Day fourteen of the 20/20 success story – going slow to be fast

Less is more. A stitch in time saves nine. Start with the end in mind. Slow and steady wins the race. And other cliches.

Getting it right first time saves time by minimising re-work and wastage, and achieves earlier deployment or completion At a neurological level, such scenarios are epitomised by mindfulness practices. Certainly, there are always emotional imperatives or factors, such as the desire for gratification (impulsiveness), the pursuit of self-worth or the avoidance of anxiety and other unpleasant emotional experiences. Nevertheless, efficient and effective practitioners engage their cognitive faculties regardless, so as to achieve clever, robust and sustainable outcomes, not simply get there first, be the cheapest or most glamorous.

It is also the case that in the brain, emotional responses are activated sooner as a survival advantage (think fight / flight / freeze response) while cognitive processes are slower, dependent on more neural pathways and so are in ‘catch-up’ mode at times of stress and trauma. Sometimes they never catch up or not sufficiently engaged and people panic as a consequence. However, when we are able to defer our decision making and thus delay our behavioural responses, at times when it is safe to do so, better outcomes will almost always accrue. We allow our behaviour and actions to be influenced by thought and insight rather than emotional impulses and instinct. This can also be known as the application of emotional intelligence.

Related to the above is one of my most favourite quotes, that inspires much of my clinical and therapy work. It is the famous quote of Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, thus:

Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Take the time to put a space between your stimulus (or trigger) and how you respond, and good outcomes will follow. A long slow deep breath, or related sigh, is a good place to start, as this creates a gap, and also initiates the parasympathetic nervous system calming response, all of which optimises our capacities to engage frontal lobe processing, so as to think.

Thinking (or cognition), coupled with the energy of positive emotions to provide the motivation, is at the core of successful habits. Never is this more important in today’s fast-paced life of instant information and technological dependence.

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