then do we keep pushing ourselves to our limits?

Busyness is addictive

A helter-skelter (undue haste) pace in life keeps the adrenaline flowing and that pushes up our pleasure level. However, no one can keep up that pace because without adequate rest we all eventually crash and burn as our adrenaline levels become depleted. We are now in the realm of needing more and more of the drug of busyness (sometimes substituted with alcohol or drugs) to keep ourselves up. It is the case of you take the drug and then the drug takes you.

Success is narrowly defined

A huge value in many societies, e.g. the American work ethic, is leveraged by business leaders to force people to work beyond their physical and mental limits. Corporate greed and ambition exploits the guilt and ambition of its workers.

Contrary to popular belief we need to learn how to slow down our thinking and pace of life rather than speed it up. We don’t have to wait for permission to slow down.


The development of complex and original ideas need a slower burn. The more you speed up the less creative you become. That is because there is a part of our brain that needs slow, deliberate, and unconscious thought to come up with our most innovative ideas.

The broader our range of interests and community involvement the more significant our contribution. My list of most admired leaders includes those who read widely, have deep interests outside of work, and sustain healthy friend and family relationships. Not every CEO has to keep up a frantic work schedule like Elon Musk. Many live balanced lives by taking weekends off and going home or to the gym at 5pm some days. Working overly hard is not always smart.


Change your focus from noise to silence and from speed to slowness.  And it is likely to change your life. Just as music has pauses between notes or else it is noise, so create pauses in your life.

Listen to the Slowskis.


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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2 Responses to In Praise of Slow

  1. Sondi Wright says:

    I certainly agree with this…….and……as it turns out, there is a natural “slow down” as you age….unless of course you try to fight it,,,…..sometimes it is just “breathe” for a minute or 2….
    Slow and conscious is SO much more alive and meaningful……Sondi

  2. cedricj says:

    Apart from our reaction times getting slower when we age it is almost impossible to be present and reflective in the fast lane of any aspect of life. Thanks for your comment Sondi.

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