How to Slow Down Without Losing your Drive

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’re a pretty driven person.

You’re passionate about changing the world, and you work hard every day to turn your vision for the future into reality.

Am I right?

This quality – this fire inside of you– is a gift.  It motivates you to do, create, and give all that you have to offer the world.

But have you ever felt the universe (or maybe a loved one) tugging on your sleeve, saying, “Hey, you, slow down!”

“Yeah, yeah whatever, slowing down is for slackers,” your inner fire responds.

Or maybe you’ve listened to the pleas and have slowed down before.  You took a vacation, unplugged, and recharged your batteries.  Rest? … check!  And then when you got back to the office, your do-do-do, go-go-go ways picked back up as soon as you walked in the door.

Over the last year I’ve been in negotiations with my inner-achiever, seeing if we can create a new way of working together. One that involves slowing things down a bit from our old go-go-go pace.  One that creates more space, so that I don’t feel like I’m running on a treadmill that’s only getting faster.

And, I’ve managed to convince Ms. Little Achiever that slowing down ain’t so bad.  In fact, this new way of operating doesn’t feel slow at all.  Slow is the wrong word, because in a lot of ways I’ve seen more speed over the last year than ever before.  I’ve been able to make deeper connections with people at an accelerated pace, reach new insights and learnings more quickly, and be more creatively swift than I thought was possible.  Not to mention this new way feels a hell of a lot better.

If you’re ready to let go of the urgency that runs your days, without compromising any of your drive, then give this powerful process a shot…

Start with your beliefs

Beliefs drive decisions; decisions drive actions; actions become practices.  If you want to change your practices, you need to start by looking at the underlying beliefs that drive your actions.

What beliefs get in the way of you slowing down?  Take a minute here, and imagine that you’ve successfully managed to slow things down in your life.  What would be your biggest worry if you did that?  Maybe you’re concerned that…

  • The work (ALL of the work we have to do) wouldn’t get done
  • Slowing down means time wasted, and I don’t have any time to waste
  • My co-workers would see me as lazy, unavailable, slacking
  • Everyone else around me would stop working as hard
  • Our organization would fail … because of me
  • Who would I be if not the hard-working, fast-paced, go-go-go version of me?  That’s all I know

Which of these statements – or any that you’ve come up with on your own – is truest for you?  Identify the biggest assumption that have about slowing down, and phrase it as such:

If I slow down, then _________.

Next, experiment with your big assumption

Time to put your assumption to the test!  Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to drop your drive entirely and start meditating all day long.  Instead, start with one small experiment to test out the validity of your assumption about slowing down.  Dip your toe into some new waters, and see what you notice.

For example, you could:

  • Start each day with a more “being,” less “doing” activity.  Reflect, journal, learn, read, breathe – whatever works best for you – before you jump right into crossing things off of your “to do” list.
  • Have deeper conversations with your co-workers.  Instead of your normal, quick check-ins (how’s project X going?  Ok, good, great, go), set aside more time and invite your coworkers into a more expansive, creative, reflective conversation.  Maybe you spend some time exploring what’s working well from their perspective, and what could be better.
  • Take at least one break during the day – go for a walk, take lunch away from your desk (and your phone!), or workout.
  • Stay alert to burn-out warning signs (feeling stressed, breaking commitments to family/friends, late nights) and instead of pushing through them like usual, listen to them and slow down.
  • Practice some meditation.  Meditation freak you out?  Check out this great beginners guide to meditation from Gabby Bernstein here.

Now, I’m going to challenge your inner achiever here, and ask you to only pick ONE practice to experiment with over the next two weeks.  Choose one from this list or create one that’s perfect for you.  Over the next two weeks, experiment by incorporating this new practice into your days and notice the impact.  Did your assumption about slowing down prove to be true?

Lastly, explore new beliefs

If your experiment started to poke holes in your old belief, how can you update your belief system to incorporate what you’ve learned about slowing down?

Here are some positive beliefs about slowing down that you can test out and see if they feel true for you:

  • Making space to slow down once a day increases my productivity throughout the rest of the day
  • Both activity AND rest are important to keeping me effective as a leader
  • Slowing down makes me faster in many other ways – creatively, strategically, and in relationship with others
  • Slowing down is not only for lazy, unambitious hippies

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

What are your beliefs about slowing down, and what are you willing to put to the test over the next couple of weeks? What new beliefs have you adopted about slowing down, and how have they impacted how you lead? Let us know in the comments section below!

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