Sacrificing what’s important for what’s urgent
There’s a rat hole we occasionally descend – or is it a hell hole – where we abandon logic and reason and purpose, and instead grovel in the muck with every little thing that captures our attention.
There is no logic to this. No reason. No purpose. Just dozens of excuses to abandon course and follow our noses downward into the mire.
This is a state where the short-term overwhelms the long-term. Where the urgency of a quick decision takes precedence over careful consideration. It’s a state whose gravitational pull can easily suck us into it’s depths, until one day we look up only to discover we have no idea where we are. Or why we are there.
And thus it has come to pass, dear reader, that your faithful correspondent has lost his way – if only temporarily. Caught in a vortex of urgency that surpasses all reason and understanding.
Even the Sultan of Slow is not immune to the demands of a fast world.
I won’t bore you with the details, but much has been accomplished. It’s just that most of it was a detour. I abandoned true north in order to tilt at windmills simply because they were there.
I’m sure this has never happened to you.
Where you get so caught up in the immediate demands of your day that you lose track of the big picture. Dozens of distractions pile up, begging for your attention. Stay this course long enough – excuse me, this detour – and the big picture becomes the size of a postage stamp.
Suddenly what’s urgent dwarfs what’s important. It’s the new normal and here we are. Lost.
Sometimes these distractions can take the form of an addiction. The seduction of something, or of an activity, becomes compulsive, until it takes over your life.
Tony Schwartz writes that “the brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a ‘compulsion loop.’ Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”
Thus it is that we are so easily swayed from our task. We know that the tortoise’s slow and steady will win the race, but our heart is with the hare.
There is a way out of this mess, but, like any addiction treatment, it can be difficult and at times painful.
The first step is to simply recognize where you are and how you got there. It’s an almost zen-like response of just breathing and feeling your heartache.
We have limited resources of will power and determination, so if we wake up one morning convinced that we can turn things around in a day we are likely to stumble and quickly fall back into our bad habits.
Therefore the next step is to set aside time to reacquaint yourself with your old, better habits. Not a lot of time. Even a few minutes a day of purposeful intention and activity will help to get back into the swing of things.
Two years ago, when I first set out to report about things slow, I made a point of writing every day. What I wrote was inconsequential, I was simply getting into the writing habit.
Over the past two months I have lost that habit, and now I am back at my desk every morning for two hours. Sitting in the seat, relearning the muscle memory required for the keyboard and the deliberative process that transfers thoughts into words.
Finally, it’s back into zen mode, where we acknowledge the deep satisfaction that comes from a sense of purpose. If our purpose, our calling, is strong enough, it will overcome an transitory distractions.
So this is where I am. My clothes are still dirty from the rat hole of distraction I’ve been living in these past few weeks. But I’ve at least lifted my head, recognized where I’ve been, and I’m now working diligently to pull myself out.
I’d like to offer my heartfelt apologies to those of you who noticed I’d gone missing. And, in a curious twist of fate, I want to welcome the many new subscribers who have recently stumbled onto this site, perhaps wondering what all the fuss is about.
In less than two short weeks we will welcome in a new year. Fittingly, a time for fresh starts. Starting on the first Monday in January we will meet again to ponder all things slow. As always, I treasure the time we spend together on this site, and I welcome your feedback – whether they be compliments or complaints, questions or suggestions.
In the meantime, may the warmth of the holiday season surround you, your family, and your friends. And may you not loose sight of the importance of living a slow life.