January 27th, 2011 3:47 PM by Lehel S.
The Right Pace for a Great Life
I've long been fascinated by the conundrum of how fast to
move and how much to do in life. If we don't "keep up" and
do enough, if we don't take action and work hard and get
stuff done, we fall behind and fail to achieve. On the other
hand, when we give in to the temptation to rush and hurry
and multi-task all day long, it seems like we wear ourselves
out and miss some of life's best moments. What's a person to
This week I was struck with the concept of "right pacing."
We've long talked about "right sizing" in business and
government. How big should an organization be? How many
employees does it need? How efficient should it be? Too much
emphasis on efficiency and speed and performance-at-any-cost
and eventually employees burn out and quit -- or rebel in
protest. Too little focus on productivity and we fall behind
the competition and eventually go bankrupt.
Career counselors have focused on the concept that each
person achieves optimum fulfillment by doing their "right
work," defined as work that respects their values and uses
their best talents. We inevitably become unhappy, less
productive and far less fulfilled when we do work that
doesn't suit us or that conflicts with our deepest values.
This week it struck me that we each have a "right pace" for
our lives and that failure to honor our inherent "pacing"
stresses us and perhaps even kills us at an early age.
We've long known about Type A personalities that move
quickly, and Type B personalities that prefer a more
leisurely pace through life. Type A's are called "race
horses" and we know that forcing them to slow down or
putting them "out to pasture" seems to kill their
enthusiasm, their energy and their productivity, while
"turtles" naturally move slower and forcing them to run
may give them a premature heart attack.
This week, I read about a new study that claims testing the
pace with which we walk may be as accurate a predictor of
over-all health as far more complex and expensive medical
procedures. Apparently simply walking down the hall outside
our doctor's office is a pretty good measure of balance,
coordination, strength and neurological function.
Americans have long been in love with the idea of speed. We
didn't invent the automobile, but we certainly fell in love
with it. We did invent the airplane and have done more with
rockets and space travel and instant communication than any
people on earth. We love speed! We love multi-tasking and
"doing more with less." We love being first and are proud of
being the most productive (fastest) people around.
But, we also know there is something good about making love
slowly, about "the pause that refreshes" and "stopping to
smell the roses." We know that time spent with a child,
watching a sunset or savoring a meal is a good thing. We
know that the desire to "slow down" is almost universal.
What are we to make of these contradictions?
My sense is that the most successful people find and honor
their personal "right pace" in life. Some love the
exhilaration of multi-tasking, rapid decision-making and
racing through life. Good for them! But others need to be
more deliberate, slower, and more thoughtful and I suspect
they are most successful when they honor their own "right
pace." And I suspect many of life's artists, writers,
teachers and poets have hurt their success by trying to
"keep up" with our cultural preference for speed.
Speed is good, but so is meditation. Speed is often rewarded
with more money, fame or power, but we also know that "haste
makes waste" and sometimes being slower, more deliberate,
more precise and more thoughtful has it's own advantages.
Find your right pace! Honor the part of you that "knows" how
much to tackle each day and do that, and only that. Vary
your pace and the pressure you allow in your life. Slow down
so you can respond quickly when the situation calls for it.
I find some solace in the observation that "Fools rush in
where angels fear to tread." I love speed and action and
adrenalin as much as the next guy, but there is also wisdom
in mastering the art of doing nothing, observing, and
waiting for the right moment. Find and listen to your "right
pace" in life. I suspect your happiness and long-term
Philip E. Humbert, PhD,
President of Resources for Success!T