I once read a story about a white researcher hurrying through the African planes to his research destination, pushing his native carriers to walk as fast as humanly possible – until at some point, they simply stopped and refused to move on. When asked why they wouldn’t walk any further they replied: “We’ve been traveling so fast, we need to wait for our souls to catch up before we can move on.”
This story instantly left a big impression on me, and I think about it often. Like this week:
On Monday my husband and me made our way to the airport to fly all the way to Germany to visit my family for Christmas. Even though the 10-hour flight and following 2-hour train ride went smoothly, I felt pretty spacey during the fist 24 hours. Of course there’s the physical exhaustion from the long travel, the time difference and the lack of sleep – but I also felt like I hadn’t really arrived yet, like part of me was still in California. I felt very unsettled, almost nervous, and like a foreigner in my own home country.
My soul obviously still had to catch up…
After 13 hours of sleep, a decent breakfast and a walk outside in the cold winter air I started feeling better. I’m feeling more grounded again, and like all my parts have come back together and into alignment. I feel like I can focus on the present moment again. I’m really here now.
So often we rush through life, not taking the time to process the past and really arrive in the present. Mentally we’re often already at the next task when we haven’t even finished what we’re working on in the moment. The older I get, the more I feel like the whole story of multitasking is more harmful than beneficial: We can’t really do two or more things at the same time; rather, our point of focus goes back and forth in millisecond intervals. Which means, we’re never really focused on anything. This whole process costs us a lot of energy and can cause us to lose touch with the present, become more stressed out and less productive.
If instead we can bring our full attention to one thing at a time and properly complete our tasks, we get better results, feel more fulfilled, more content, and less anxious. At least, that’s the case for me!
Of course it’s not always possible to complete every task in one sitting. Often we have to split up projects into multiple smaller steps, or something comes up unexpectedly that requires our immediate attention. But even then, it’s simple enough to mentally close one chapter, take a deep breath and make space for the next task.
Another great tip is to take a moment to get centered when you’re moving or driving from one destination to the next. When I park my car at work in the morning, I like to sit in the car for a couple minutes before I go in. Perhaps I’ll eat a protein bar, check the weather or read a short inspiring article. That way, I give myself a couple minutes to fully arrive at the new place so I can be fully present at work. It only takes me a couple minutes to get centered after a 20-minute commute – after traveling 8000 miles over 18 hours it takes a little bit longer to fully arrive 😉
We often think we don’t have time to take mini breaks throughout our days, but really, those little moments of tuning in can make us so much happier, so much more creative, stress resistant and productive.
My mum’s favorite analogy comes from a poem by the German writer James Krüss: He talks about a man sweeping the streets, saying: When you look at the whole long street ahead of you when you first start your day’s work, it seems like an impossibly large task that’ll take you forever to complete. But when you take it one broom sweep at a time, you’ll soon look back and realize that it wasn’t so bad 🙂
Take is easy this holiday season, and don’t forget to savor the moment! 😉