A bonsai tree can take up to 10 years to mature fully
I recently read a book by Carl Honore called In Praise of Slowness. It reminded me of how important it is to slow down and focus on the relationships in our lives and not the endless tasks of our day. So here are some key lessons I took away from the book.
We now live in a world of instant gratification and even that isn’t always fast enough. Think back to the days when you had to use 35mm film cameras. It took weeks or months to finish a roll of film and then even longer to get it developed. We were used to that pace. Now we not only have digital cameras that immediately print, but we have our smart phones that enable us to instantly link our endless pictures to our Facebook account. We seem to never be satisfied.
According to Honore, we have moved from a world where the big eat the small to one where the fast eat the slow. Our obsession with speed has gone too far. It has turned into an addiction. Let me give you some examples: Your diet’s not working fast enough – get liposuction. Your food’s not heating up quickly enough in the oven – try a microwave. You want strawberries in winter – get them from South America. You want to produce more meat – grow the animal faster with steroids and endless corn. (Today a 220 pound pig can be grown in 6 months. Two centuries ago, it took 5 years to grow a 130 pound pig.) Even our food can’t come fast enough. The average person eats their McDonald’s meal in 11 minutes. Fast food revolutionized getting the food fast but I don’t believe it was meant to shorten the time it took to eat it. Most things are better slow. If I offered you a great glass of wine – would you drink it as fast as you could or would you savor the taste and enjoy the moment?
The evidence suggests we learn and build rapport better at a slower pace. While speed dating might be an interesting way to meet a lot of people in a short period of time – it is less likely to make a lasting connection than quality one-to-one time.
So why do we need to slow down? By stopping to “smell the roses” we make better connections with our co-workers and, perhaps more importantly, with our patients. Think about one of your visits to the doctor. Did they go down a check list to assess your physical symptoms and then grab the script pad to write a medication to fix your problem or did they really think about you holistically and consider your mental state of mind and all of the softer variables that might impact your physical health? Not everything can be solved instantly. Focusing on slowness often means better health, better work, better business, and better family life. Evidence shows that people who work 60 hours per week are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who work 40 hours.
So here are the solutions Honore suggests:
- Relax – focus on the goal by decelerating
- Put aside impatience
- Create an environment where you resist the pressure to live by the clock and live fast. Enjoy each moment as it comes
My conclusion from the book was that we need to continually focus on making meaningful personal connections and not be obsessed with getting more tasks done. I often fail at this because I overload my day with too many tasks and allow too little time to foster relationships. The secret is balance: instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed.
I realize in the hospital world we have to work fast as the sheer number of tasks to be done quickly stack up. What I am suggesting is that by working smarter, prioritizing our tasks, and spinning off the non-essentials we can spend more time establishing strong connections.
What do you think about the power of being mindful of slowing down?