Will you believe me if I said this very thought to convince people to slow down came to my mind while I was sitting motionlessly, paralysed by my incessant thoughts, in the Medical Centre while waiting for my turn to be called? Funny. In any case, pardon this garbled rumination which was spewed out of me.
In this fast-paced society we live in today, we are often caught up with things happening around us that we actually forget about ourselves and what truly matters. These things — be it the people, event or drama — become our concerns for no good, apparent reasons. Over time, as we indulge in them long enough, we will find ourselves caught up in them, and made to think that what is happening around us is happening because of us. Which in fact, it doesn’t. Moreover, because of all these claptraps, bullshits and what not, our happiness deteriorates. It is often said what truly matters is your own happiness and also your own progress — nothing else — but who actually paid heed to it?
For that, I like to offer an opinion as to why we are how we are today, and what should we do about it.
In this society, do you agree that productivity is prized more than anything else? Your capability, the salary you draw, your much sought-after promotions, depends on how much work you are able to do as compared to the salaried-worker sitting next to you. Inevitably, your output depends on how fast you complete your work — the faster you do, the more you can do. To put it simply, speed is a profitable skill — and that is assuming work done is of a certain quality. Yet they say, “Haste makes waste,” but who’s actually listening? Apparently, no one. For all we care, output or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is much more important. In short, more speed leads to more output.
Welcome to the 21st century, where almost every country connected through globalisation (that is said to have started only 500 years back!) is overworked to the ground. We can’t stop, because if we do, we will start lagging. We can’t stop, because we are enslaved by the riches that hard work is said to guarantee. We can’t stop, because we are told that money brings us happiness and fulfilment in life. We can’t stop, not because we don’t want to, but because we can’t.
For your information, even the unpredictably violent and isolated country, North Korea, that acts like a spoilt kid lashing out every once in a while — in this case, through threatening to wipe out humanity using ICBM — is by and large considered a globalised country.
On a macro-economical perspective, yes we are certainly doing well; the world is progressing so fast, so much; we were never in the entire history better than where we are right now, and to that our ancestors will definitely be proud — that we, homo sapiens, are the supreme race unparalleled by none, and at the top of the food chain.
However, on a micro-economical perspective, our happiness is rapidly — ugh yes, don’t we love that word — decreasing. Our happiness diminishing would mean that our efficiency as a productive workforce is decreasing (explained in a while below). Yet we are blind to that, because we homo sapiens are prone to many biases and one I believe that applies to this case is the Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is where we subconsciously filter out whatever opinions that oppose ours, and in this case when people like me do say shit like this, and to contend such a controversial thought, that we as one United Earth isn’t doing any better, and in fact, we might even be moving backwards.
Okay, back to the point of happiness. Happiness increases the sense of fulfilment, joy and satisfaction with ourselves and our life, which I believe will in turn increase your productivity. I implore you to really think about it: if you’re happy and truly satisfied with what you have and where you are right now, won’t you agree that you will feel incredibly motivated to do more things or achieve greater endeavors, and hence increasing your productivity?
In short: Happiness > Satisfaction within > Elevated energy levels > Increased Productivity
In this fast-paced, highly-competitive society we live in today, to be better than the rest of our contemporaries, we try to do more. But to do more, we expedite anything and everything we do, but we don’t seem to focus on our own happiness first in order to increase productivity (like I mentioned above). The reason for this, I believe, is because of how a certain fact was repeatedly — and falsely —indoctrinated into us since the time we were young. Our teachers, our parents will make us believe if we are not better than our peers, we are good-for-nothings. And if we are GFNs, we are incapable of achieving success and thus, won’t ever lead a fulfilling life. We weren’t taught that happiness led to fulfillment; we were taught that riches led to fulfillment. “Ahboy ah, you must study hard, work hard, so you can live a happy life next time, understand a not?” We weren’t taught studying hard means to gain more knowledge, and love the process of learning; we weren’t taught that working hard means to work hard on ourselves, improve and be a better person than you were yesterday. What we were made to think is: Study hard to get a ‘good’ job that pays well. Earn big money, so that you can live well and retire happily. If we do follow this route, we might end up rich, yes, but what we don’t see is the picture of us slogging hours after hours on jobs we think may pay well — but work us to death.
And that my friend, is the reason why we so often hear when rich people — I certainly don’t mean successful — who had chased after riches got what they think they want, but yet end up saying they realised that that isn’t what they wanted, and they aren’t as happy as they were taught they would be. Alas! They realise that “money can buy happiness” is the lie that the elites of the world secretly propagated — a conspiracy theorist I am! — so that you will continue to work yourself to death for them, in return for the promise that money is everything, that the riches you work for is undoubtedly worthwhile.
Calm down if you will
So recently, I have been slowing down and trying to phase myself out of this cold reality that is haunted by unnecessary and superficial material possessions, events-that-don’t-affect-you-in-any-way and pointless dramas.
I stopped making shit people do that doesn’t affect me, affect me. I stopped thinking that I have to care about anything and everything that happens around me. I stopped making peoples’ problems, my problems.
When I stopped doing all of those, that was when I started becoming more compassionate and forgiving — because of it, I started seeing the good in others rather than the bad. Instead of caring about what others have to say about this or that, I started paying more attention to myself — to my own progress. I started becoming more driven and motivated. I started to pursue what I truly want.
When I slowed down, I started breathing much slowly and deeply; I started to think clearly and speak much coherently; I stopped arguing and started listening intently; I started walking slowly, and began living life in the moment — carpe diem; I started becoming happier and giving no two-shits about what people may think — I started living a fulfilling life, for myself.
The next time you are faced with a pressing yet delicate situation, I suggest that you stop and breathe — deeply. If possible, delay and take some time — even a day or two to think it through thoroughly — before you make your decision.
I had this one friend that was super mad about something that I too, was before. Yet, as I slowed down and decided that no two-shits that shouldn’t concern me don’t concern me (are you following?), I was actually compassionate about it. I convincingly persuaded that friend that he shouldn’t be mad about it because first, it didn’t affect him and second, there wasn’t any apparent reason that he should be if he was at peace with himself. Eventually, I deduced that he was actually mad at himself because he made that particular shit, his shit. Capisce so far?
In short, start living — however ironic — slowly and live life in the moment. At times, slowing down is more of a virtue than lack of ability and drive. As the late Robin Williams famously put it, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
So here’s my opinion: Slow down your pace — walk slowly, breathe slowly, talk slowly. You are what’s most important at the end of the day, and remember, seize the day.