I was rushing through a workout one morning while listening to Tim Ferriss interview Derek Sivers. As I was huffing and puffing around the track and watching the clock on my phone, Derek told a story of learning a very valuable lesson while bike riding.
Derek clocked his time when he exerted himself at his maximum output (head down, working fiercely) versus the time it took him to bike the same route while enjoying himself and taking the time to notice his surroundings.
The stunning surprise for him was that the times were almost identical, with the forced effort only edging out the enjoyable ride by just a bit. Tim then spoke about something he had learned from a Navy SEAL that stopped me quite literally in my tracks: “Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.”
I’ll say that again: Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
How many times have we convinced ourselves that the frantic approach is the winning one? That if we approach our To Dos with a brute force of effort and white knuckling, that our output will certainly be better and delivered with time to spare?
Not only is that not true, we actually rob ourselves of the joy-filled, deep awareness of doing the work — regardless of what the work is. Further, if the focus is only on getting to the Finish Line (and not at all on whom you are becoming, what you are learning, and the little surprises along the way), what is the point?
I began writing “Slow is smooth; Smooth is fast” at the top of each one of my Morning Pages every day. I need to stop and remind myself to slooooooow down. Practicing meditation does help with this, too, but if I am not intentional about how I approach the day, I default to frenetic mode.
I have also noticed how I can actually begin to bend time in my favor while practicing this approach. I enter a state of flow where time seems to become suspended. In this space, ideas take notice that there is fertile ground on which to land, and so they do. Time opens up like a blooming rose, ever widening to accommodate the task.
Most noticeably, when I complete the task, I am energized, rather than depleted. My brain feels cool to the touch. A sense of contentment over having done great work, while staying centered and clear, lulls me to an even more complete sense of calm confidence.
All just from slowing down.
I realize how counter intuitive this is! Do an experiment. Try your current approach and time it. Write down how you felt during the process, how much you accomplished, what insights you gleaned, and how you felt at the end. Compare that to a slower, more smooth approach.
If in the end all that matters is how we feel, which approach makes the most sense to you?