What’s the Rush?


I recently went to the movies to see Alice in Wonderland. What struck me was the sense of urgency with which adults and kids alike moved and interacted. There was a rush to buy the tickets, to find seats and to get popcorn and snacks. And finally the rush with which everyone left the theater. The credits barely started to roll when the masses flooded towards the exits.

The interesting thing is: the first part of the credits was in 3D and had a lot of cool effects. They were really fun to watch. People who left the theater missed out. But also they blocked the view of people like me who wanted to enjoy the last bit.

Why were people rushing to leave the theater?  Is there something more pressing?

When people rush, where are they going? What is more important than what they’re doing now? Are they going to rush through the next thing as well?

In all likelihood yes they are. Why? Because rushing through life is becoming part of their daily living. Like most habits rushing runs on automatic most of the time.

“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere rushing on.”  ~D.H. Lawrence

The side effects of rushing

I can’t think of any good thing that comes out of rushing. When you rush, you don’t stop to think. There is an unhealthy obsession with time. The list below highlights some of the side effects.

You don’t enjoy what is right in front of you. When you rush you are focusing on the next step and the things to come so you miss out on experiencing the present moment.

It stresses you out. It is hard to rush without being stressed. Your body will tense and in all likelihood you will experience negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety.

You don’t do your best. Your work results are mediocre at best. In your effort to speed things up, you will not focus on what you are doing. The only thing that matters is moving to the next thing.

You mismanage your time. You think by rushing you are saving time and being efficient. But in reality you don’t give yourself enough time to do something deliberately in order to learn from it. True efficiency comes from doing something well in the least amount of time. If you don’t learn how to do something well, you will continue to do the same thing over and over without any improvement in your skills and that is a waste.

You may miss out on opportunities for inspiration and improvement. You can hardly notice anything when you’re rushing. Insight is born out of contemplation and deliberation.

It can become a dangerous habit. If you rush through traffic for example or through important work, the consequences can be devastating. This outcome may affect others as well. Can you live with that?

There is an ever growing need to feed the addiction. When you’re addicted to rushing, you will always feel that you need to speed things up even more.  It is a never ending cycle of racing against time.

How to slow down

Most of what we rush for is not really important or urgent. It is our own perception about the situation and this ingrained habit of moving fast that drive us. A simple change in attitude can be a good start. You can try any or a combination of the items below to start slowing down. Be gentle and don’t rush into changing.

Take your time. Allow more than enough time for anything you do. If you are going to the movies, assign enough time to enjoy yourself. Don’t squeeze in other things that you have to do while you’re at the theater. With experience you will get better at gauging how long it will take you to do something or be somewhere.

Do one thing at a time and do it well. Imagine that you are being watched and your performance evaluated. Do the smallest of acts as if you want to win a prize for being the best at it. When you do everything from a place of awareness, you will not only get better at it but you will enjoy it.

Breathe. Make a frequent habit of stopping and taking a few deep breaths. You will be surprised by the calm that accompanies breathing.

Relax. Take time to just be. Don’t do anything, or try a few minutes of meditation. Learning to relax can help you not only when you need to rush, but in coping with the demands of daily living.

Smile. A smile can brighten the moment and take away from the sense of urgency. It can serve as a reminder that nothing is really worth getting worked up about and rushing to or away from.

Have fun and enjoy life one minute at a time.

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