On The Slow Life

In Self Improvement

This is an essay on living the slow life. I know what you’re thinking, what makes me qualified to write about the slow life?

Well, here are a few reasons.

  1. I was born in Venice, a city that is almost stopped in time, with no cars, and life there is very much like it was a few hundred years ago. I’ve not lived there for a long time, but I feel that my early years in Venice had a formative effect on me that will last for the rest of my life. I’ve never been a particularly hurried person.

  2. I’ve spent over two years (2013 to 2015) thinking about how to live a slower, more deliberate life, doing meaningful work that I enjoy. This is not a long time compared to niche scholars who spend decades studying their field, but it’s around 10% of my life (I’m 24 at the time of writing) and so it has been a major part of my life.

  3. I live what I preach. I’ve written before about not always adhering to what I write 100%, but I do give it my honest best shot. I live a fairly deliberate slow life. I’m rarely in a rush, and I like to take my time to complete tasks properly. I generally find that this means I need to focus on important things only, which means I generally get more things done than over people, because I am forced to eliminate the daily noise. An example of this is how I write 1000 to 2000 words a day, and yet still keep a social and work life.

So there you go, I’ve made my short case about why you should listen to me.

So I am going to break this essay down into two sections:

  1. What is the slow life.
  2. Why live the slow life?

I’ll tackle how to live the slow life in another essay. As always, if you wish to discuss any of the points below, please feel free to email me directly at discuss@emanuelefaja.com

What is the Slow Life?

The Slow Life is, well, slow.

However, this doesn’t mean a Slow Life needs to have the negative characteristics that we normally apply to the word slow. It doesn’t have to be pedantic, boring, static, unexciting, and grey.

In this case, you can have the cake and eat it. You can have a wild time, travel, change jobs, start a company, do whatever it is you want to do, and still lead a Slow Life.

This is because slowing down is all about what you are doing right now. Think about it, you can’t slow down what has already happened, because obviously it’s already happened. You also can’t do anything about the future, because it’s not even here yet.

So we’re forced to live in the present.

So we can only act slowly in the present moment.

So the slow life is about not rushing in your daily life, and savouring each moment that life gives you. It’s about structuring your life around finding meaning and fulfilment around the work you do, the people you frequent, and the actions you take.

So it’s about being mindful, and I believe that being mindful means that you actual end up living what feels like a longer, fuller life.

Whenever I have got stuck in a rut of bad routine, which each day being no different to another, I’ve seen time fly by. When I stop to figuratively smell the flowers, time slows down again.

Why live the slow life?

I think that living slowly has many advantages, but it really depends on the individual, and their goals. Living slowly means living a mindful life, and if you’re not prepared for that, it can become depressing fast. If you’ve not taken a long hard look at yourself in a long time, slowing down can be a really eye opener.

Slowing Down Kills Stress

When you slow down, you tend to naturally gravitate towards viewing things in higher (longer) time frames.  This is great because it means that a lot of the daily noise that can cause us to be disturbed can vanish, because our focus is on the issues that we need to tackle in the span of months, years, and decades.

There is a saying in England that goes along the lines of “Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves.”

I like to think that this somewhat applies to the things we want to achieve in our life, but in reverse. We take care of our long term goals and ambitions, and then the day to day happenings will take care of themselves.

To me, this seems clear. If we’ve got crystal clear long term plans and goals, it is so much easier to know what to do each and everyday, because our daily tasks fit into a much larger picture.

While if we just wander through life one day at a time, living as quickly as we can, we lose the advantage of building up value over time. This value may be a skill set, it may me a body of work, or it may simply be a certain career path.

Slowing Down Increases Appreciation

Being able to appreciate what we already have is a wonderful gift, and probably the fastest way to a happy and content life. When we make a conscious effort to take life at a slower pace, it helps us to understand that a lot of the things that we want, we don’t actually need, and would make no real long lasting difference to our life.

I believe that this is actually our default state, and that generally speaking we’re pretty good at appreciating what we have, but modern life has us going at a frantic pace, and then add to that the daily bombardment of advertising, and of course we think the solution to our problems is to buy more stuff.

If you have the opportunity, traveling to a country where the living standard is lower than yours is a real eye opener. However, I would recommend more than just a two week trip, try to fully understand the culture. You will leave with a new appreciating regarding how much you do actually have, and how lucky you really are. Just because you are reading this sentence, this probably means you are in the top 15% of the world in terms of wealth. It probably means you can travel fairly unrestricted across the globe, unlike the vast majority of people alive today.

So take the time to slow down, and consider these points and appreciate that you’re probably far better off than you ever imagined.

Slowing Down Makes Your Output Higher Quality

I was born in Venice, which I feel is quite a privilege. In Venice, almost everything is old, and by old, I mean centuries old. It’s fantastic, and very inspiring to live in a house that has probably seen ten or so generations of people live there.

The thing that strikes me about Venice is how all these buildings, bridges, arches, and pavements are still in use today. After hundreds of years, they endure the test of time.

Why is this?

The answer is quite simple, and that is because in the time that they were built, the culture valued quality over speed. There was no alternative to doing almost everything by hand. This applies to almost every major building in most of Europe in the last eight hundred years.

Think of cathedrals that took more than a hundred of years to finish, or even examples like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which is still being finished to this day!

The architects that drew up the plans, the stonemasons who cut the first stones, the builders who laid the foundations, did so with the absolute certainty that they would never the see the completed structure within their lifetime. 

Does this mean that it was pointless for them to do it? Not at all, it’s just that back then people had a much longer term view on things. Thinking of things in terms of decades was quite normal, and our inability to do this in the present day is why a lot of our work simply doesn’t compare.

Of course, I’m not discrediting all modern advancements. Today there is a huge amount of innovation, education, and high quality work going on, but I can’t help to get the feeling that we’re thinking in terms of days, weeks, and months, when we should be thinking in months, years, and decades.

University courses can be completed in so many hours per semester, when before a student might stay an apprentice for years before venturing out on his own.

There is nothing wrong with this speed per se, but then we cannot compare the results like for like. Don’t create a prefabricated church in a month and claim or expect that it will be anywhere as beautiful, or last as long, as a cathedral in a major European city.

Conclusion

So I hope this essay has sparked some excitement about going about our lives in a slower, more deliberate manner. I’m not actually sure that a guide as such is even needed, I believe that we all know the theory behind taking things more slowly, even if there may be practical tips and tricks that one can discover. However, I’ll research into writing a guide to the slow life, and then I’ll be better positioned to know if there is even the need for one.