The key to appreciating life

I’m bearing the world on my shoulders.

Though I’m sure you do too.

Past a certain age, if we’re lucky, nobody’s taking care of our stuff anymore, which means that we are responsible for our own world. The job to perform, the bills to pay, the meals to prepare, the taxes to (reluctantly) take care of, and all the little things that seem to get in the way of success.

At first, it’s harmless, you just have to do that one little more thing. Then that other one. And so on and so forth. Little by little, you start to miss time for the things you have to do, let alone for those you actually want to do. So you go faster, or at least, you try to. And the time flies by even more.

It. Never. Stops.

The train

At the station, you get on the train, find your seat, put your bags down, and finally sit down and wait for the train to depart. You look outside the window at the train next to yours, and suddenly everything starts to move. For an instant, you don’t know which train just started. It lasts only a second, then you get back to reality and know. But for a very brief moment, to you, movement was just that, a movement. One that could get you closer to your goal, or one that’s simply irrelevant.

It’s the same for your own tasks and activities. If you go 300mph, you can never know for sure whether you’re moving to get to your destination, or because you got used to the worry and the need to get things done faster. One sure thing: you don’t appreciate life. I know it because when I’m like that, it’s impossible for me to feel anything good. But it’s not hopeless. The solution is actually pretty easy.

The key to appreciating life.

Slow. Down.

It seem counter-intuitive, after all, you have plenty on your plate, if you slow down, you risk increasing anxiety.

But when you never stop to catch your breath, you never allow stress to go down. You can’t recharge your batteries. Your productivity plummets and you start to hate your whole situation.

Instead, when you walk, walk slowly. When you do something, choose only one activity. Cut your daily to-do list in half. Allow yourself to breathe.

Do one thing at a time, but do what matters.

When we’re trying to get everything done, we lose track of what’s important, and what’s not, everything simply has to “get done”. We don’t put our hearts into it, we don’t put anything, really, especially anything creative.

But when we slow down, everything starts to count. Instead of living in the imaginary destination, you can feel each step, ponder what the next one will feel like, instead of fighting and rushing for the next shortcut. Doing one more slow trip to the kitchen will not make you loose 10 seconds, but gain the same amount. Instead of pestering, picking up the dishing and quickly putting them into the machine, you can enjoy the touch of your fingers on the plates, the temperature difference between the living room and the fridge, and simply use that time to be there and enjoy.

Of course, you’re busy, but really, at the end of the day, will these 10 seconds really make a difference? Time itself is irrelevant, what matters is using it wisely. If you need 15 more minutes, don’t try to gain 5 seconds here and there by rushing and exhausting you. Why not instead shut off your phone and email when you need to be productive. Simply one less interruption will give you the time you need, to be productive, and to appreciate life, as you’re living it.

Then, next time you’ll take a high-speed train, you’ll know exactly why, and you’ll enjoy the scenery.

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