“Just give me five minutes, I will finish my lunch and join right back!” Have you heard yourself pleading like this to an office colleague? You are seeking somebody’s permission to eat your own food at your own time, but not at your pace or volition. While it might seem perfectly normal in today’s time and age, but think of it – where has our development led us? We are a laughingstock for those from a generation or two before, and our predicament would be equally inscrutable to our kids a generation from now. This hyper-paced way of working is not a trend, but an error. The Sooner we realise it and learn to slow down, it's better for us. But how?
Firstly, let’s admit that the need for speed is self-perpetuated and that it doesn’t serve any particular purpose. Except for us, what in the nature has paced up? Flora, fauna, or even viruses and bacteria? They did in response to our pace of change. The pundits justify the velocity arguing that we are living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world and that pace is everything. But before you are self-assured, think through this. Was it, not VUCA in 1922? When the world woke up to the horrors of the first World War and was staring right into the biggest depression in history. Not even sure if the worst is behind them. Or was it, not VUCA centuries before when territorial conflicts were the norm and a plague could strike you at a whim? VUCA seems to be an excuse to not indulge in deep thinking. So our organisations value the men of action over the men of contemplation. What do you make of somebody who is just thinking without a phone or laptop by the side? That’s a rare sight, anyways. In fact, by thinking and acting fast, we are not even thinking. We are just reacting. And while we see a lot of action, little creation happens. How else do we justify the great resignation and the layoff wave where firms mistook growth for progress?
Secondly, this sense of urgency is making our real achievements look shallow, thereby creating greater urgency to remain relevant. The whole rhythm has somehow been reduced to a quarterly cadence. If you don’t achieve something wonderful every quarter, you don’t seem to matter. Resultingly, you take up only those targets that make you look a hero in about 70 days and then repeat the process again. This certainly takes your mind and heart away from real, long-range planning and thinking. It’s an escalation of impatience, where the urgent and louder takes over the more enduring and subtle. Who is innovating then? Thinking originally requires longer periods of being with the problem without any solution in sight. And when you see the world zipping past you, you feel like left out. Indeed it takes a lot of courage to withstand that false pace. Interestingly, we would be confronted with more wicked problems going forward and that would test both our wit and patience. That’s why they need to slow down and pick the true signals from the noise around.
Thirdly, we are living longer but running faster, leaving us with more time to fill meaningfully with. We are no longer living for half a century that we must go hard at things. Over the next few decades, the life expectancy might well touch a century, thanks to the science of medicine and the art of living. Which leaves us with more time than we can fathom, let alone meaningfully utilise. If you end up over-achieving by the time you are 40, what should you be aiming for the next 40 years that go by very slowly, leaving you with not much energy or chances? That’s what pacing your life means. Pace your aspirations and efforts, keep it holistic than monochromatic, and moderate than extreme.
We are all rushing toward death! Aren’t we? So, what’s the hurry all about? To think creatively you need to think slowly. You need to pick the problems that matter, take your time to solve them systematically, and celebrate the results. Bring back contemplation to your life and pace it well. You must learn to burn like a lamp through the darkness of the night than the sparkle that just about burns quickly and bright. So, learn to smell the roses and cherish life while you are still around.