Slowing down will let you think quickly and act fast
The electric lights were all turned off. Except for a few flickering candles, we were engulfed in a vast darkness. A voice began to slowly chant. A solitary male. He was eventually joined by two-score more.
It was an impressive a cappella choir of men and women performing Rachmaninoff's Vespers in the inspiring and equally impressive medieval setting of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
I travelled to Paris this past Tuesday to support a friend who was singing in this concert.
For nearly two hours, I sat quietly, determined to focus on the hauntingly beautiful music and - I hate to admit - determined not to let my mind wander.
"Stop and really listen," I told myself. "Pay attention to the intricate harmonies. Feel the cool darkness of this ancient, gothic church. Don't shift in your chair. Don't think about other deadlines or projects or distractions. Just. Slow. Down."
Slowing down. Being mindful. In our world when we're expected to practically be reachable and available 24/7, it's hard to disconnect, isn't it?
Interestingly, I was seated next to another friend of mine who makes her living writing about going slow.
Sabine Laguionie, whom I met at a knitting club when I lived in Paris eight years ago, is the content editor of the French edition of Flow magazine, which highlights the benefits of simplifying our lives.
Sabine sums her own life approach this way: "If you are in a hurry all the time, working, always trying to do everything (and by everything I mean not only paid work and household chores, but also rushing to seeing the new blockbuster, reading the book everybody is talking about and waiting three hours to get in to the art exhibit of the year), how can you expect to have enough time and energy left to notice the things right in front of your nose?
"Do you spend enough time with your loved ones? Do they have all the attention they need? Do you give yourself the attention that you need?"
Along with Flow, which started out as a Dutch magazine and is now published internationally and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, much is being written about the importance of well-being and mindfulness. I certainly have written about it before here in this column.
Slowing down is part of it all.
But, on the other hand, there are situations when fast is the only way to go.
Last summer, I was struggling with our two large suitcases while daughter Lulu and I were in the crowded Pisa train station. Lulu was looking up at me from the base of the stairs I was descending when she noticed a man move in close to my handbag slung on my shoulder. I felt nothing, but Lulu saw him lift out my wallet.
In a flash, she screamed, "STOP!", leapt up and actually yanked the wallet back from where he had tucked it under his arm as he'd turned to head up the stairs.
Lulu made a snap decision straight from her gut. I won't go around recommending that every child take on a pickpocket, but in this case, her instinct paid off.
If she had taken even the slightest moment to deliberate, the would-be thief would have gained the time he needed to melt into the crowd.
In the internal communications of our daily working lives, author Mel Robbins writes about the tug-of-war our brain and emotions play with us in her book, The Five Second Rule. She writes, "If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea."
This reminded me of a quip from the late comedian Mitch Hedberg who said he always kept a notebook next to his bed in case he woke up in the middle of the night thinking of a new joke.
And how he hated it when he woke up one time and, realising he'd left the notebook on the other side of the room, and had to spend the rest of the night convincing himself the joke wasn't that funny.
We can overthink until we end up doing nothing. We can be hit by that whole notion of 'paralysis by analysis'.
Slow and fast
But yet again, what about researchers, like Columbia Business School's Heidi Grant, who writes that when we feel rushed into a decision, we end up second-guessing ourselves? Which one is it? Should we go fast or should we go slow?
It's a combination of both. Being mindful and slowing down can clear your mind so only the most pertinent and relevant information will come to the front. You will keep what's important in perspective and not zoom in too much on the many irrelevant things that are not.
Prevent your mind from being clouded and you can make good and solid decisions.
You have to make up your mind to firmly communicate to yourself. Reason can be just as fast as instinct. Slowing down allows you to remove baggage so you can move faster when you need to.
What decisions are you working on? Let me help provide your communications strategy. Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon
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