I Traveled 3,000 Miles to Learn a Simple Lesson About Slowing Down That You Can Start Practicing Today
It’s a month to the day that I got home from London, so it’s only fitting that I shared this post today.
I wanted to share a major perspective shift this trip helped me make. Especially because while traveling helped me make this shift, I don’t think you need to travel 3,000 miles to do the same.
I learned that you can control the pace of your life, by intentionally shifting your priorities. You don’t have to be a slave to your schedule. Yes, you actually can finally quit the “I’m the busiest” contest.
Slowing Down Means Shifting Your Priorities
I know, these days it feels like everyone is telling us to slow down…. kind of like I literally just did.
They’re all Pinterest-perfect mantras, but let’s be real here, how the heck can you slow down when so many people rely on you?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had moments where you look at your week ahead, and without even realizing it, you’ve already packed it full of meetings, appointments and to-do’s. And you’re probably thinking “UGH HOW DID THIS HAPPEN…again?!”
Saying “No” Means Creating Boundaries Around Your Time
But if London taught me anything, it was that the sky doesn’t fall when you say no.
I spent three months in London. It’s a trip I planned, in part, to literally change the pace of my life. It took me physically leaving the country to help see where I needed boundaries in my life. Dramatic right? That wasn’t the only reason I went, but it certainly helped.
Before this, every time I made an attempt at slowing down, I’d slowly say yes to too much again. My days were full of commitments that sounded nice on paper, but in reality were not bringing me any joy. I was always busy doing the urgent work, and never the important.
Taking a big step back from my day-to-day life was the boundary I needed to start slowing down and going at the pace I craved. It helped me realize what I missed doing and what I didn’t miss at all.
When I was in London, I had this amazing excuse… “I’m sorry, but I’m currently living abroad so I can’t XYZ.” This glorious excuse freed me from my fear of saying no, because there was no other answer.
Slowing Down Still Comes with Plenty of FOMO
But here’s the reality about slowing down your life. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s really scary. When you can’t distract and numb yourself with overcommitment, work and other people’s problems, guess what happens? You have to face your true self, your true desires, your feelings, fears and all those big scary things that can be pushed aside when you’re always “too busy.” You have to face the important things that were never urgent enough to make the daily to-do.
Part of me wonders if it was my own self-doubt that filled up my schedule. If I’m left alone with my free time, I have to actually do the things I say I “never had time for.” What if I fail? Busy is a shield protecting you from important, deep and slow work.
Here were my biggest fears about slowing down
- what do I even do with my “slowed down” life
- when I’m still and present I’ll have to face the hard shit I keep putting off
- what if people think I’m lazy when I say no?
- what if I disappoint people by saying no?
- what if I miss out on an incredible opportunity?
- what if I leave money on the table?
- what if I fall behind?
When I was in London I did come up against these self-limiting beliefs. I found it hard to explain that I was basically taking a 3 month vacation. However, as I dug deeper I realized that people’s reactions were not negative, it was just my own fear making me believe they were judging me.
I felt my fears and the sky didn’t fall. I didn’t miss out. No one got mad with my boundaries. Whatever opportunities I “missed” were not for me.
Slowing down taught me
- Sleeping more is amazing
- Not being busy all the time helps me stay present and enjoy what I’m doing
- FOMO is almost always a result of my phone
- Taking the extra time to walk more gives me energy
- Focusing on being productive and busy brought me validation, not happiness or meaningful work
Ok ok ok – you might be thinking “god Georgie are you trying to tell us to all move to another country so we can live slow down?!”
No. Not all. I don’t think I needed to move to London to learn these lessons. Nor did I need to make such a drastic change in my life. I think I could have learned ALL of that by changing one simple (not easy) thing:
In order to slow down, you need to change your priorities
Looking back, they were out of whack. Even though I value joy and energy, I was prioritizing productivity. I assumed that productivity would make me happy. But the more I got done, the more I wanted to get done and I wasn’t enjoying process, or feeling satisfied by the result. Just thirsty for more productivity.
I love the work I do. Whether it’s social media consulting, blogging, being a barista or designing. However I approached it with this mentality that I can only “have fun” when it’s over. I can only feel “good enough” when the to-do list is done. I thought if I did more, I was worth more. The result from prioritizing productivity was never feeling enough.
Changing the way you think and feel about your work and how you use your time, takes time. I have to consistently remind myself that my priority in life is creating joy, feeling energized and doing meaningful work. I have days where I frustrated that I haven’t “done enough.” But what does that ever mean?
Would I rather have a day where I take care of myself, learn something new, see people I love, eat good food and get a little work done or a day where I’m just getting a lot of work done? I think the answer is obvious, so I just have to keep retraining my brain to remember what I value.
Waiting until you’ve “done enough” to enjoy your life will having you waiting a long long time (i.e. forever.)
I acknowledge that I won’t be able to stroll the streets of London, with an iced soy latte in hand, a podcast in ear just soaking it all in every day. However, I do know I can keep the inspiration, spirit of exploration and spontaneity of travel with me in small moments. And I’ll keep putting joy at the top of my to-do list. I hope it makes your list, too.