Stress - Getting Perspective

Contributor: Nan Valentine, Valentine Consulting

Stress - Getting Perspective

Little kids run everywhere they go. Ever notice that? They don’t just move in a dignified way from room to room like we do. You get the impression that they’re afraid they’ll miss something exciting if they don’t approach life at warp speed. And they can be brought to a screeching halt by a colony of ants or a pile a leaves.

If you catch us running, it’s because we’re late for a meeting. At what age do you suppose most of us started losing that hell-bent-for-leather enthusiasm for the little things in life? When did that anonymous rock on the sidewalk or the dog chasing its tail stop drawing our focus and attention? Our days are filled with deadlines, projects, and appointments. Our calendars runneth over. Our employees have issues, and our kids have attitudes.

Several years ago a wise woman and good friend offered a suggestion that sounded, well, stupid. It proved to be profound.

“Nan,” she remarked, “… if you were moving any faster, I’d have to issue you a ticket. Slow down,” she advised.

“Right,” I replied. “There’s a great idea. What do you suggest I do with my excess work while I’m easing on down the hallway at the office? Perhaps I should have it delivered here so you can finish it,” I hissed. Sarcasm can be such an ugly form of communication…

This sage woman discounted my caustic remark and stood her ground. “I’m not kidding, Nan,” she said. “Try walking more slowly for a week. You’ll actually get more done, not less. Oh, and while you’re at it, drive at or below the speed limit during the same week.”

Are you insane, I thought? Drive at or below the speed limit? I’ll be a hazard on the road. I’m likely to cause a traffic jam, and I’m not even sure my car will cooperate.

As I frowned my way through this thought process, I glanced up and noticed this woman giving me The Look. This is the look that means someone is double dog daring us. I never could resist that look. The challenge had been issued. So I took the dare.

Wonder of wonders, it worked.

Here’s what happened. As I slowed down, my thoughts ran clearer. Without the stress of walking fast (or driving fast and worrying about getting a speeding ticket), my breathing slowed and deepened.

This brought more oxygen to my apparently oxygen-starved brain. I found I did a better job of prioritizing my work. I actually did get more done. I also responded in more thoughtful and effective ways to those around me. I even started noticing the flowers by the side of the road and the smile on the co-worker who greeted me.

No, I didn’t magically turn into Ghandi or Mother Teresa, but slowing down ended up helping me. Not only that, my own reduced pace seemed to create a greater sense of calm around me. This was a nice, unanticipated plus.

When on his deathbed, Citizen Cain’s Orson Wells captured a moment from his youth as he remembered a sled called Rosebud. The Wells character had become a rich, lonely corporate giant who had neglected life’s little treasures in his relentless drive for success. It’s a sad story.

You and I don’t have to wait until we’re about to push up daisies before we notice and appreciate the daisies in our neighbor’s garden. Life is filled with simple, wonderful pleasures. Here’s to slowing down long enough to notice them.


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