My dad, an amazing gardener, once said to me as we were building a walkway from the street to our front door, “No garden path or walkway should ever be a straight line. All paths should zig and zag, meander to the left, then the right.” He explained that the turns force us to slow down to see things – new vantage points – new things to appreciate. A well-planted walkway is an adventure, a show and an event – with something new at every turn. It is not a means to an end, but rather a journey. “Slow down,” he said, “and enjoy the ride – enjoy life.”
Though I had my father’s wise advice to slow down and be connected to life, I, like most people felt that moving faster and doing many things at once was a better use of time; it was all about accomplishing things and checking them off my to-do list. As we live this way, we influence our kids to live this way. But what value do things have if we don’t remember being part of them?
Multi-tasking makes you miss your life
As a culture, we pride ourselves on multi-tasking and filling every moment of our time; workplace job ads intentionally search for those who say they can do more than one thing at a time. Students write in their college essays that they are able to do many things at once – to be part of our high-paced world. We applaud and reward this manic behavior.
And though it may look like we get a lot of things done on our checklist of life, we realize that the process can be completely unfulfilling. We don’t remember any part of what we do, how we spend our time and who we are with. We don’t zig and zag – we bolt for the finish line as if life were some sort of race – something we are supposed to complete efficiently and on-time. But getting it done isn’t its value – the value is in the ride.
Teach your kids to slow down and enjoy life
Thinking about the zig and the zag, I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “I want to be all used up when I die.” We shouldn’t have any life left in us because we lived with such passion, excitement and energy that we used up everything we had. When we slowly move through life, enjoying the ride, meeting new people, finding out more about ourselves and treasuring each moment, we can be thrilled by all that life is. This is how to discover and develop our greatness – to get acquainted with who we are and to find where in today’s world we can connect with what is best in us. We can’t guide our kids to do this work if they are rushing through their lives.
Consider these 4 ways to teach your kids (and yourself) to slow down and enjoy life:
- Go for a walk with your kid. Force yourself to take the long way. Watch for new things – things you never saw before. Stop and appreciate what you see – plants, buildings, stars – whatever. Notice everything. And for this one time, comment on everything. Say it out loud. Don’t worry who may see or hear you. Invite them to join you on your walk. Slow down and be really present.
- Sit and talk with your kid. Get reconnected to who your son or daughter, grandson, niece or step child is. Be interested in whatever is important in their life. Make time to share stories, thoughts and ideas. See how much richer your relationship becomes. Slow down and really connect.
- Turn off technology. To tune in you have to tune out – that means to turn off the influences from today’s loud and always-on world. Tune in to what you hear in the quiet of a moment – in noticing the world around you – plants, people, weather, food – it is all there for you to appreciate. Slow down and notice.
- Play more with your kid. Studies show that our greatest learning in life doesn’t happen when we formally learn – it happens instead when we play – when we practice with what we learn. Building in more playtime not only accelerates learning, it makes for a better life. Build in time to play together. Slow down and play more.
Make the intention to really be part of your and your kid’s amazing lives. Only when you make the time can you see how amazing it is. It isn’t perfect, but it is still amazing. Slow down and enjoy your ride of life.