03 Sep Often the Best Way to Grow as a Person Is by Slowing Down
A RIVER MAY MOVE SLOWLY OVER SHIMMERING ROCKS, providing life to the weary.
At other times the water leaps from cliffs with unbearable force and dives deep into pools surging with energy.
No matter what, a river never stops moving. Like a river that snakes and adapts to the earth, time never ceases completely.
It’s early in the morning as I write this. Outside the window before my non-averting gaze, the day ticks away, from the midnight blue of predawn light to the morning’s ubiquitous grey.
My vision remains fixed on the open sky; as the earth turns, we step into the progress of time with it. Second by second, the planet tilts within the sun’s embrace.
I watch the sunrise often, yet it remains my favorite part of the day. This moment, although it feels familiar, is unlike any other.
Time, like the existence of all things, is fluid, continually becoming something new.
You can never step into the same river twice, said Heraclitus twenty-five hundred years ago. No two moments are the same.
I imagine what the world was like then, without the knowledge we have today of what’s physiologically taking place between our ears or how the earth’s forces work together.
What one saw, they had the option to believe — what they believed was their reality. It must have been liberating, embracing the unknown.
Philosophers like Heraclitus, one of the prominent Western philosophy figures in the 6th-century BC, would view rushing water and contemplate its source.
He would wonder about life and the meaning of time itself.
The present will always continue forward, yet, this moment is ours to determine what to do with. We choose when to slow down and nourish our mind, body, and soul.
We also decide when to move with force and purpose to create immediate change.
In striving to find balance in life, there are times when both mindsets are beneficial; to foster life-long improvement, often it takes slowing down to thrive as a human being.
The philosophy of Kaizen means improving a little bit every day to achieve long-term growth.
Instead of making drastic life changes all at once, Kaizen suggests getting better by one percent every day, to improve incrementally to avoid quickly burning out.
The philosophy was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II,
After America and its allies had defeated Japan and Germany with the weaponry produced by plants using the small, continuous improvement philosophy, America introduced the concept to Japanese factories to help revitalize their economy. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen - Japanese for continuous improvement.
The desire to do more with every second is natural; we want each untapped moment to be filled. But just as necessary in our lives are the moments to stop and let the seconds remain empty.
While Kaizen began as a business philosophy, I find it essential as it connects to spiritual growth.
Growing by one percent every day could mean learning a new skill, exercising a little more, or eating more healthfully.
But what about just being kind to yourself a little more every day, more accepting of who you are and all that you’re becoming?
What about taking an extra five minutes to think, and reflect on how far you’ve already come? The muse frequently strikes when we give ourselves the space to ponder.
When our hearts remain open to each day’s serendipitous beauty and the joy of simply being, our lives may change in ways we could never have imagined.
Getting better by one percent could mean accepting doing a little less when we feel we’re burning the candle at both ends.
Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris refers to this as a de-loading phase:
A term often used in strength and athletic training, but it's a concept that can be applied to many areas,
Deloading for business consists of strategically taking my foot off the gas. I alternate intense periods of batching similar tasks (recording podcasts, clearing the inbox, writing blog posts) with extended periods of unplugging and fucking around. I find both the batching and unplugging to free up bandwidth and be restorative.
Setting goals and sticking to a routine is well and good if that works for you.
But growing may mean accepting a change of routine every once in a while by allowing ourselves a moment, a week, or even longer, to look up at the sky and watch the clouds slowly open.
We must allow ourselves a breath of air after tirelessly swimming forward by taking de-loading phases in our personal and professional lives.
Sometimes we need to simply float, after keeping our head in the water and counting days like strokes.
Time flows like a river, sometimes with great power and force, and at others with grace, when nothing is heard but the trickling of moving water.
We decide how to fill each second.
We must take the time to enjoy this life we’ve been given and get one percent better every day by fostering a peaceful mind.