Slowing Down: The Soft Skill that Gets Left Behind

We spend our lives planning and hoping for them yet oftentimes the most beautiful moments happen by accident—when we slow down long enough to take in what was right in front of us along.

I had to go to another school to pick up work forwa one of our students. I could have walked. I should have walked. But I decided to drive instead. And as I was heading to the parking lot, I saw something I had seen many times in the past. A woman wasa walking her dog by the school. Her dog didn’t need a leash. She walked ahead and never strayed too far from her owner.

It always made me smile when I saw the two going for their morning walk. They were peaceful. They were quiet. And they had each other. I really have no idea how long their morning walks took, I would only see them as they passed by the school.

But on this day, instead of simply saying good morning and moving on, I decided to stop and talk. And I am glad that I did. After I said hello, I knelt down to pet the woman’s dog. The dog was scared, maybe hesitant is a better word to describe her. She didn’t run away but she wasn’t ready for me yet either.

As we began to exchange pleasantries, it became clear to me that this woman that I never met before was a beautiful soul. She had experienced loss and yet it hadn’t hardened her to the world. Her outlook was one of hope and faith. Never once did she complain about the hand life had dealt her. I was moved to say the least.

We talked for at least fifteen minutes. Towards the end of our conversation, I knelt down to attempt one more time to pet her dog. The dog approached me, calmly and quietly. And allowed me to pet her. Not for very long. But it didn’t matter. She trusted me.

Why? Well, I am not a dog whisperer so I can’t say for sure. I think it had much to do with the dog observing her owner and I talking and sharing in a relaxed, comfortable manner. That’s all it took.

I walked away from that moment last week with a renewed sense of purpose. Now this doesn’t mean that I will always be successful, but I am going to make more of an effort to slow down and simple take in moments—almost as if I am letting them unfold.

Yes, I am an educator and this site and my work is dedicated to helping teachers feel better and be better. No, my conversation with this woman last week had nothing to do with test scores or performance objectives. But it had everything to do with connecting with a fellow human being. It had to to with slowing down and taking the time to connect.

Did I arrive at the high school fifteen minutes later than I had planned? Yes.

Could those fifteen minutes been spent helping a child, analyzing data or planning professional development? Possibly.

So what?

I was able to slow down and connect with a fellow human being. We often talk about the importance of relationships and connecting and yet we are always on the go. Always driving to check off that next item on our to-do list. I have been guilty and I am sure at times I still will be. But I think my wake-up call last week opened my eyes to what can be if I just slow down. I think we can all do this and I think we should all try to do better. Below are three suggestions I have for slowing down and allowing moments to unfold.

Start Your Day Without Technology

Why is it that as soon as we wake up in the morning we feel the urge to check our our phones, go on the internet or watch the news? Do we fear the possibility that something important could have happened while we were asleep?

I believe that if something happened while we were sleeping that we just had to know about, then we’d know about it. Friends, family or colleagues would have found a way to contact us. Phones, doorbells and good old-fashioned door knocks have the ability to get our attention if necessary.

What if we woke up and did something other than go on some sort of device? We eased into the day with a cup of coffee and a book. Or maybe we go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air and the morning calm. Believe me, I am not always able to do this. There are mornings when I go on Twitter, Facebook or check my email. But the mornings that I don’t? Those are the ones that feel the best.

Talk to Your Colleagues

It is easy to teach a full day and not have one conversation with an adult—if we’re not careful. Rushing to the copier in the morning we barely notice the people around us. Lunch can become a time where we either get work done or relive the most difficult events of the morning. And we are often in such a rush to get home, or wherever we have to be after school, that we barely say more than a quick goodbye to those in our path.

What if instead of rushing to the copier in the morning, we stop and ask our colleague how their daughter’s ballgame went last night? We don’t need to linger and we are not asking for a play-by-play. But stopping long enough to show interest matters. It shows you care and it starts your day off with a connection. Something we have forgotten how to do. Maybe not forgotten, but something we have pushed to the side.

And yes, I get that lunch can be a time to get work done. But it can also be a time to slow down, relax and just talk about anything other than school. Maybe you talk about Game of Thrones, maybe you talk about your weekend or maybe you don’t do much talking at all. Maybe you just sit and listen. It won’t be long before you will have students in front of you and you will be doing plenty of talking then. So why not take this time you have to eat slowly, listen quietly and sit calmly?

Finally, I get that we all have much to do after school. And some folks have to rush to day care, ball practice or a second job. But why not, on the way out, slow down long enough to connect with a colleague? Maybe you talk a little trash about their sports team that lost last night. Maybe you ask what they’re up to that evening. Or maybe you simply smile at them, look them in the eye and tell them to have a nice evening. You can do that.

Slow Down Before You Miss Out

How many times have we been in such a rush to get somewhere or do something that we missed a wonderful moment happening right before our eyes? I know there have been times when I was so concerned with taking a photo of a moment that I missed experiencing the moment itself. Yes, I have the photo on my my phone. But wouldn’t it have been nicer to have fully taken in the moment itself?

About 7 years ago, The Washington Post conducted an experiment involving Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists in the world. He went down to the subway and performed for free for 45 minutes. Only 7 people stopped to hear him play. Seven! More than a thousand just walked by. I’d like to think that I would have stopped. But hindsight is 20/20.

Slowing down takes practice. Slowing down takes time, literally. But slowing down is almost always worth it.

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

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