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Let’s get simple. Summer simple. Let’s slow down.

May 30, 2017

Presence and Progress by Dave LaRue

Sitting down to write this month’s story, I contemplated many different themes and ideas: ordering your life to harness your striving instincts; laying down tracks to the life you want by getting clear on what and who you really want in your life; the effects of positive thinking and making an effort to see the good… I had plenty of choices to start with. But which was best? What a great problem to have, I thought. Not a problem at all, actually. 

In fact, It got me thinking about times when good choices are in short supply or nonexistent, and that’s what I want to share with you this month. 

When I have hesitation, or when I'm experiencing uncertainty or low confidence, I honor my instincts. I slow down, allow myself to be present, and start asking questions.

Like they say, “Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you'll be able to see a bit farther.” 

Sometimes, when the way isn’t clear, “the farthest you can see” is to admit wholeheartedly and without reservation that you can’t see your way through the situation, knowing what you know right now. You need more information or another perspective.

Get answers, make connections, learn more. Go as far as those answers take you, and you will see a little farther. This will take you to the next step.

There’s a deeper point here. It isn’t bad to slow down. Sometimes, it’s the best or only thing to do.

Presence Isn’t a Punishment 

It’s only natural that sometimes it feels like a hassle or a sign of failure to have to come out of autopilot and actively take the controls.

But in our lives we work with people and objects and forces that do what they want, not what we want. We can’t always get them to cooperate. Sometimes we have no choice but to stop, observe, interact, and pose some questions.  

Take this in stride. We follow our goals outside our comfort zones and realms of experience. And besides, presence is a fair and natural demand for the world to place on us in exchange for its rewards. 

When Efficiency Undermines Presence, It Undermines Progress  

We live in a competitive world of workflow hacks and productivity apps. Everyone seeks to maximize efficiency. 

The unintentional result of this is that we tacitly feel that all progress that isn’t smooth looks sloppy or foolish. As a result, we can get caught up in the feelings around being surprised by an uncharted challenge. We can fixate on how “over budget” this setback is taking us on energy or time. This fixation is a hazard. Don’t fall victim. Wherever you are, be there. 

If you have an idea to apply to the situation, lucky you. You can autopilot on through it. 

But if you encounter a situation for which you have no ideas, stop, be present in the moment, and investigate your environment. Nothing to regret here. This is what the human animal excels at.  

Meanwhile, no one is at their most perceptive when they are impatient. Be where you are. Focus on the present moment and dedicate yourself to what you are doing. 

Don’t waste focus wishing you could be back on track. You are on track. This is what you have to do to make progress. Any other use of your time would be unproductively arguing with reality. Be where you are. 

Knowing that we’re not wrong when we must go off-script and get in the moment is powerful. Sure, efficiency is nice. Ideally, we’d never take any longer to do anything than strictly necessary. And it’s nice to benefit from other people’s learning. But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes the ideals don’t apply to our situation. It’s nothing to regret.  

What some people call setbacks are really just the moments where we have to come out of autopilot. Engaging in the present moment to find the next step to take is part of making progress, and making progress toward the life you want is time well spent by any measure. 

We have only so much time in the world. When it comes down to a life spent learning how other people avoided coming out of autopilot versus a life spent creating the life you want, which would you choose?

So slow down when it’s time to slow down. Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you’ll be able to see a little farther. Stop if you have to. Wherever you are, be there.