Learning to slow down (was harder than I thought)

Those who have worked with with me in any capacity in Singapore will know that I keep a very high pace through the day.

So basically, no standing around like this.

The Endless Machine

My day is packed with appointments, with meeting after meeting scheduled back-to-back. Almost every cafe visit is business-related(!) Every moment was focused on achieving a specific objective, in the most efficient manner possible. 

There was no pause. I did not take in my surroundings. The minute I lived had to serve a purpose beyond its inevitable expiry, which resulted in my ceaseless chase to do more with every minute.

Definitely no hanging around like this.

When I first arrived in Boston, I still walked like I did in Singapore – Quick strides that got me from Point A to B in rapid fashion. The difference was that I began to realise that I was rushing for no reason. I would pace into a building, then end up wondering why I was so early for a class. 

I decided that this was an opportunity. A chance breathe a little bit slower. In doing so, I discovered an entirely new perspective on life. I realised that I was missing out on the summer greens and the winter whites. I looked up more often, and saw the changing colours as fall approached. Even in winter, the snow sprinkled trees showed me beauty even when the sky was grey. 

No Easy Way

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for me. I experienced withdrawal symptoms. As we visited New York City, went skiing, indulged in snow tubing and went for weekend movie dates, I couldn’t help but feel an urge to move from one place to another as quickly as possible. Yes, it was an urge. A rising sort of anxiety and a sense that I had to keep moving and doing.


Every time I caught myself feeling that way, I pulled my mind out from the present, paused and took stock. When I first started this process, I realised that I didn’t know why I was feeling anxious. I just was. Then something awesome happened: I learned more about my anxiety as I introspected, as I asked myself what I was so worried about. 

Intent is Key

What a great moment.

After weeks of doing this, it dawned on me that I was subconsciously attempting to establish some kind of pattern, a tempo of sorts. However, I was so used to going at full speed for the entire day in Singapore, I ended up just falling back on that without thinking. There was no intent, only instinct.

Once I figured that out, I was able to come to terms with slowing my roll. After all, slowing down to absorb everything in higher fidelity was not necessarily worse than speeding through objectives in a work day. One was not objectively better than the other, and they were simply two different ways to achieve some form of granular control in my life. 

I feel much better, and less guilty about slowing down. In fact, I haven’t done any less. I still managed to teach, write freelance and work. But now, I can breathe deeper, see clearer and think deeper. 

It’s really nice to be able to do that, and I hope anyone who reads this gains some kind of comfort in knowing that you’re not a bad person for wanting to slow down. Remember to take the time out for a breather, then leap back into the fray. You’ll be better for it, and you’ll thank yourself for doing it!

Until Next Time,
Kenneth

One comment

  1. Irene Lee says:

    The anxiety and the urge to go full speed is the banal of living in a city and in singapore the whole country is the city.
    I remembered you say that you would not want to live in Perth because it is ‘lifeless’. That was said some years ago when we were there for a family holiday. Perhaps when we do go back, your thoughts may be different.
    It is important to learn to slow down, to pause and to pace yourself. This will give you time to ‘smell the roses’, to connect with people and most vital of all, to reflect.
    I am so glad this is already happening.
    Happy Valentine’s Day, Son. You are one of my life valentine. You know that, don’t you!

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