Slowing down

Can you remember much from your time at primary school? You might be able to recall a few things. Maybe you can remember your old friends or the classrooms you sat in. I have a lot of those sorts of memories. They are important signposts of lives we used to live.

But how often can you connect memories from that time to your current life in order to explain the way you do certain things? This has happened to me a couple of times. Occasionally I'll have a realisation about myself or the way that I do something and realise that people have been warning me about it for a long time.

I can clearly remember a primary school teacher telling me as early as grade one not to rush through work I was doing. At that stage of your education, work often amounts to copying words from the blackboard onto lined paper, but I can remember wanting to finish this sort of exercise first whenever we did anything like that. I'm not sure how I well I processed this advice as a seven year old, but I'm sure now that not only was this feedback entirely correct, I feel like it was prescient.

The way I do so many things today are directly connected to that observation. I hurry, rush, force, throw, jam and slam things. I want to be finished with things yesterday. I want to carry everything at once, even if that leaves me no free hand to grab the door handle with. Too often I leave somewhere and have to turn around because I've left something important behind, which wouldn't have occurred if I'd taken two seconds to gather my thoughts before I left.

My typing is quicker than average but is horribly inaccurate. During primary school typing classes I rushed through lessons without developing proper touch-typing technique just to keep up with another child in the class. He ended up finishing miles ahead of me anyway. Handwriting? Readable, but rough. My guitar playing can pretty quick but is a little sloppy as well I feel like I pushed through these learning processes too fast because I felt I was capable enough to progress past each level, but this may have been because I had found unconventional ways to move through without actually being disciplined enough to learn foundation techniques properly.

What's clear to me is that some of these behaviours are very deeply ingrained in the way we are wired up. Upon reflection, I can draw a straight line through my life that joins the way I learnt handwriting and guitar to the way I do so many different things today.

The first step towards changing this behaviour is realising that it is actually occurring and that it is a problem. It took my teacher a matter of months to identify this; it has taken me almost twenty-five years. As ridiculous as that sounds, there is surely some limit to how mindful of these sorts of things you can be when you are seven or fifteen. It's easy to beat yourself up about the flaws we perceive in ourselves, but I feel like a lot of the time we are just too close to notice some of these habits. Depending on how deeply we think about these things, we either choose to ignore them consciously or subconsciously. Either way, we are always busy ignoring our faults right up until the time that we aren't. Only then can we begin to take steps to fix ourselves