In Association with Royal Parks Half
“The future is made up of only one substance and that is the present moment. By taking care of the present, you are doing everything you can to assure a good future”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Researcher Gardner Mitchell tells us that in a world where we increasingly expect instant results, we are suffering from an epidemic of ‘hurry sickness’ – “an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency…in which a person feels chronically short of time and so tends to perform every task faster and to get flustered when encountering any kind of delay”.
This is something that I really tuned into as I began increasing my mileage in preparation for running the Royal Parks Half Marathon in a few weeks. Despite the fact I have a training plan which allows me to gradually increase my distance and speed so as not to overload my body and get injured, I could still feel myself getting itchy and putting pressure on myself to be able to ‘do it all now’. I often caught myself feeling flustered mid-run because I was so focussed on getting it done and moving on to the next one that I wasn’t enjoying it. Not only that but I wasn’t feeling satisfied or really appreciating each achievement because I was so intent on rushing towards the final goal. I wanted instant results.
But we expect instant results. Much modern technology claims to improve our lives by making everything instant – instant communication with friends and colleagues, same-day delivery of our online purchases, faster ways to gather and spread information – but the ability to do everything immediately and at any time can mean that we feel pressure from all the things we think we should be doing.
But there is always something else we think we could or should be doing. Even when we’ve completed our ‘to-do’ list or achieved our goal, there is always some extra activity that could be completed and that can carry with it a feeling of regret or guilt: “why didn’t I find time to…go for an extra run/read a book/call a friend…?’ For me, even when I’ve achieved a long-awaited and hard-earnt goal, I often don’t allow myself to revel in it for very long; I immediately find myself setting my sights on the next challenge and putting pressure on myself to get on with achieving it.
So, what can we do?
How do we overcome the feeling that we constantly must rush to our next task or be progressing towards our next goal?
- Be mindful of the present moment. There will always be something else we could be doing but by focussing on the present moment, it becomes much easier to be at peace with ourselves as we are, without looking forward to what comes next, or looking back at what we could have done differently. This is something that I’ve found really useful in incorporating into my running mindset, especially on long runs: not thinking about how far I’ve gone already, or how long I’ve got left to go, but just concentrating on enjoying the present moment. Surprisingly, this has made the distance aspects of my long runs feel a lot more enjoyable because I’m no longer focussing on just getting to the end.
“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive”
Thich Nhat Hanh
- Interrupt the hurry mindset. Take a 10-minute walk, find a change of scenery, have a cup of tea. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of needing to rush on to the next thing, I try and interrupt that thought pattern and give myself time to evaluate the importance of each task as well as the importance of taking my time. Usually I can come back to my to-do list much calmer and with a clearer view of how to prioritise my time.
“We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be”
Thich Nhat Hanh
- Practise gratitude and positivity. Taking a moment to be grateful for the things I have achieved can be really soothing. If I’m feeling like I’m not measuring up on a particular day, I try to recount even the small victories and be grateful for them. Often, I’ll be feeling like I haven’t done anything ‘significant’ or ‘productive’ in a day, but upon recalling my actions, I’m always able to find at least one thing I have achieved and can be proud of (even if that is just replying to email I’ve been putting off!).
- Trust that everything will get done. This has been so helpful for my feelings of being overwhelmed with all of life’s tasks. I might not get them all done today, or even tomorrow, but that’s okay. As long as I keep taking small steps towards the place I want to get to, there is nothing to stress about. So, I know that if I keep putting the miles in, I’ll eventually be able to run a half-marathon without thinking about it, but putting pressure on myself to be able to run 13 miles in the first few weeks of training is unnecessary – the process is part of the fun!
Links and Reading List:
Sword & Zimbardo on ‘Hurry Sickness’: