Festina Lente! (Make Haste Slowly!)
Photo Credit: esbjorn2 on Flickr
Ever get the feeling that your whole life is an extended rush hour?
Ah, the joys of rush hour. Inching along in traffic, commuters honking like crazy. City streets so bustling with activity that you cannot walk; you must passively wait to be "pushed along" by the crowd. It takes forever to get from point A to point B. Don't you just love it?!
Well, modern life sometimes seems like that. We're so busy rushing to do things--to get to work, to get to school, to get the kids off to school, to get this project done, to plan that event, to run errands--that we end up accomplishing two things:
- Missing out on life's simple pleasures
- Making mistakes; doing things not as well as you could
Such things can be avoided if we learn the fine art of hurrying slowly.
Photo Credit: E.HOBA on Flickr
Time for a Latin lesson!
The Latin phrase "festina lente" is an imperative literally meaning "make haste slowly." If you haven't guessed by now. (That was a short lesson...)
It's a simple statement that's actually full of wisdom. It means you should strike a balance between urgency and thoroughness, between swiftness and thoughtfulness, between getting things done on time and getting things done right.
If you hurry slowly to get to work on time, you're more likely to be calm, polished, and not forget the essential things like your keys, phone, etc.--and you just might get there on time! If you're a student and you hurry slowly to study and get your homework done, you can really get into the subject matter, focus, understand things. Before you know it, you're done and you can relax. Time really flies by when you slow down and appreciate the task at hand. Not only that, you're more likely to come out of it with peace and...in one piece.
Slow down, Speedy! Here's how...
1. Learn to enjoy the process in everything you do.
When you really appreciate being alive, you understand that every breath you breathe is a privilege. The health and strength you have to do simple things are even more riches that serve us well every day.
So in something as mundane as going to the supermarket, enjoy the thought that you're picking out fresh food to prepare delicious meals for yourself, family and friends. When you walk the dog, enjoy the attention you're getting from people from having such a cute dog. (That is, if the dog is cute. If Fido is a 60-pound bulldog with a permanent snarl...well, appreciate the fact that he likes you at least. Sometimes.)
It applies to more stressful situations too. When you're under pressure to write an essay or term paper, appreciate the academic challenge set before you, know you can do it, and dive into what you find most interesting about the subject at hand. When you're late for something, appreciate the fact that you're human, imperfect yet striving to make yourself better. Even though your boss/professor/dentist/date might not appreciate your tardiness (especially if, God forbid, those are all the same person), know that they're human too, and that your sincere apology will likely elicit an empathetic pardon.
The point is, be creative with it. There are ways to appreciate every situation, whether pressure-filled or not.
2. Seek to be an individual of diginity and character. Do nothing without giving it your personal best.
You might say, even things like washing the dishes, spring cleaning, taking the kids to school, visiting elderly relatives? The answer is yes. The idea here is that, if you get used to giving your all in every situation--that is, really investing yourself emotionally and striving to do the best job you could ever do--you'll naturally have that mindset under pressure and time constraints.
You won't find a proud carpenter who builds a shabby table; you wouldn't find a dignified schoolteacher who glosses over a history lesson; you'll never encounter a principled surgeon who's satisfied to leave his patient with open surgical wounds. Those are examples of pressure-filled jobs in which people nonetheless have to do their jobs thoroughly and with as much excellence as possible. Surely, we can take that same attitude of "grace under fire" in our everyday lives. It will serve us well when a demanding or time-sensitive situation does arise.
Photo Credit: jronaldlee on Flickr
3. Reduce nervousness and anxiety in your life.
Sometimes anxiety is the root cause of rushing like a madman. It's one of those universal human experiences, a thing that connects us all: we all feel it from time to time. It's a natural response to pressure and external stressors.
If you handle it right, you can actually use the rush of adrenaline to fuel your success. For example, if you're studying for an exam or have a project to complete by a certain deadline, you naturally feel anxious, but you can harness that nervous energy to decide you'll think logically, outline what you need to do, and push yourself to complete the work. If you're nervous before a speech, an audition, a recital or a concert, you can teach yourself to embrace the flutters in your stomach and let them propel you into the performance.
For some of us though, it permeates other aspects of our lives, even when we're not under dire pressure. Sometimes it arises from worrying about various things endlessly. Sometimes it comes from the silly notion that we're inadequate or unacceptable in some way. We can trim away some of this extraneous anxiety from our lives in the following ways:
- Carve out of your schedule a few quiet, peaceful hours (or as much time as possible) each day to sit back and relax. Schedule a "no worries" time for yourself.
- Take a deep breath every now and then. Learn some meditative exercises.
- Get more physical exercise.
- Eat a healthy, nature-based diet.
- Get a good night's sleep.
- Get a breath of fresh air by going for a nice walk or jog.
- Separate yourself from people who are always complaining/criticizing/self-pitying, refusing to have a positive outlook.
- Every day, do little creative things (e.g., taking photographs, writing in your journal, practicing a musical instrument) that are "easy" for you to do and come naturally to you, thus building up your self-confidence in baby steps.
Sometimes these things don't completely work, and you might consider talking to a trusted friend or a professional. And that's OK, too. It's worth it to reduce anxiety and learn how to "hurry slowly."
4. Learn the art of improvisation.
"Winging it" is a skill that really comes in handy sometimes. It's really a matter of thinking outside the box when it comes to sticky situations in life. If you develop this skill, pressurized situations will become a piece of cake for you. Well, sort of.
I'm not saying you have to have a brilliantly creative, spontaneous character or mind either. Some basic examples of how I loosely define "improvisation" are multitasking, delegating responsibilities to friends and family, asking for help for things you don't know about or can't do by yourself. The key is to function well in the moment and make use of all available resources, no matter what's thrown at you.
Sherlock Holmes: a detective famous for his inquisitive, improvisational mind.
Other interesting notes on improvisation:
- Using improvisation to teach business skills (CNN.com)
Interesting article on the use of improv classes to improve efficiency in business.
- There, I Fixed It
Here are some pretty hilarious-yet-remarkable products of the spontaneous and visionary spirit!
Jason Bourne is another fictional character that's pretty good at improvisation...but he will use that against you if you get in his way...
The benefits of hurrying slowly are obvious. You'd be much less stressed-out if you learn to calmly carry out your tasks, regardless of time constraints. Instead of speeding ahead like a Roadrunner fueled by coffee, Coca-Cola and coke (yeah, those last two are different things), watching life go by in a dizzying blur, relax and enjoy the moment. There is such a thing as doing things well and doing them in a timely fashion.
And so I say to all of you my friends, embrace the key to efficient living: Festinate Lente!
That's the plural version, by the way.
Click is a great comedy, a humorous yet unexpectedly poignant film about the consequences of hurrying through life. A philosophical exploration of the meaning and nature of time. Highly recommended!