Like most people, I often confuse myself between my wishes and my dreams — a wish is usually only a passing thought that most people never act on but a dream is something that captures your heart and spirit. It ignites your imagination and fills you with an unquenchable hope. It becomes something you can’t easily set aside.
Dreams consume your thinking and fuel your excitement and passion. It can happen in a single moment, or it can captivate your thoughts for years. Sometimes when the dream is really big, you embrace it, and somehow it feels like the dream embraces you.
Our dreams are often about experiencing a better life, about achieving greater things … they are pictures we have of the future that reveal a part of our lives that will be greater than the past.
But here’s an important point to consider – it takes courage to dream. Any time you dare to dream, there are risks involved. What if it never happens? What if it costs too much? What if people laugh at you?
Do you remember when you were a child and no dream seemed too big? Some of us thought we would walk on the moon; some dreamed of riding with Roy Rogers; others imagined stepping to the plate in a big-league game. Every one of us, when we were young, had a common trait – we were dreamers. The world hadn’t gotten to us yet to show us that we couldn’t possibly achieve what our hearts longed for. And we were yet still years from realizing that in some cases we weren’t built for achieving our dream.
Eventually we started to let our dreams die. People began to tell us that we couldn’t do the things we wanted. It was impossible. Responsible people don’t pursue their dreams. Settle down, get a job, be dependable. Take care of business, live the mundane, be content.
Is that it? Is that the way things work?
Dreams are worthy pursuits as long as they’re consistent with what matters most to us now. Our values evolve over time, and it’s OK to change our dreams to keep up with this evolution.
When you’re young, you want excitement and adventure. You want to prove yourself and make your loved ones proud. You dream big and work hard. As you age, you’ll probably desire more stability. You’ll seek quiet hours and relaxation. You’ll have a greater need for balance and have more concern for your health. You may also trade in some of your own ambition to support the success of your kids or family members.
These generalizations may not describe how your values will change. Change itself, however, is part of maturing. When you embrace it, you’ll open up to a world of new goals and possibilities.
So don’t be afraid to give up on old dreams to make room for new ones. You may not have the life you dreamed of as a child, but you might end up with one you can enjoy as an adult.
We now live in a world obsessed with speed, with doing everything faster, with cramming more and more into less and less time. Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock. To borrow a funny yet true phrase from Carrie Fisher, “These days even instant gratification takes too long.” And if you think about how we to try to make things better, what do we do? No, we speed them up, don’t we? So we used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date.
But there’s a very serious point, and I think that in the headlong dash of daily life, we often lose sight of the damage that this roadrunner form of living does to us. We’re so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives — on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, the environment and our community. And sometimes it takes a wake-up call to alert us to the fact that we’re hurrying through our lives, instead of actually living them; that we’re living the fast life, instead of the good life. And I think for many people, that wake-up call takes the form of an illness. You know, a burnout, or eventually the body says, “I can’t take it anymore,” and throws in the towel. Or maybe a relationship goes up in smoke because we haven’t had the time, or the patience, or the tranquility, to be with the other person, to listen to them.
And my wake-up call came through my grief after losing my mother just recently due to cardiac arrest. It came quick that I realized I didn’t had the chance to bond with her, tell her how much I love her and how much she meant to me. I didn’t have the time, or rather made time, to take her out for a treat, knowing how a simple snack, lunch or dinner outside our house’s kitchen would have brought so much joy to her, being a very simple, easy to please person. I was hammered a lesson real hard – that I have unconsciously chosen to live fast to keep up with work and my professional advancements and, in turn, missing out the people I love and who loved me too, especially my mom. Worst, derailed all the relationships I’ve painstakingly built over the years.
Now, I have two questions in mind. The first was, how did we get so fast? And the second is, is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Now, if you think about how our world got so accelerated, the usual suspects rear their heads. You think of, you know, urbanization, consumerism, the workplace, technology. But I think if you cut through those forces, you get to what might be the deeper driver, the nub of the question, which is how we think about time itself. In other cultures, time is cyclical. It’s seen as moving in great, unhurried circles. It’s always renewing and refreshing itself. Whereas in most parts of the world now, time is linear. It’s a finite resource; it’s always draining away. You either use it, or lose it. “Time is money,” as Benjamin Franklin said. And I think what that does to us psychologically is it creates an equation. Time is scarce, so what do we do? Well — well, we speed up, don’t we? We try and do more and more with less and less time. We turn every moment of every day into a race to the finish line — a finish line, incidentally, that we never reach, but a finish line nonetheless. We live by the culture that tells us that faster is always better, and that busier is best.
But why is it so hard to slow down? I think there are various reasons. One is that speed is fun, you know, speed is sexy. It’s all that adrenaline rush. It’s hard to give it up. I think there’s a kind of metaphysical dimension — that speed becomes a way of walling ourselves off from the bigger, deeper questions. We fill our head with distraction, with busyness, so that we don’t have to ask, am I well? Am I happy? Am I content with my job? Are politicians making good decisions on my behalf? Another reason — although I think, perhaps, the most powerful reason — why we find it hard to slow down is the cultural taboo that we’ve erected against slowing down. “Slow” is a dirty word in our culture. It’s a byword for “lazy,” “slacker,” for being somebody who gives up. You know, “he’s a bit slow.” It’s actually synonymous with being stupid. But is that really the case?
On the contrary, come to think of this: If we really delve into the deepest recesses of our hearts to pull out hardcore life questions, living fast will not be the best way to find the right answers. Maybe, the best way is to actually do the opposite – live slow.
As they say there are two sides to every story. Therefore, there exists a “bad” and a “good” slow. Conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down, you’re road kill – that we can categorize as “bad slow”, however we cannot disregard the thought that by slowing down at the right moments, you may find that you do everything better; you eat better; you make love better; you exercise better; you work better; you live better – a “good slow”. And good slow is, you know, taking the time to eat a meal with your family, with the TV switched off. Or taking the time to look at a problem from all angles in the office to make the best decision at work. Or even simply just taking the time to slow down and savor your life.
So all of that said, the main question before me today: Is it possible to slow down? Honestly, I am still about to figure that out myself. All I wanted now is to feel a lot happier, healthier, more productive than I ever have. To feel like I’m living my life rather than actually just racing through it. And most importantly, to feel and experience that my relationships are a lot deeper, richer, stronger, leaving me with no regrets to bear later on in life.