Prescriptions for Life

How to attain your goals, great and small, and create a life you love.

Slow Down! Going Faster is Tempting Disaster

A fast-paced life isn't worth the trouble it can cause

The other week en route to New York, my plane landed at Chicago O'Hare at the very minute my connection to Newark began boarding. I was seated in the bulkhead row just behind first class, and as soon as the door opened and the first class folks filed out, I launched myself out of the plane and sprinted full speed up the gangway.

A few long strides in, I realized something was off. I stopped and turned and sure enough, the flight attendant standing at the door of the plane was holding the high heel from my right boot up in the air and waving it at me.

Without even noticing, I had sheared it right off when I leapt out of the plane.

Beyond dismayed, I hobbled back to grab my mangled heel, and must have made quite a spectacle as I ran across the terminal in a bizarre limping run, clutching the heel in my right hand the whole way. I got to the boarding area just as the last person had boarded, and I'm amazed they let me on—there were exposed nails sticking out of the heel and there was no way I would be parted from it (in case it could be repaired; these were my very favorite shoes). Thankfully the flight attendant was so busy laughing at me that she didn't notice.

Was it really necessary to be in SUCH a rush? Probably not. If I'd just focused on calmly yet briskly making my plane, I'd probably still have made it. Some other latecomers boarded after me, and I'd still be wearing my beloved boots, which sadly were beyond repair.

I've had a few conversations lately with people about this epidemic of rushing, and here are some thoughts on why and how most of us need to slow down:

1) You think you'll get there faster but you're tempting disaster

Whether you're racing through your house to get out the door on time or weaving through traffic like you're stunting a movie chase scene, you edge yourself perilously close to trouble far worse than being late. I've treated patients who fell down stairs and broke bones while rushing around, and if you think of times when you've hurt yourself it was very possibly because you were moving too quickly and not paying attention.

The other day I was trying to get home quickly and decided to get around traffic by slipping through an alley. By the time I was halfway down it, I realized it wasn't taking me where I needed to go. Annoyed, I decided to back up to get out. My rearview was clear but I missed seeing something just off to the left and scraped the side of my car as I backed up. I don't even want to know how much it's going to cost to fix the damage to my car, and it really would not have made a huge difference to my life to wait in traffic. It would have been a far lesser evil. Awful!

Remind yourself to back off and calm down when you find yourself racing along the edge of safety (and even the law!). It really isn't worth it.

2) If you focus too much on your destination you'll be blind to where you are

A friend recently told me about a disaster that occurred on a busy weekend packed with tons of commitments. She was thinking about all she had to get done and running from task to task, in that keyed-up state you might be familiar with. Rush rush rush.

Coming out of a store and hurrying back to her car, she stepped out from between a row of cars in the parking lot. Bam - a passing car crashed into her leg. She was so lost in her thoughts and her rushing that she didn't see it coming, and wasn't present enough to catch the license plate as the driver took off. She's still having pain and trouble walking, weeks later.

If you notice you're tuning out because you're in "hurry" mode, slow down, catch your breath, and make sure you're aware of your surroundings. Being present not only will you feel calmer and perform better under time pressure, but it will also keep you safe.

3) You don't want to miss the good stuff

A client that I'm coaching told me yesterday that an alarming number of people close to her are having bad things happen to them. A friend has cancer, another lost her husband, and another friend was in an accident.

"Everyone seems to be falling apart around me," she said. "It's really woken me up, and I'm learning to slow down and be more aware of life. I need to stop racing around, and concentrate on what's truly important."

What could you be missing in your haste? Do you miss connecting with (or even making eye contact with) your kids or spouse in the morning as you hurry to get ready? When you're racing to get to a destination, do you miss having a real conversation with whoever is in the car with you? When you go for your brisk morning run, are you taking time to notice the new buds on the trees, the smell of spring in the air?

What would be better about your life if you just slowed down?

(And I haven't even talked about the stress hormones that this constant rushing generates)

Whenever you find yourself getting worked up and starting to rush, start by reminding yourself to breathe, and back off your pace just a little. I find that repeating this to myself helps, too: "You have enough time. You'll be just fine. Slow down, take your time." When I calmed myself this way yesterday, I ended up being half an hour early for a speaking engagement when I'd worried much of the day that I'd end up being late.

The funny thing is that when you take your time, you seem to have more of it.Try this and watch what happens!

Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, media wellness expert, transformational life coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You.  She is available for keynote presentations, seminars, media commentary and private coaching - contact susan@susanbiali.com or visit www.susanbiali.com for more details.

Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In!

Copyright Dr. Susan Biali 2012

Susan Biali, M.D., researches health and happiness. She is also a professional flamenco dancer and author.

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