As a reaction to fast food (and its more modern incarnation, fast-casual ), a countermovement rose up a number years ago extolling the virtues of ‘ slow food ’. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of slow fashion, slow cities and perhaps unsurprisingly a slow life movement. The latest installment is perhaps the most powerful intellectual concept of all: slow thinking.
The basic idea is this: we are subjected to relentlessly accelerated news cycles and increasingly polarized discourse, especially in the realm of politics. Rather than jumping in and expressing an opinion, it would behoove us to think twice before doing so. Take some time and distance before wading into a controversy or espousing a point of view. As philosopher Ephrat Livni notes, “when we’re not in a rush to reach a conclusion or take action, we’re free to explore ideas and change our minds.” What a novel concept!
You’d be in good company if you adopted this habit of thought. Eastern philosophical traditions share this view. Philosopher Lao Tzu pointed out in the 6t h century BC that “one who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.” Returning to the 21s t century, there was a famous article about President Obama describing how he spent his evenings in solitude, reading and thinking about the issues upon which he would have to ultimately form an opinion before taking action. If a president can find time to contemplate before wading into a debate, surely we can as well?
Conclusion: Don’t just do something; sit there. Think twice. Think slowly.
Pair this with: Here’s a contrarian idea: rather than associating activity with productivity, the best way to do your best work and be your happiest self is to cultivate the ability to be still in mind and body. My recent article ‘Stillness is the 21st Century Super Power’ describes how to do just that.