Intro to Chasing Slow •
I just finished reading Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow. I purchased the book without really doing any homework on it — I guess that’s the power of a good book title. Because I didn’t know anything about it, I went into it assuming it was going to be a book full of slow living tips and tricks peppered with some anecdotes. I very quickly realized it was going to be the exact opposite. Erin basically summarizes her life journey and throws in some slow living hacks along the way.
My biggest takeaway from the book is that slow is a journey — ups and downs on the rollercoaster of life. It’s a process. It’s not easy. And, as Erin eloquently sums up in the title and book, “Chasing slow is still a chase.” But, it’s a chase and race toward a different finish line.
Here are my top 12 life lessons from Chasing Slow — my biggest takeaways followed by my favorite quotes from the book (all quotes are from Erin unless otherwise specified). Enjoy!
1) Acknowledge that “busyness” and “more” will never be enough
This is #1 because everything really starts with this “aha!” moment. If you aren’t head nodding to this, you may not yet be open to the remainder of this list. But, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you have an open mind and are already on board :).
- “Busyness is a byproduct of our culture. It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to over schedule, over inform, overprovide.”
- “More, she said, is a never-ending immeasurable. It can’t be counted or valued or summed or justified. More is always, by definition, just ahead at the horizon. That’s why we never stop chasing it. More is never enough.”
- “I know of this quest for more. Women who want it all, who strive to excel in everything, who need to perfect each and every category. We want to wake up with sexy tousled hair, kiss our husband on the lips, walk to an early morning barre class while the baby bounces quietly in our organic carrier, meet our girlfriends for a cold-pressed juice before changing into our power suit and heel-toeing it to the seventeenth-floor office as our eldest, a sophomore — What? You have a sophomore? You look amazing! — earns early entry into Yale and arrives home from his swim meet in time to compliment the free-range egg quiche we just whipped up with herbs from the backyard garden. This cannot be the ideal. This cannot be the standard.”
2) Embrace the tension
By choosing to slow down and intentionally live slowly, you will be going against societal norms. Personally, I find this consistently difficult (and you’ll see in the next point that it’s not always easy) because society seems to have an elasticity that always tries to draw you back into the “normal.”
- “If you choose to slow your life, to live intentionally, to subtract belongings or schedules or expectations — if you tell the truth about yourself to yourself — you will begin to notice tension around you.”
- “In a society that places a disproportionate emphasis on productivity, there is a true and real fear of slowing down. Will we be replaced? Left behind? Disrespected by the masses, whispered about in cubicles? Will we be cast aside for not pulling our weight, for not keeping up with the pace, for not playing by the rules?”
- “I wonder how many of us are trading in our peace, our passions, our pliés in search of something more. How many of us are fighting for the American dream, running the rat race, praying to scale Maslow’s self-actualization pyramid, when really we just want to dance?”
3) The journey is a rollercoaster
Quite simply, it’s not easy to go against the norm. But, it’s worth it. Like any journey, it will have its ups and downs.
- “We can chase more, in the fast lane. We can chase slow. (It’s still a chase.)”
- “When you edit your soul, no one wins.”
- “When we strip away every circumstantial identity — writer, mother, wife — we are left with the only identity that can never be in question: I am a woman of God. Therefore, I am a woman of Love. When we define ourselves as women and men of God or of Love or of Light or of whatever name forces us out of the small role we are playing into the gloriously intricate story woven into this world, our worth is no longer in question…nothing can threaten this truth.”
4) Set perspective
While there any many ways perspective is covered in Chasing Slow, my favorite learnings are from Erin’s trip to Ethiopia. These should be a daily reminder to set perspective at the beginning of each day.
- “It takes only one visit to a third world country to understand how far I’ve gone off course.”
- “I do not understand what it is like to live in a place where a drink of clean water is not readily available, where education is not accessible, where my basic needs are either not met or fought for with every ounce of my being.”
- “Ask an Ethiopian what they need and they might tell you with a wide smile: amassing is meaningless. There is only today, with holes in our pockets, with time spilling out. We cannot keep it for tomorrow. We cannot mend our seams to hoard, save, carry. Ask a bird how to fly, and it might tell you to remove the weight from your wings.”
5) Create your purpose
Do you know what you want to do with your life? Are you doing it now? We are only here for a short time in the grand scheme of things. The average lifespan today is about 1% of recorded human history. What are you doing with your 1%?
- “Does everyone else know what they’re supposed to be doing?”
- “But I find myself continually searching, exploring, grasping for some level of understanding, for a hint of purpose.”
- “There is something deep within me that seeks meaning, that rejects the idea we’ve been placed here to wander with no purpose, for no reason, for no significance.”
6) You always have a choice
No matter how tough it gets at times, you always have a choice. What’s in your control? Do you hold the key to your own cage?
- “I think of the small choices we make daily. I think of how we can choose to kintsugi our circumstance, of how we can choose to amass or not, of how we can choose to speed up or not.”
- “Never, ever forget that this life offers options.”
- “We often hold the keys to our own cages.”
7) Keep your expectations in check
One of the keys to happiness is lowering (or eliminating) your expectations.
- “We spend our days searching to fill the wide margin between the person we are and the person we want to become.”
- “There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” (G. K. Chesterton)
- “The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.” (John Green)
8) Express gratitude daily
Don’t just lower expectations and desire less, express gratitude for where you currently are and what you currently have.
- “Gratitude for where you are, not where you hope to be, is the best virtue to practice on your quest for change. You are here, now. You have, thank goodness, been given all that you need for today.”
- “I am pursuing minimalism. I know this to be true. I want less, and I want simplicity, and I want to spend my days connecting and caring, not consuming and completing. But. More important than pursuing minimalism, for me, is pursuing gratitude.”
- “I do not yet realize that, without grace, pursuing the slow life is just as exhausting as pursuing the fast one. Without grace, minimalism is another metric for perfection.”
9) Know when to say “enough” to the online world
Digital addiction is a real thing these days, and the need for digital minimalism is more important than ever.
- “It is named the ‘web’ for good reason.” (David Foster Wallace)
- “Deep breath. Are we all inhaling intoxicating Pinterest fumes? An oxygenated reality? And if so, can we call it true inspiration? The definition of inspiration is the drawing of breath, an inhalation, a gasp. A filling-up that offers an abundance of energy for your day, for the task, for that project, for this life.”
- “X. You know, the X on your web browser? Click on it today. Get offline and get outside. This is my answer to a slower day, each and every time.”
10) Create margin in your life
This is probably one of the best slow living tips once you begin slow living. Creating margin can help your life breath.
- “We have margin. We have space. We have room for ourselves, for others.”
- “It is difficult to be creative, to be forbearing, to persist when you cannot see a margin of time in your calendar. When you have not created space for laughter, for surprise, for ill-timed finger-painting sessions with a condiment-covered dog.”
- “Here is the secret to subtraction. It doesn’t matter what you remove. What matters is that you stop adding it back.”
11) Forget the clock
Always remember the story of the tourist and the fisherman.
- “As soon as we begin watching the calendar, the clock, we miss the adventure.”
- “When I am too focused on the day to see this minute — this very minute — she will miss it.”
- “Big changes take small steps, and sometimes it takes just one thing to change the course of your minute, your day, your life. I believe in the power of one…Often it takes just one small thing, just one small thing that proves not to be small at all.”
12) Leave room for revision
One of my favorite quotes of all time is: “Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” (Nathan W. Morris).
- “I can now authoritatively tell you that in crossword puzzles and in life, use pencil. Things will need to be erased.”
- “Wisdom is little more than knowing what works for you and forgetting the rest.”
- “All human plans are subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.” (Arthur C. Clarke)
Have you read Chasing Slow? Do you have any additional insights, takeaways, or favorite quotes? Please share them in the comments.
“Keep slowing down. You’ve got a race to lose.”
Slow Living Resources
Also published on Medium.