Growing up, I was a fast walker. My grandfather had installed in me the idea that being on time meant being there before I was expected, and for whatever reason, I really took that to heart. When I got into middle school I was all but running through the halls to make the most efficient use of the six minutes between classes to exchange books from the locker and sometimes traverse the whole of the building in the process. Once I got into high school, things were no different except we had seven minutes, and there I was taught to not just walk, but march. If my grandfather's insistence hadn't been enough, those six years of school would have done it to me anyway.
Throughout most of my adult life this has also been the case for me. I've been one of the first people to work (and many times among the last as well). I get to church early. I get to appointments early. Pretty much, if someone is expecting me to be somewhere, I wasn't going to have them waiting on me if that was at all possible. Perhaps as an extension of this mindset, this often meant that if someone was expecting something of me, they would get it and likely a bit more. But it's not over-achieving if it is only meeting my own goal.
I have been in places, however, where this did not play out well for me, especially when my own mindset or ambitions are in contrast to others (think just enough that some may do versus my own and then some mentality). It has presented some interesting personal interactions and challenges, but even more so I've found that it has put me in situations that I'm not entirely glad to be in, despite the seemingly positive momentum involved.
I'd originally titled this post walk slowly, but I realized my wife would complain that I always walk slowly compared to her, and I honestly do, partly because she's blessed with lovely long legs, and partly because I want to slow down a bit. It's easy for me to rush around from thing to thing, person to person, and activity to activity, but then what do I have to say about that time between those things? Probably not much as I was so focused on the goal I missed the journey. I suppose the one time I'll let her drag me full-steam is when she's romping around the Magic Kingdom.
But I digress. I really meant for this thought to record the mindset shift that I've had over the last few years. As–I imagine–with many people, when I was younger I was constantly trying to figure out what next and how to get a rung higher on the ladder. At times, I'd feel like the ability to make that next step was so far removed I'd be just shy of despondent, and other times the change would be so palpable it was all I could do to stop myself from celebrating.
I would say that I've had to adjust my momentum, but in reality I think what has happened is I've come to appreciate the here and now a lot more. I may not like all of my situations, but that doesn't mean I can't find some goodness in the present. This mindset shift has required one thing of me that I'd rarely allow in the past: slowing down.
These days, when I'm faced with tasks I don't enjoy, I try to look for aspects of it that I can learn from, appreciate, or otherwise help to create a positive outlook. Stuck in traffic on the way home? No problem: I'm carpooling with my lovely wife! Feeling isolated at work? Pick out someone to try and get to know on a personal level, perhaps over lunch, coffee, or a game. Have no plans, but really want to do something? Follow Nike's advice.
I'd bet that this isn't a revelation to most people, but the truth of it is that it's a discovery that it took me far too long to appreciate, even if I've known it for ages and dabbled with it for time to time. As I age, I am finding that some grains of wisdom must be starting to grow inside. I know it'll be a long time before anyone looks at me and calls me a wise old man (if ever), but I'll take the little personal victories, and cherish each and every one.