Recently I had the opportunity be with a small group of folks to hear from Alan Fadling, author of The Unhurried Life. We had an interesting dialog about how hurry drives us to anxiety and burnout as leaders. I had to laugh when one woman shared that her company’s word for the year is Velocity. Yikes.

Fadling points out that one can be productive, even busy, while still embodying an unhurried way of being. This contrast is striking for me. I’m coming to realize that busyness is not what wears me out; it’s an internal sense of feeling driven and compulsive that keeps me from resting, even during evenings, weekends, and vacations at times.

Three False Beliefs

One driver of hurry is a sense that whatever I have or do is never enough. Here are three common beliefs that can drive us:

  • I am what I do –> Do more.
  • I am what I have –> Get more.
  • I am what people say about me –> Get more people to like me.

I wrestle with all of these in some form from time to time. The best test for me to see how I’m doing with these three false beliefs is to notice my internal reaction when I am unable to do or have what I want. How do I respond when people don’t like me or don’t agree with me? Can I stay centered or does it throw me off balance? Does compulsiveness or anxiety creep in?

Scarcity vs. Abundance

Another way of describing that sense of “never enough” is scarcity thinking. The opposite, of course, is abundance thinking. That is a sense that there is enough of what is most needed for everyone. I’ve found that different people struggle with scarcity thinking at different levels – some hardly at all, some a great deal. Fadling contrasts these notions, describing abundance mentality as “my cup overflows” and scarcity mentality as “please fill my cup.” I found this statement striking: “it’s hard to lead people from whom I desperately need something.”

The implications (for us as leaders, shapers of organizational culture, and members of families) are tremendous. Unhurried, abundant leaders, families, and organizational cultures tend to be more creative, innovative, and sustainable. Stress, illness, silos, and employee turnover show up in compulsive, competitive environments.

Leadership is, first and foremost, influence. How are you and I influencing our environments? Do we even realize the subtle messages we might be sending?

I have to wonder:  is it even realistic to be busy and highly productive out of an unhurried mindset? I’m really interested to hear your thoughts.

I know that healthy leadership is a long game. I’m fascinated with the concept of living an unhurried life. Fadling’s next book, due out in May, is The Unhurried Leader.

10 Comments

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  1. I wrestle with those false beliefs too! Thanks for the post. The book sounds great!

    • Christin (Author)

      Peggy, it’s good to know I’m not alone. When he stated them, they kind of hit me between the eyes. I’m really enjoying his book and looking forward to the next one.

  2. Samantha Alarie-Leca

    This post reminds me about the importance of taking time to celebrate success. Truly pausing for a moment to recognize progress can help counter the anxiety of hurry, hurry, hurry. As leaders, we have the opportunity to build a staff (or volunteer) culture that acknowledges the achievements of our team and team members along the way to a goal.

    • Christin (Author)

      Sam, great reminder. I’m not good at this and need to make an effort to do this. I may need to practice by celebrating my own successes for the very same reasons. It reinforces that abundance mentality and fights the scarcity mentality. Great to hear from you! Hope you are well!

    • Alyssa Johnson

      Great comment Sam! I wrestle with the “I am what I do” belief above, so I’m always looking for something to do. I don’t necessarily ask, “What’s the best or most important thing to do.” As a result of constantly looking for something to do, it’s very unusual for me to celebrate success.

      I’m too busy finding the next thing to do! I’m not good at recognizing this pattern until I find myself worn out.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Easy to fall into those 3 beliefs. What came to mind to me is the word “pace”. Using the sports analogies of the Indy 500, Boston Marathon, or 1500M Freestyle Race – if one was to “hurry” I’m guessing they would burnout quickly. It’s the person who knows how to pace themselves, including some times of acceleration and “drafting”, that leads to victory and success. I think the same is true for us at home and at work.

    • Christin (Author)

      Craig,
      Yes! Great thoughts.
      Pace is a really helpful word to express this idea of Unhurried Leadership. I like that it captures the flexibility to move with capacity and in context. I struggle at times with feeling boxed in or restrained by routines/boundaries. And -pace happens to be one of my 3 words for this year: Pace. Center. Presence.

  4. Christen,
    Great reflections and I’ll have to take a look at Fadling’s work. To answer your question, yes I believe it is realistic to be productive out of an unhurried mindset. This happens when we practice the abundance mindset you articulated – “my cup overflows.” The first question I ask myself and others, “What are you doing to fill up to overflowing your cup?” I find that two things are helpful – first, complete disconnection from work at least one 24-hour period per week, and for several hours every day. This goes with the adage that your work days will be more productive by taking non-work days to focus on being. Second, taking moments throughout your work days to tune in to tangible reminders of who you are and refocusing your perspective. I typically need to do this before I start, and at least once in the middle of the work day. If not, I get frazzled and hurried, and become a human doing instead of a human being. Someone said that a long time ago and seems applicable to being “unhurried!” Thanks again!

    • Christin (Author)

      Great thoughts, Daniel.
      Thank you for those practices. I’m making note of them for my daily practices.

  5. As leaders it’s important to be very intentional about our decisions. Every stated “yes” to a resource allocation question (often time) results in a either a stated or implied “no” to something else. Our personal and corporate mission statements should be considered at all times. This intentional approach to life helps keep me on mission and less hurried.