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Slow and Steady and the Pace of a Sustainable Lifestyle

I’m 100% in favor of slow these days. Until I’m trying to get an eight-year-old to tie his shoes, put on his coat, grab his backpack and get out the door. Then my delight in leisurely speed is gone and my tank of patience rapidly drains. “You’re moving very slowly,” I tell him as I tie his sister’s hair back in a pony tail. “Slow and steady wins the race,” he calls back. I can hear the smile in his voice.

Oh, sweet child. If only you were right. But it seems like this world only gives first place trophies to the fast, the driven, the ones who go full steam ahead at all times. Slow doesn’t actually win races.

It was my dad who taught me this saying. He had his hand on my shoulder as we pedaled our bikes side by side, giving me a boost up hills and across long paths. I always wanted to stop. Even still my tendency is to hop off and walk my bike the second things get steep. But he would reach over and give me another push forward and tell me that slow and steady would win the race.

We weren’t in a race and I wouldn’t have come in first if we were, but maybe that wasn’t the point.

Maybe winning and finishing well are the same things.

I’m all about slow these days. Probably because it is exactly what I feel like I can’t do. Keep going, run faster, do more, finish the goals, meet the deadlines, don’t stop or you’ll fall behind.

When I think of slow I see pictures of lazy Saturday mornings and steaming cups of coffee and piles of blankets in the corner of the couch. I see visions of vacations and breaks and days off. I’m all about slow, I say. Because I think slow means stop.

But I can’t stop because I have things to do and places to be and music to learn and words to write and houses to clean and children to care for and students to teach. I’ve got to keep going. Slow is for Saturdays and summers, I think. Slow is not for busy Tuesdays in the middle of March.

Slow does not mean stop, though. That’s why the tortoise won the race. Because he kept on the path, he kept moving, he kept at his work. He just went about it slowly. And that’s how you win. That’s how you finish well. You stay on your path and you move forward – slow and steady.

Frantic and frenetic doesn’t win. You’ll burn out. You’ll run out of energy. You won’t get to the end. You’ll resort to napping on the sidelines. But slow your pace down and maybe you’ll arrive at the finish line with sanity and soul still in tact.

Finishing well is just as good as winning.

So yeah, this isn’t the season of leisurely lounging on the couch for long hours each morning. It’s not the time for sideline naps, novel reading and Netflix binging. There’s work to be done. And it’s good, rewarding, worthwhile work. But we don’t have to race after it like crazy people. We can go slow while we work.

Turns out that little one was right. Slow and steady will always win.


What Steady Work Looks Like For Me:

  • Not checking my phone in the middle of tasks.
  • Setting my timer for a specific amount of time and working on one project until it goes off.
  • Planning my week in advance and sticking with it, even when I don’t feel like it.
  • Moving from one task to the next without the aimlessly ambling between tasks.
  • Doing one thing at a time without pretending I can multi-task.
  • Having accountability partners to tell my goals to and checking in with them throughout the day.
  • Taking real breaks before I breakdown and then returning to the tasks refreshed.

What Slow Work Looks Like For Me:

  • Being ok with imperfection.
  • Not expecting myself to get to my goals all at once.
  • Walking for five minutes at the beginning and end of every run.
  • Not letting myself give into stress or frenzy when I feel behind.
  • Letting the process be just as important (or more important) than the results.
  • Deep breaths instead of tearful freak outs.
  • Mindful presence through each task.
  • Taking the time I need to do things well rather than racing on to the next thing.
  • Trusting that I’ll get to what I need to get to and that it’s ok to fail if I don’t.

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