5 Ways You Can Master The Art Of Slowing Down And Enjoying Life
Jun 25, 2018
There's a slowing down problem in today's society.
I hear the same words repeated time and time again:
It’s an issue that applies to everyone it seems. No matter if you run a successful business, non-profit, corporation or church... These words might sneak up on you. No matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, professionals or parents, women or men, Republicans or Democrats, it doesn't matter. This is an issue that doesn't discriminate. It's clearly a global issue.
If you get to the heart of these issues, you will see that the issue is really just a TIME issue.
If you are feeling exhausted, it might be because you haven’t allowed yourself enough time to rest.
If you are feeling anxious, it might be because you want something to change and happen that is outside of your control.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it might be because you have too much to do with not enough time.
Believe me, Selina and I have been there.
So we began asking ourselves how we can fix this time issue. We felt like there was too much on our plate and not enough margin. We felt like we needed more time with each other and with the kids. We had to make some tough decisions and cut some things out of our lives. We needed to simplify our lives so that we were enjoying the little things and not worrying about them.
The crazy part about this is that for Selina and I, a simple life doesn’t come natural to us. We both are high achievers, not just with work… but with many other things. I’m sure that you are the same way, you are probably busy in 100 different ways, whether it’s serving your family, church, friends, or non-profit organizations.
We realized that living a slower, more simple life is about more than doing less, it’s being who God called us to be with a single-minded focus. It's walking away from lesser opportunities and choosing the few things that we believe we were called to do and created to do. It's really a lifestyle decision that allows us to go to sleep with gratitude, reflecting on our day know that it was lived with purpose and that our priorities were in order.
If we don't make an intentional decision to change our lifestyle, we will fit in with the rest of the world. When the world is operating at a frantic and chaotic pace, it might begin to feel normal if we aren't careful. We must learn how to slow down. It won't come naturally to many of us, but we must discipline ourselves to do this. When we slow down and focus on what's important, we stop choosing things that don't really matter. This can be a freeing experience, because every time we choose to do something that doesn't matter, we sacrifice the things that do matter.
There is one story in the Bible that deals directly with these problems: the story of the sisters Martha and Mary. In this story, Jesus comes over to their home to stay with Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. When Jesus arrives for dinner, Martha began to panic. She had too many tasks to do but not enough time to do them. On the other end of this story, Mary chose not to help her sister, but rather sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to his teaching. Martha confronted Mary about this and even asked Jesus to scold Mary for not helping her.
"Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me’ ” - Luke 10:40
Being overcommitted, too busy and preoccupied are not new issues in today's society. We move at a rigorous pace and are committing to do too many things all at once. Martha was confronted with the same dilemma we face every day. Many of us take on too many things or become concerned about the wrong things and therefore miss the most important things.
Something that I know we both had to learn was when to say yes to things. I know that seems simple, but is it? When you overcommit to things, it’s usually because you say yes to everything. Saying yes to too many things isn’t always good because important things get overlooked.
Matthew 5:37 says, “Let your yes be yes and no be no.”
We cannot say yes to everything, we cannot do everything, we have to simply choose and stay in tune with what’s important.
In this story, Martha unknowingly said yes to the wrong things, but Jesus was quick to correct Martha.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
To put what Jesus was actually saying in modern language… He would say, "Wake up Martha! I’m here! All I want is your time and attention. Whenever I stop by, it’s not for the food. If I wanted a 5-star dinner, I could arrange for one… I mean I just fed 5,000 people a few weeks ago and I made some awesome chardonnay at a wedding reception once. I can arrange for food and rink anytime. When I stop by to visit, it's for relationship and connection. I simply want to be with you."
Sometimes we want to do everything. The answer isn’t getting it all done in the kitchen—or the office, or the mall. The answer is leaving that stuff—sometimes undone—to sit down for an un-rushed conversation with Jesus.
Economist and writer Jeremy Rifkin notes:
We are a nation in love with speed. We drive fast, eat fast, make love fast. We are obsessed with breaking records and shortening time spans. We digest our life, condense our experiences, and compress our thoughts. We are a culture surrounded by memos and commercials. While other cultures might believe haste makes waste, we are convinced that speed reflects alertness, power, and success. Americans are always in a hurry.
I believe he’s right. And while we increasingly move faster, we are enjoying life less.
It is ironic that in a culture so committed to saving time we feel increasingly deprived of time. We try to squeeze in as many tasks throughout our day as we can so that we can maybe have some time for ourselves, but for many people that time never comes. The time never comes because it's easy to look at the to-do list and see what's next on our agenda. Sooner or later, we forget that we need to recharge and rejuvenate, so we end up burnt out.
Technology is a great asset to our lives, it helps us same time and increase productivity, but beware the consequences of burn out. With technology and machinery advancements, businesses are thriving by being able to get much done with little time. These machines work at a rigorous pace until they shut down. We are not machines.
We invented the machine and then took it as our life model. We cannot work tirelessly until everything breaks down and everything falls apart. We must work hard and recharge, leaving room for the life that God has called us to live. By the way, I don't believe that God has called us to a life of rigorous, chaotic, tiresome, and machine-like labor. He has created us and designed us in such a way that our souls thrive when we slow down and connect with God. In order for us to slow down, we must first review our time.
Let’s examine how we spend our time. In a lifetime today’s average person spends:
six months sitting at traffic lights
eight months opening junk mail
one year searching through desk clutter
two years trying to call people who are not in
three years in meetings
five years waiting in lines
In a single day an average American will
commute forty-five minutes
be interrupted seventy-three times
receive six hundred advertising messages
watch four hours of television
No wonder we have a short attention span.
And what do we have to show for all of this added “productivity”? Health-related problems are skyrocketing and families spend less time together. In fact, the average working parent spends twice as long dealing with e-mail as playing with his or her children.
The most important aspects of our lives cannot be rushed. We cannot love, think, eat, laugh or pray in a hurry.
I was once told, "do you know to spell love? T-I-M-E."
My children want my time more than anything else. When Selina was making my Father’s Day card with Cole, she asked him what he loved about me and he said that he loves that I wrestle with him, color with him, and pray with him. All of these things require my time and undivided attention. I also notice that the more we spend quality time with him, the better he acts and behaves.
Taking time is especially important in our spiritual lives. In our spiritual life we cannot do anything important in a hurry.
When we are in a hurry—which comes from overextension—we find ourselves unable to live with awareness and kindness.
I think that we all should eliminate hurry from our lives.
When we eliminate hurry we become present. We become aware of our surroundings. We see colors, smell smells, and can feel the wind in our faces. When we are present, we can experience the fullness of life. And that includes being present to God. If I am to live well as a Christian, I need to be constantly connected to God. Hurry is not part of this kind of life.
I have heard it said like this, Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil.
That’s a strong statement to make but it’s so true. When we are hurried, we miss everything that’s important and we cannot experience life at it’s fullest. When we are hurried, we can’t connect with our true selves and our real feelings. When we are hurried, we outrun God.
This is your challenge for thus week: slow down, savor, rest and contemplate. Slowing down the pace of our lives means eliminating hurry and limiting the demands and activities in our lives. Then we are more likely to take delight in our lives and make room for God.
Here are the 5 Ways That You Can Master The Art of Slowing Down and Enjoying Life
Get up a little earlier so you can have time for yourself, for God, and to do something nice for your spouse that is out of the norm. This could be by writing a simple love note on an index card. Take the extra time in the morning to just sit and think, be grateful, and be emotionally ready for the day. Take the time to linger over breakfast.
Think about the activities of the upcoming day. Instead of waiting until the last minute to go to your next activity, try leaving ten minutes earlier than normal so you’re not rushing.
Intentionally get in the slowest lane while driving, and the longest checkout line when shopping. Good luck with this one!
Plan a meal with a friend or group of friends. Cook slowly. Enjoy the act and smells of cooking. Linger over your “meal, spending an hour or two eating slowly, conversing and enjoying the blessing of food. One of my favorite date nights with my hubby was when we made homemade pasta, it seemed like it took forever, but it wasn’t about the food as much as it was about the experience.
When you arrive at your destination a bit earlier than usual, use the extra time to notice people and things around you. I know that sometimes when I am present, I notice things that I have never noticed before. Breathe deeply. Be present to the present moment. Soak it all in. Selina does a great job of this even in the midst of frustrating situations. The other day we were at the store and the kids were not cooperating, they were hungry, tired, and irritable. Our 2 year old was crying uncontrollably and Cole was demanding attention, we were a noisy bunch. In the midst of all the chaos, I looked at Selina…. And with a big smile on her face she sang a popular country song to recenter herself… “You’re gonna miss this… You’re gonna want this back, you’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast, these are some good times, but take a good look around, you may not know it now… but your gonna miss this."
- Cut out TV and all forms of media for the day. Take time to watch a sunset, take a leisurely walk, watch kids play in the park. Sometime later in the evening, sketch out your thoughts about what living a slowed-down life would look like. Some of our best moments as a couple have been moments and conversations where we disconnected from everything and everyone and just sat there talking, not looking at our phones or at the clocks, with not a hurry in the world.
Be silent and just listen to people, but most importantly, just listen to God. Many times we forget that prayer is communication with God, but we forget the rules of communication. Part of communication is that we not only speak, but we must also listen. I know that we have gotten caught up in just speaking to God without ever taking the time to listen. Some people ask why God doesn’t speak to them, and I wonder if it’s because they are too busy doing all the talking. God is always speaking to us, but we aren’t always listening. Try just being silent.
When you change from a hurried speed to slowing down, you may just be thrown off. You may even experience some frustration getting accustomed to slowing down, this is normal. While your body and mind are wanting you to speed up, learn to do the opposite and just breathe. When you are driving in the slow lane, or waiting in the longest line at the grocery store, you may feel a bit uneasy as if you are wasting your time, but it's a good practice to develop. While you are driving in the slow lane, try and notice things that you wouldn't normally notice. The same goes for the grocery store, try and notice the person in the checkout line scanning your items, maybe you'll just think of something to say that will brighten their day.
We are our best selves when we slow down and enjoy the little things in life.