13 min read ⌚
How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out
Want to live a more peaceful, simpler life?
Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey think they can help you.
Who Should Read “Slowing Down to the Speed of Life”? And Why?
Half a century ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Slow down, you move too fast/ You got to make the moment last…”
Slowing Down to the Speed of Life presents quite a few clarifications on why you should do this and strategies on how to achieve it.
It is for everyone who feels that everything’s going just too fast, making life unbearably unenjoyable.
About Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey
Richard Carlson was an American psychotherapist, motivational speaker, and bestselling author.
He published his first book in 1985, but really made his name about a decade later, with the tenth one he penned: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff; the book was a USA Today’s and New York Times bestseller for two consecutive years and was translated into no less than 26 languages.
His other books include Don’t Worry, Make Money, You Can Feel Good Again, You Can Be Happy, No Matter What.
Carlson died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism in the 46th year of his life, after authoring more than twenty books and helping numerous people through his psychotherapeutic practice.
Find out more at https://dontsweat.com/
Joseph Bailey is an American psychologist and public speaker.
In addition to co-authoring this book, he has also authored four others, including Fireproof Your Life and Slowing Down to the Speed of Love.
Find out more at http://www.joebaileyandassociates.com/.
“Slowing Down to the Speed of Life PDF Summary”
“The feeling of being rushed saturates our entire way of life,” write Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey in the introduction to Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. “We measure our success in life by our level of efficiency and our ability to stay on top of it all.”
In other words, even though we’ve developed so many “time savers as computers, fax machines, overnight delivery, voice mail, online services, or high-speed modems,” somehow, we’ve actually created more time stress than we’ve eliminated.
As its title suggests, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life is a manual on how to hack this stress-inducing dynamic age of ours using nothing but your mind, focus, and a few tricks and tweaks.
Its goals are, naturally manifold:
• To help you slow down and enjoy each moment through a few minor changes in your lifestyle;
• To teach you that, contrary to conventional wisdom, your productivity will actually increase when you slow down to the speed of life;
• To demonstrate to you that slowing down to the moment makes the ordinary – extraordinary, the serious – trivial, the unexpected – predictable;
• To equip you with a few tools which will make you a more satisfied and happier person.
But let’s delve a bit deeper.
Chapter 1: Slowing Down to the Moment
Six Reasons Why You Should Slow Down
At the beginning of their book, Carlson and Bailey assert that there are at least six reasons why it is critical to slow down to the speed of life:
• Reduction of stress;
• Improved physical health;
• More present, intimate, and loving relationships;
• Heightened sensory awareness and enjoyment of the natural beauty around us;
• Greater peace of mind and serenity;
• Dramatically improved ability to be productive and creative and to stay focused.
And you can achieve all of these through the sheer power of thought; but not in that New Age “think positive” way, but by simply choosing when to harness the power of the right mode of thinking.
Two Modes of Thinking
Because, as you know full well from Daniel Kahneman, there are two distinct modes of thinking: fast and slow.
Carlson and Bailey refer to them as analytical (processing) mode and reflective (free-flowing) mode.
We use the former (which relies on memory) in situations when we know all variables; we use the latter (which relies on insight) when we have to face the unknown.
Many differences stem from this distinction; the table shows the most obvious ones:
|Free-Flowing Mode||Processing Mode|
|Deeper feelings||Conditional emotions|
|Uses memory selectively||Memory-based and memory-bound|
Why is this important?
Because shifting between these modes of thinking is the foundation of your mental health; and recognizing their inner workings is the first step toward applying them in the right manner, i.e., navigating your thinking.
Chapter 2: Navigating Your Thinking
“When we slow down to the speed of life,” write Carlson and Bailey, “we tap into a peaceful feeling that permeates our entire being and way of life. Rather than constantly feeling rushed, hurried, and frustrated, we feel calm, joyful, and curious.”
In other words, it’s not like bad things don’t happen when we slow down; however, they don’t look as bad as when we’re speeded up.
A great way to understand this is through the metaphor of the baseball batter:
When a major league batter is ‘on’ his game, when he feels ‘in the zone,’ the pitched ball appears to be coming at him in slow motion. In actuality, of course, the ball is zooming toward him, often at speeds of over a hundred miles per hour! The facts don’t change. What changes is his perception, which in turn increases his confidence in his ability. To him, the ball looks like it is going slower, so hitting the ball seems easy in the free-flowing mode.
In the processing mode, all problems look like emergencies smothering you, just like a baseball ball traveling at you at 100 mph; however, in the free-flowing mode of thinking, the so-called emergencies look like “issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise” – just like a ball slowly moving in your direction.
Carlson and Bailey believe that you’ll know when to shift between gears if you just listen to your feelings more attentively.
They claim that “feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down.”
They describe them as internal buzzers which go off when we’re thinking in an unhealthy way.
Their goal: to help you get back to the moment!
Chapter 3: Getting Back to the Moment
The third chapter of Slowing Down to the Speed of Life is all about the four keys to getting back in the moment and the three pitfalls to avoid.
The Four Keys to Getting Back in the Moment
We know that your automatic reaction to this is “But, I listen all the time and it doesn’t help,” but the truth is “no, you’re not listening;” because listening means being present here and now – and not drifting away every five seconds or so.
And you drift away because you allow your mind to use the wrong thinking mode; so it is helpful to be aware of how your thinking takes you out of the moment.
Carlson and Bailey point out two types of thinking which negate listening: interpreting and agreeing/disagreeing.
So, from now on – just listen; don’t interpret or agree/disagree with the one who’s talking.
#2. Seeing the wisdom in not knowing
When you’re immediately interpreting something (or agreeing/disagreeing to something else) you’re actually using the processing power of your brain; however, if the problem is new, then you’re applying the wrong mode because the analytical brain is exclusively memory-based.
Just accept that you don’t know what to do from time to time; this will unleash the power of your free-flowing thinking mode and that way you may reach a solution.
And you’ll be calm throughout.
#3. Having faith in the free-flowing mode
This is self-explanatory. “Using the free-flowing mode of thinking will not turn you into an irresponsible, forgetful person,” write Carlson and Bailey. “On the contrary, as you slow down you will become less forgetful.”
#4. Putting your problems on the back burner
The back burner of your mind works just like the back burner of your stove: you put the ingredients, stir them up, and then leave them alone to cook. Whenever you happen upon a difficulty or a quandary on your path – just do that and, slowly, over time, your brain will come up with a solution. You’ll see.
The Three Pitfalls to Avoid
People speed up their lives in three main ways; start avoiding them if you want to make your life a bit easier:
#1. Analyzing your problems and your life
There are times when you are required to analyze your problems, but letting things go and accepting that life is unpredictable is the solution more often than not.
So stop trying to force out a solution for every problem: this is your ego trying to predict life; just accept that you don’t know things and this frees up the creative intelligence buried deep inside you.
The processing mode is great for “planning, scheduling, calculating, memorizing, and recalling data;” but it doesn’t work well when you need to face the unknown.
#2. Self-judging or “There I go again…”
Judging yourself every time you realize you are out of the moment is not an option; “self-acceptance is the route to slowing down to the moment.”
#3. Living in the past
Many people are trapped in the past, not realizing that the present is all we have; if you want to be truly happy, you have no other option but to calmly accept the power of now.
Chapter 4: Stress and Your Innate Mental Health
A better title for this chapter would have been “Seven Essential Steps for Reducing Stress” because it is, in its entirety, dedicated to an analysis of each of these seven steps.
We believe that most of them are pretty easy to understand, so we’ll opt just for a list:
#1. Knowing that inner peace is possible, even in the midst of stressors;
#2. Having the humility to admit that “getting what you want” isn’t the ultimate answer;
#3. Learning not to deal head-on with or to struggle with problems;
#4. Understanding that stress originates in your thinking;
#5. Learning to not allow passing thoughts to turn into thought attacks;
#6. Avoiding the temptation to get caught up in the details;
#7. Lowering your tolerance for stress
Chapter 5: Being Present in Relationships
Being truly present in relationships is the key to intimacy, satisfaction, and effective, loving communication.
Or, to phrase that in another way: you can’t expect to have a good relationship if you are not living at the speed of life.
In fact – and think about this – the very reason why you like some of your friends or partner is that they manage to slow down the time for you.
The great news: you can be the one slowing the time in just about every single scenario.
You just need to be the inspirer of a heart-to-heart communication, aka follow this set of rules:
#1. Find your own bearings first; get into the free-flowing mode;
#2. Let go of any expectations of a particular outcome.
#3. Get permission from the other person;
#4. Speak from the heart;
#5. Listen with nothing on your mind;
#6. Stay on track; keep the tone respectful, warm, and compassionate.
Of course, sometimes, reality can be much more unbearable: you may have already lost hope that a relationship can be mended.
Worry not: Carlson and Bailey provide four guidelines which can help you turn your relationships around:
#1. Find hope;
#2. Recognize your thinking;
#3. See past your habits to the innocence in your partner and in yourself;
#4. Forgive and forget.
Chapter 6: Peaceful Parenting
In the case of many people, there’s also that special form of relationships: parents/children relationships.
Many agree that we have basically threw them out the window as soon as we embraced computers and smartphones.
In this chapter, Carlson and Bailey analyze the problem, by first listing the effects of this form of speed-up parenting, then the benefits of slowing down and finally the strategies for slowing down parenting to the speed of life.
Here there are:
The Effects of Speeded-Up Parenting
Several serious consequences follow from busy-minded, speeded-up parenting; here are the most important six among them:
#1. You become habitually reactive instead of responsive;
#2. You take negative behavior personally rather than seeing the innocence;
#3. Little events become front-page news;
#4. You miss the good times;
#5. You lose sight of your compassion;
#6. You expect too much from your children.
The Benefits of Slowed-Down Parenting
There are at least seven of these, functioning as sort of antidotes to the detrimental effects of speeded-up parenting:
#1. Your day-to-day experience will be heightened. Ordinary moments will become quite beautiful.
#2. You’ll become less reactive and more responsive.
#3. Your loving feelings and your appreciation for the gift of being a parent will increase;
#4. You will model peaceful slowed-down behavior;
#5. You’ll eliminate potential regrets about not having been there for your kids;
#6. Your wisdom will surface, and you’ll know what actions to take and what decisions to make to raise your kids to their full potential;
#7. You’ll stop thinking that parenting is so hard.
Strategies for Slowing Down to the Speed of Life
“There are seven proven strategies to slowing down and becoming a more relaxed, effective, and loving parent,” say Carlson and Bailey. “By implementing each of these strategies in your life, you will take valuable steps toward your goal of slowing down to the speed of life.”
Here they are:
#1. Become more oriented to the present moment;
#2. Learn to accept each moment as it arises;
#3. Keep your thought attacks to a minimum;
#4. Practice early thought recognition;
#5. See moods with compassion;
#6. Practice doing one thing at a time;
#7. Live in the free-flowing mode as much as possible.
Chapter 7: Working Smarter
Slowed-down working is all about a single motto: work smarter, not harder. And working smarter implies listening, reflecting and acting, rather than reacting out of habit:
It means having ultimate confidence in your instincts to do the right thing in the moment, when you don’t have time to sort through things. Working smart means drawing on your memory and experience in a way that helps you in the moment instead of blinding you by past experience. It means being able to be in rapport with others, knowing that without rapport you can’t have teamwork and communication. It means knowing how to live your life in the moment – doing one thing at a time, with presence and at a pace that lead to balance in your personal and work life.
In this chapter, Carlson and Bailey provide a mini-table that should easily illustrate what should be your objective at work: reaching an understanding which will raise you above the middle line.
“The lower the level of understanding,” they write, “the more difficult and stressful all the operations of work become – time management, relationships, decision making, meetings, and deadlines. As the understanding of employees moves above the line… work becomes more productive, fun, and creative with less energy – true success.”
Once again, the trick is not to get caught up in the whirlwind of deadlines and time-consumers; just like the greatest of sports players do, slow down the pace; and you’ll see things clearer.
Chapter 8: Enjoying Life
Everything – every single lesson and advice in this book – builds up to this: the only life worth living is the one you’ll enjoy in.
And you’ll never smell the roses if you’re racing at 100 mph on the highway.
Life is the moment you live in; the past is past, and the future hasn’t arrived at. Satisfaction in the present moment is the key to finding some enjoyment in life.
And the key to doing that: prevent your mind from drifting away.
Because when it does, boredom, tiredness, and frustrations come: you’re just too much absorbed in a moment (be it a past one or a future one) that isn’t the one you’re living in.
Do you really want to spend your life that way?
Key Lessons from “Slowing Down to the Speed of Life”
1. Two Modes of Thinking
2. Slowing Down to the Speed of Life Is All About Navigating Your Thinking
3. Four Keys to Getting Back in the Moment
Two Modes of Thinking
The main premise of Slowing Down to the Speed of Life is that there are two essentially different modes of thinking: the analytical (processing) mode and the creative (free-flowing) mode.
The former is based on memory, the latter one on insight; consequently, the former is effortful, linear, habitual, predictable, and works best when all the variables are known; the latter is easy, automatic, spontaneous, and inspired – and is the one you should use when dealing with the unknown.
Slowing Down to the Speed of Life Is All About Navigating Your Thinking
Unfortunately, we are not perfect, so we often inadvertently imprison ourselves within the wrong mode of thinking; this is not much different from using a hammer to polish a windshield – it will never work, because you’re using the wrong tool.
As we said above, you need your analytical thinking if you want to excel at the territory of the known: planning, scheduling, calculating, memorizing, and recalling data.
However, when you face the unpredictable it’s more than wrong to think that you’ll force your way to a solution: the analytical thinking is memory-based and, simply put, even if you can solve the new problem by reusing old knowledge, you’ll certainly find no enjoyment in this.
That’s why, as a good rule of thumb, whenever you realize that you’re dealing with a new problem, the best thing to do is just accept that you have no idea how to get out of it.
This is the cue which activates your free-flowing mode of thinking – and that, in general, slows down the world and offers a way out when none appear at the horizon.
Four Keys to Getting Back in the Moment
Slowing down to the speed of life is all about living in the moment.
And there are four main strategies to achieve this:
#1. Listening without interpreting and/or (dis)agreeing;
#2. Accepting the fact that, more often than not, you don’t know;
#3. Having faith in the free-flowing mode;
#4. Putting your problems on the back burner and leaving them to cook out a solution for you.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Slowing Down to the Speed of Life Quotes”Despite our best efforts to manage our time efficiently, and despite the many time-saving devices designed to make life easier, our lives often seemed filled to the brim. Click To Tweet Mental health is our birthright. We don’t have to learn how to be mentally healthy; it is built into us in the same way that our bodies know how to heal a cut or mend a broken bone. Click To Tweet As we recognize our unhealthy thinking, we return to our default setting – healthy psychological functioning. Click To Tweet When we slow down to the speed of life, we tap into a peaceful feeling that permeates our entire being and way of life. Click To Tweet When you live in a calm state of mind, the same things that used to feel stressful will seem like mere blips on the radar. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
According to Dan Millman, the author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life is “a life-enhancing book with insightful principles for peaceful and productive living at work and at home.”
Engaging, practical, and easy to understand, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life is even more relevant two decades after its first publication.
And it’s certainly worth a read.
A slow one.
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.