The Art of Slowing Down

Angel Oak is a Southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The tree is estimated to be 400-500 years old. It stands 66.5 feet tall, measures 28 feet in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. Its longest branch distance is 187 feet in length. The Angel Oak was damaged severely during Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but has since recovered. The Angel Oak continues to grow despite the storms it has been through. In some circumstances the branches went underground, however, they always resurface. In other places the branches hold each other up and although the branches go in many directions the Angel Oak still maintains its purpose and people are better off having been in its presence. The Angel Oak is a testament to perseverance and strength.

The Angel Oak is a great illustration for our lives and the strength that can be found in slowing down:

  • In today’s world, there’s something incredibly enticing about being busy. Because being busy feels productive. And conversely, thinking time doesn’t. However, It’s only when we slow down and give ourselves time to think, that we notice the difference between getting things done and getting the right things done and doing them well. It’s only then, that thinking time starts to feel productive.
  • They say never send an email when you’re angry or in a rush. It’s so much easier to make a mistake, send the wrong thing to the wrong person or say something you’ll regret. The same goes for the conversation we have with ourselves — in our own heads. Our inner critic is far harsher when we’re rushing against the clock. When we slow down, we’re kinder, more reasonable, and much more inspired. Slowing down gives our logical brains a chance to catch up with our emotions. It lets us decide how we want to respond, rather than just react.
  • We are human beings, not robots. Our productivity doesn’t just depend on speed and efficiency. It also depends on our creativity, intuition and innovation, and these things need space to flourish. In fact, sometimes when we are really stuck, we’ll find taking the pressure off can be just the thing to get our creativity flowing. Nothing shuts down inspiration faster than forcing it.
  • Manically rushing from one thing to another is no good for your health or productivity. When our stress levels get too high, we make mistakes, make poor decisions, misjudge and misread situations, and are far more likely to get caught up in reactive firefighting rather than productively moving forward on what really matters. When we find ourselves feeling stressed or rushed, we need to deliberately slow ourselves down. Walk slower. Talk slower. Take slower, deeper breaths and notice the clarity of thought returning. The very act of slowing down can physically reduce our stress levels
  • Some of the best moments in life are the ones we don’t plan. When we rush from one thing to another, or pack things in too tightly, we can miss those moments. A conversation with a special friend. The moment when your daughter wants to have a long sleepy chat about dolphins. The statue you walk past every day and never really stopped to see that it’s carved out of a tree. In a world where time is precious, let’s not forget to take our time.

Let’s not get caught up in doing everything faster and trying to make everything more efficient. Sometimes work is better and life is richer when we take the time to slow down.