This piece was written in June 2019 and originally published by Rebelle Society.
I’m done with living life in the fast lane.
I’m done with investing in the mindset that advocates perpetual striving. I’m done with investing in systems that are ill-equipped to provide the resources that we need in order to effectively discharge our professional duties and that instead expect that we go ‘the extra mile’ to mitigate the shortfall. I’m all out of miles. A pit-stop won’t cut it. I need a full-on service.
I realise, however, that I too am at fault; that going the extra mile is a choice I make repeatedly. Today, I choose to break free from diabolical clutches of striving and ‘efforting’ and, instead, I choose to flow, to slow down.
To my mind, life in the fast lane is a capitalist construct borne, in part, out of the exploitation of our insecurities about our sense of worth. Insecurities that, purportedly, can be neutralised by consumerism and the fulfilment of hedonistic urges.
Buy the newest. Own the latest. Drive the fastest. Be the best.
The implication: when we live into superlatives it will make us feel better about ourselves. Happy, even.
But of course, the gratification we experience is only temporary. Because desire is, by its very nature, insatiable, fleeting, ephemeral.
Wasteful, destructive and exploitative at its core, the commodification of everything we hold dear has permeated into every aspect of our lives, spreading like a disease
infecting our interpersonal platonic relationships, our romantic relationships, our relationship with the environment, our relationship to the Earth and our relationship with ourselves.
We ghost, we swipe left/right, we consume and we throw away.
In the fast lane, we live in a constant state of striving. We strive to have it all: the house, the car, the holidays, the shoes, the ‘summer body’. We strive to do it all: the master’s degree, the full-time job, taking the kids to their various after-school activities. We strive to be everything to those in our lives: a parent who bakes, crafts, reads stories, does mindfulness and helps with homework; a loving spouse; a supportive family member.
Just as the drive for infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is nothing less than a death wish, the perpetual desire to feel that we are achieving is, at best, masochistic given that we have limited reserves of energy to draw upon. And the way in which we plunder and pillage our own internal resources mirrors the way in which humanity - as a collective - plunder and pillage the earth’s resources. It’s time to dismantle the toxic systems that, through the use of psychological oppression, unwittingly embroil us into becoming complicit co-conspirators in our own exploitation.
But what are we chasing and why are we running? If the long-term outcomes of striving are so unsatisfactory why do we continue to play the game? What would happen if we just stopped? For some of us, it may be an addiction to the adrenaline rush. For others, doing becomes an identity. For others still, constant busy-ness is a form of denial that prevents us from having to face uncomfortable truths that would otherwise be staring us directly in the face. Some of us may only feel that we are of value if we are contributing to our community. For some, like myself, it could be a combination of all of the above.
Naturally, action is necessary in life. We need to get things done. But, similarly, we also require time for quiet and reflection. We require time to assimilate and digest information from our life experiences. These periods of down-time create a sense of space, balance and equilibrium in our lives which are nurturing and enriching and promote health and well-being.
Perpetual striving leads to burn out. I myself am I perfect example of this. So it’s time to dismantle the illusion that constant busy-ness is normal, laudable and inescapable. It’s time to stop wearing busy-ness as a badge of honour. In the same way as sustained economic growth can only be maintained at a higher and higher cost to our ecosystem, prolonged striving to do and be everything can only be maintained at the cost of our physical, mental and emotional health.
In the world where living into superlatives has almost become the norm, where we continuously craft the image our ‘best selves’ on social media or in the snippets of casual conversation have with others, a truth that is often lost is that the extraordinary moments that we yearn for mostly reside in the ordinary moments of life - my daughter’s peals of laughter as I attempt an American accent (we’re British) while giving her a bath (I don’t know why we started doing this), pulling my partner in close when he gets back from work, the burst of colour on the trees on my drive home.
So, I’m choosing to live in the slow lane.
I’m choosing to do less; to work less; to buy less; to give myself more space and time to reflect on where I go from here. I choose to approach what I do with presence of mind, knowing that mindful action is nurturing to my system. I choose to become aware of the extraordinary in the ordinary. I choose to tread more lightly, and with a heightened sense of awareness, upon the Earth Mother.
I choose to give and receive love.
Change begins with awareness. And we build momentum with every choice we make in which we honour our limitations as well as our capabilities. Pythagoras said that “choices are the hinges of destiny”. So I invite you to make different choices today in the hope that, together, we can co-create a different reality: a mindful life in the slow lane.