I’m back from another week of leadership training and coaching, this
time at the Air Force Academy. What a great group of dedicated people
trying to transform their organizational culture to be more dynamic and
responsive in this rapidly changing world. The trip home was brutal—the
usual pain of getting through security, plus flight delays, lost
luggage and lots of equally distressed travelers helped create a
generally ‘down’ mood and a more than a little bit painful experience.
I find myself more and more thinking about ‘slowing down’. It is
strange because I am also feeling at the ‘top of my game’—working more
and feeling energized much of the time. In fact, it occurred to me that
maybe this is what ‘eldering’ looks like. Yet, at the same time, I have
this more or less constant conversation running through my mind that I
should be slowing down and taking more time to smell the roses.
Fortunately, I have that option and could work less if I choose to. I
must admit I have this fear that if I were to ‘slow down’, then I would
not be able to ‘speed up’ later if I wanted to.
Maybe this is just my circular thinking about the future. I can’t say
that this sort of mental meandering is exclusively a product of getting
older, but it does seem that this conversation is very much like what I
hear from a lot of people who are contemplating retirement. In my
case, I don’t want to retire entirely … although a different lifestyle
is calling me.
I am beginning to see that ‘slowing down’ isn’t really possible from
one point of view. We can make different commitments or do different
things with our time, but time is more or less constant. That is, I am
always just living 24 hours a day—whether I am doing a lot or watching
the boats go by my window. I think the idea of slowing down as we age,
rather than being a description of our activities, has more to do with
being more responsible for the choices we make.
This small conversation with myself once again illustrates how easy it
is to get sucked into the cultural story about aging. In this case, I
was equating ‘feeling older’ with being tired and frustrated with a
long week and a difficult travel experience and then using that notion
to rationalize that I ‘should’ stop working as much or travel less because I am not as young as I used to be.
I might decide to travel less because it is a pain in the neck, but not
because of age. And I might decide to work less simply because I choose
to have more time for other experiences.
When I was speaking with the military officers at the Academy, their
big ‘Ah ha’ was the realization that a career, a mission or any ‘life
game’ they wish to play is more about manifesting a vision—creating a
future—than it is about going flat out, solving problems, producing
results and trying to control everything in sight.
Life isn’t about how much or how little we work or how fast or slow we
get from point A to point B. The cliché is worth repeating: life is
about the journey and not the destination. So maybe slowing down means
having whatever we do matter—whether that’s working, relaxing,
traveling, reading or ruminating. Maybe this is just another
opportunity for me to look at trying a different approach to living: to
actually revel in being ‘present’ in every moment, being deliberate
with my actions, being mindful and expressing whatever I am intending
to express or accomplish in a given day. To not feel ‘guilty’ for
‘taking time’ to live full out ….