Have you ever had the overwhelming need to ‘just know’ how something is going to end? Or the all-consuming urge to just get something over with? For example: “I just want to know if my career endeavors are going to work out” or “I just want to figure out where I’m going so I can get there already.” If you look closely you’ll notice those statements have one thing in common: The idea that what you have or what you are right now isn’t good enough and that you need that thing you don’t have in order to be happy. “I’ll be happy when ___.” We want to be happy of course, so we freak out when we’re not and we force things and we get all up in our heads trying to figure out how to get to that idealized ‘when.’ In essence, we rush. Well at least, I do. Surely I’m not alone.
I’m certainly not saying you need to suffer and accept misery because that’s ‘better’ than rushing. I’m saying we need to learn to find the happiness and fulfillment we’re seeking in where we are right now and take the right steps for us at the right pace for us in order to deepen and further expand that happiness into the future. Why not enjoy every step of the process? I know I’ve spent countless hours racking my brain trying to “figure” things out as though somehow I’m going to be able to predict the future or make sense of things that just aren’t ready to be made sense of yet. It’s time to trust the process of life and learn to find joy in the steps between the beginnings and endings.
Why rushing doesn’t serve you
It’s kind of like this: You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and all you have is yourself and your car. You have no phone or map or anything to indicate your location (not that that is likely to happen these days but go with me here.) In order to try and figure out where you are, you sit in your car and you stare at your surroundings trying to find something in the desolate land that will somehow magically tell you where you are. You sit there for hours and you still have no. fucking. clue. That’s what you’re doing to yourself when you try to force things to be something they’re not yet ready to be.
The only way that you can arrive at any new conclusion is with new information. So you have to turn on your car and drive down the road until something new comes into view. You drive until you see a highway sign, a billboard, then houses. You accept that driving takes time. You might pull over to take a break from your mission and forget it altogether. Then you get back in your car and keep driving until you see an exit sign, a town and finally, a “Welcome to Langley, British Columbia” sign. Oh! Okay so now you know you’re in Langley, B.C. That’s great, where is that in the world? How do you figure that out? You keep driving until you find a gas station, or a restaurant and then you talk to people and they help you and you just keep going until you gather enough information to finally see and understand the whole picture and in doing that, you become no longer lost.
Sure, the drive was long but it’s that time and action you put into your goal of becoming ‘unlost’ that ultimately lead you there. Not force. Not rushing. Had you sped down the road at two hundred miles an hour you probably would have missed the exits, the signs, and likely caused an accident. Had you stayed sitting in your car in the middle of nowhere trying to force yourself to figure it out, you’d probably still be sitting there. A wise person once said, “Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” You can spend your time sitting in a hot sweaty car confused as shit trying to rush to conclusions or you can spend it driving down the highway singing at the top of your lungs, slowly unraveling the confusion – the time will pass anyway. Lengthy metaphors aside, what I’m trying to say is that you can’t rush your way to clarity and you certainly can’t achieve a new result without making some new moves. What I’ve learned is that all you can do is keep living and keep going (and keep driving – ahh get it now?) and most importantly keep trusting that it will all come together and then somehow the experiences of your life will reveal to you what you struggled so greatly to see – most likely when you’re not expecting it.
Mentalities that perpetuate rushing
It’s likely that as the products of our hyperactive, instant-result-craving culture, us Western world millennials simply can’t help but think something’s wrong if it isn’t quite ‘figured out.’ Especially when our eyes are glued to little devices that give power to others to expose us at any given moment to their supposedly ‘figured out’ lives. We’re not blind to the faults of our generation. It’s a pretty common topic of discussion lately (ironically, on social media – that’s a whole other can of worms.) So if we know that our culture is like this and we know that it’s problematic, then why do we continue to operate this way? I’ve explored some of the detrimental mentalities and habits that pull me back into rushing through my life and I think they’re probably pretty relatable.
#1: Comparing yourself to others/trying not to fall behind your peers
I have a lot of things I’m passionate about. Some are hobbies or lifestyle choices and others are full blown career ambitions. I’ve never been able to pursue one thing at a time. What really fulfills me is being able to piece together all of the things I like into the puzzle of my life. It used to really tear me up that I didn’t have one special thing I was extraordinary at or could be known for and with which I would just be able to barrel down the road to success. I’ve come to accept that if you’re pursuing multiple things at once it’s going to take longer for each individual thing to grow and flourish and then it’s going to take some more time for those things to become interwoven and work together (if they even need to at all.) But if these things are all things you care about and you’re investing time and energy into growing them then what good does looking at the speed of other people’s success do?
You can’t possibly give yourself that time and space when you’re constantly worried about falling behind the curve. So what if someone else accomplishes something before you? So what if they graduate from school before you or get a particular job before you or buy a house before you or do whatever important thing you’re striving for in your life before you. Does that mean you can’t? No. In my experience, when I focus more on trying to ‘beat’ someone than on actually doing something well I end up cutting corners, exhausting myself and struggling to get the thing done at all because my focus is totally off the mark. You really do rob yourself of potential depth of experience when you speed through it with your eyes on your opponent. Give yourself time and space and leave the robbing to cell phone companies and city rent.
#2: What does this look like VS what does this feel like
Another mindset that facilitates rushing is caring more about what something looks like on the outside than what we are actually accomplishing or doing. Have you ever taken a course or been in a program where all you really cared about was getting it done? I have. About a year and a half ago I completed a certificate program wherein I cared more about finishing the courses so I could get the certificate than I did about actually learning the material. I got caught up in the idea that I needed to have some form of post-secondary education by a certain age or I was a total loser and I allowed that thought to drive me to get the damn thing done. You know who put that idea in my head, honestly? I did. No one ever said to me: “Hey Sam, if you don’t have some form of proof you’ve attended legitimate post-secondary school by age twenty-two, you’re a failure.” A failure. At twenty-two. Life over. Do you know how ridiculous that is? I got that idea in my head by looking around at what other people were doing and subsequently assuming I would be judged for not doing the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t rush through every single class. There were some classes that interested me and that I invested myself in with genuine intent, but had I been less concerned with timelines and image and reputation (ego, ego, ego) I would have done things differently and likely gained more from the endeavor.
#3: What is your goal?
The third big thing I’ve identified in my life as a perpetuator of my rushing tendencies is losing sight of my goal and my why for that goal. Or having a goal that isn’t genuine to begin with. So I just explained that when I took that certificate course, my main goal was to get it done so I had something to show for myself. This Fall, I went back to school again at a new institution for something I’ve been deeply passionate about for years: I began a program to become a holistic nutritionist. By the way, I’ve discovered I will probably keep going back to school in some form for my whole life because I love learning. Anyway, within the program there are several classes that are difficult for me. Learning about the biology of all different kinds of cells and having to return to chemistry classes is not something my high school self would have foreseen my twenty-three-year-old self willingly signing up for. That seventeen-year-old self had one goal and one goal only: Pass, with like, a decent mark. I honestly didn’t give a flying fuck if I remembered the difference between a proton and an electron once I was through being tested on it and the same was true for preparing a balance sheet in Accounting 1 in my aforementioned certificate program. Those tasks and concepts were so far removed from anything relevant to my life that I just couldn’t bring myself to care.
Now, learning about the biology of a fat cell when it’s relevant to human nutrition and how those cells affect things like energy and brain function, hell yes I’m interested and I will sit and study that cell until I know every bit of how it works because I know it’s a key part of achieving my goal. It’s funny how giving something a ‘why’ can color it with a rainbow of motivation. Cell biology in eleventh grade: I’m asleep. Cell biology in a nutrition program: I’m engaged and invested. I wouldn’t dare rush through anything in this program just to try and get the certificate because I know my goal, I know why I want to achieve that goal and I know my goal is rooted in genuine intention.
So, how do we stop rushing?
The biggest thing that has helped me relinquish the urge to rush everything is trust. I’m slowly learning that trust is important in almost every aspect of life and this is no exception. I’ve been in a few situations lately (details of which I wish not to divulge for the purposes of both not turning this blog post into a novel and not sharing every personal detail of my life on the internet) where I was plagued with the rushing bug. I had to check in with myself on why I felt the need to get through this as fast as possible and I ultimately just had to trust that no matter what happened I was going to be okay. That concept of knowing you’re going to be okay is what I’ve learned to be ‘self-trust.’ It’s trusting that you can handle being uncomfortable while you and life sort this out together. It’s trusting that sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down and both are valuable. It’s trusting that if you’re forcing circumstances to be something they’re not just to get to a certain result then maybe that result isn’t right for you and yours is coming at a later time. I know that sometimes we have a certain idea of what will happen for us in our lives and when an opportunity arises that’s close but not quite right we might try and force it to work because we’re again rushing to get somewhere. We see that with relationships, jobs, big life purchases etc. Trust that what’s right for you will arrive at the right time and saying no to the things that don’t feel quite right is part of the important process of arriving at what truly suits you. Maintaining this trust is the key thing that has helped me begin to let go of the three rushing mentalities discussed in this post.
If all else fails, the most tangible advice I can give you when you’re in the midst of rushing through the beautiful, undulating process of your life is to look back at how far you’ve come. I know a lot of people abide by the quote “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” Yes, I agree you shouldn’t look back as you’re walking forwards but every now and then I think we actually should stand still and look back at the ground we’ve covered. If you’re at the beginning of something completely new and have nothing to look back at yet, then look at the other things you’ve done in your life where you’ve come a long way. If you’re able to read this then at the very least you’ve come a long way from the days of not even being able to read your name. Because surely you were not born reading lengthy blog posts written by twenty-four-year-old over-thinkers on the internet. That took time. Years!
Know that when you’re really happy with something, you don’t want it to end. At some point in your life you’ll arrive at moments where you think to yourself, I just want to be here and enjoy this for a while. Promise yourself today that you won’t rush to or through those moments.