Written by: Shara Cox
Carrie Fisher once said- “Instant gratification takes too long”. With today’s technology, that almost sounds like an impossible statement. But sometimes it seems a bit of a self-perpetuating phenomenon. At what point do we decide that fast has become “too” fast, and what was so wrong with slow in the first place?
The modern devices and technology of this age are like rocket fuel for instant gratification. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next girl- having the world at my fingertips, answers to questions in the blink of an eye. I mean, I barely remember how I existed before I could order something online and have it conveniently show up on my doorstep the next day. There’s nothing wrong with needing or wanting things and desiring that those things be delivered in a timely manner. But, immediacy begets immediacy and this ideology begins to seep into areas where it doesn’t belong. Not everything can or should be attained immediately. The more we feed our desire to have what we want when we want it, the less we are cultivating more adult characteristics within ourselves like patience and endurance. There are strength and wisdom that comes from hard-earned experiences and failures and cultivating deeper relationships to people, places, and things. I find a lot of the time how true the old adage is- “easy come, easy go”. Most of the time, things that come easily are the first to be forgotten and the least meaningful in the end.
When I was a teenager, I scoffed at my grandparents who didn’t see the point of need for computers. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to marvel at the speed at which technology is able to proliferate and witness the perpetual cycle of “insta” perpetuating itself into infinity. I’m beginning to internally apologize to my predecessors and seek out ways to remedy within myself the addiction to “now”.
So, if you’re like me and find yourself sometimes feeling like a piece of paper tossed about in the winds of our ever-changing society, I offer up a few things I have come across in my desire to stay balanced and grounded amidst all of the technology, and ways to keep a proper perspective of time and our place within it.
- PICK ONE THING TO GET GOOD AT AND DON’T GIVE UP UNTIL YOU’RE GREAT AT IT- In other words, take something you’ve never done before and relish every stage that comes with learning how to be great at that thing. This idea is the guts behind setting a goal and not giving up or giving in until you reach that goal. There is a wonderful life principle embedded here and this is an exceedingly profitable way to think about your Ashiatsu practice, starting your own business, or anything else that you desire to bring a deeper, more meaningful experience into your life.
I’ve seen several people take Ashiastu workshops with me and then leave and not incorporate it into their practice because they weren’t good at it immediately. By its nature, Ashi isn’t something meant to be good at it instantly. It takes work. If it were easily attained, everyone would do it and Ashi would have probably ended up being just another fad. But for therapists who have put in the time and effort and for clients who have experienced a session from those individuals, Ashiatsu is one of the most valuable and productive modalities out there.
“Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off excellent.”
I try to tell every one of my students when they leave on the last day- “Enjoy the process! Three days ago you had never used your feet to massage, and now you can give an entire 90-minute session with them. Don’t get down on yourself because you aren’t fabulous at it yet. That’s the next step, but first, enjoy this step.”
Understand and appreciate that there is a journey to greatness. The destination is just a blip. The journey is the story of and the meaning behind that blip. But here’s a hint- the journey is going to look a lot like work. Because it is. You may hit bumps in the road and probably fall and maybe even throw yourself on the pavement kicking and screaming a few times (I know I have). But there is a beauty to understanding, appreciating and even enjoying the sometimes painful road to success. For one, the deep sense of accomplishment will feel off-the-charts rewarding. But perhaps even more rewarding is that a new depth and clarity will be installed into your being that others will not have, and this will give you roots in which to stay grounded and undeterred when adversity strikes.
- IT’S OKAY TO SLOW DOWN- Our society has all but reduced the word SLOW to a four-letter word, throwing it in the garbage right next to lazy. But how much quality are we sacrificing due to our quantity mindset? You may know of the Slow Food Movement that came about in the 1980s when an Italian man fought the opening of a McDonalds in a piazza in Rome. This attitude has had a ripple effect around the world and has brought us back to the idea of meals centered around sustainable, quality ingredients that have been locally produced and consumed. So, if we know that enjoying meals that are based on this slower, more meaningful experience is beneficial to our well-being, shouldn’t this idea bleed into more of our daily experiences in life?
“A fast approach tends to be a superficial one, but when you slow down you begin to engage more deeply with whatever it is you’re doing. You’re also forced to confront what’s happening inside you – which is one of the reasons why I think we find it so hard to slow down. Speed becomes a form of denial. It’s a way of running away from those more deeper, tangled problems. Instead of focusing on questions like who am I, and what is my role here, it all becomes a superficial to-do list.” — Carl Honoré
I recently had the experience of having to take an emergency trip up to visit my family who lives several hours away, and it ended up that the train was my best option for getting there. The trip took the greater part of a day, almost three hours longer versus driving, but the whole experience was absolutely magic (in fact I’m still telling people about it!) For one, the stress of getting on the train and being on the train was non-existent. No one was in a hurry. There were no excruciating lines, no tiny bags for my liquids, no getting half undressed to make it through metal detectors… no road rage, no speed traps, no construction zones. I was at peace the entire trip as I relaxed in my seat (that was gargantuan by today’s airplane standards) peacefully watching the countryside pass by. I had lunch in the dining car with three complete strangers who were so friendly, and then I wandered into the observation car where I could gaze up at the clouds through the skylights. I let go of the feeling and/or need to listen to music or entertain myself somehow and allowed myself to simply drift away into my thoughts and dreams and imaginings, and I tell you the time flew by and the inward joy I felt was inexplicable! I felt so connected to the things around me.
Slow living is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It is about doing everything at a better, more enjoyable and mindful pace which ends up being a more satisfying and gratifying experience in the end.
Check out https://www.sloww.co/slow-living-101/ for more information about slow living practices.
- TAKE A DAILY BREAK FROM DEVICES- No doubt we have all heard about the need to take breaks from technology and social media, but I just want to reiterate the importance of doing so. Not just that we need to give our nervous system a break from constant stimulus bombardment, but studies have shown that scrolling causes a un-ending dopamine loop to take place in your brain. Dopamine is important for thinking, sleeping, mood, motivation and attention span. It is also linked to the “wanting” and “liking” system in our brain. When we pull up a “feed” on social media, the dopamine loop is instantly engaged- the “wanting” system is seeking pleasure and drives us to take action to scroll, click a link, seek more information, etc which may or may not temporarily satisfy the complementary “liking” system. This is perpetuated into an endless loop until some outward stimulus or interruption causes us to “wake up” and realize that 30 minutes just went by in the blink of an eye. This endless dopamine loop looks a lot like addiction and tends to have the same effect on our health and well-being in general.
If you find yourself at times “addicted” to social media, you can put some checks in a place like turning off and tuning out during a few set hours of the day and also set an alarm before using these apps so you will have some kind of check-in place to interrupt the cycle.
This is a great article from Psychology Today about “The Dopamine Seeking Reward Loop”
- GET INTO NATURE OFTEN- Nature is cyclical, seasonal and daily. Some flower species open and move with the day, but most things in nature change with the seasons or with the ebbs and flows of different cycles. Nature does not usually bless us with displays of instant gratification, except perhaps if you’re lucky enough to see lightning strike. It is more often patient, constant, enduring and hardy. And when you spend enough time there, it pervades your inner clock and helps counter-balance the speed of modern humanity.
- SET REALISTIC COMMUNICATION EXPECTATIONS- Sometimes there’s an ironic picture that runs through my mind when I text someone who I know is staring at their phone constantly and then they struggle to get back to me a day or two later or they forget altogether. Smart devices were intentionally created to make our lives easier and faster with communication, but I sense sometimes that people are overwhelmed these days with the burden of instant communication to the point of a communication breakdown.
I make it point to leave my phone alone and check it only every few hours. My family, friends and clients (hopefully) know this about me, which helps to set a communication standard that I am comfortable with- I will do my best to get back to you within a few hours or within a business day. As massage therapists, we all hope that our clients know we are potentially busy and out of communication for the entire business day (and of course don’t we love when they learn to book themselves online!).
Set a standard that you are comfortable with and able to keep. For me, this is not getting back to someone within the hour. I will probably never earn the lightning-fast response badge on Facebook, and I’m okay with that. My standard is within the day or within one business day- which is a time frame I can reasonably sustain.
The flip side of this coin, too, is don’t expect others to respond within your time table. In other words, don’t put your expectations on others. The space between reality and your expectation of it is anxiety. When others operate on a different time frame than you do, avoid unnecessary stress by seizing the opportunity to cultivate virtues within yourself like patience, empathy, and understanding until they are able to get back in touch with you.
Finally, for extra credit, I suggest a fun way to help keep a realistic perspective on time and how quickly things change….
- DO SOMETHING “OLD SCHOOL”- Swim against the current of ageism and today’s youth-centered culture and experience something from past generations. Ride a horse or in a horse and buggy, type a letter on a typewriter, go camping with zero modern conveniences, take up sword-fighting, whatever…
I love writing letters to my grandmother. Even though my family has comically helped usher her into this century with a Facebook account, I still cherish the experience of communicating with her by mail. The original mail. For me, there is something so rich about the whole experience of sitting down to write a letter. From picking out nice stationery to unburying myself long enough to get cohesive thoughts down on paper to mailing it and then the best part- waiting for her response (luckily, she always writes me back within a few days). I cherish the whole process! It bridges the gap between generations and makes me appreciate what it must have been like for her growing up in a slower, simpler era.
Check out some of these Ted Talks for more great advice on slowing down, tuning in, and finding balance in this modern age:
How Instant Gratification is Harming Society and What to Do About It by John Davidson
When You Feel the Need to Speed Up, Slow Down by Kimi Werner
In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré
Written by: Shara Cox, Austin DeepFeet Instructor