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  • Writer's pictureAnn Wagner

Is it possible?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

I recently finished the Gallup Global Strengths Coach course and as someone with ideation in their top ten themes, I can only say the popcorn is popping in this little brain of mine. And then, as it happens, one particular topic or phrase started coming up everywhere for me. I couldn't NOT see it. When I say it, you might struggle to hold back the eye rolls, or comments that are similar to “DUUH,” but hear me out. It is about slowing down. Taking a pause. Creating space. So here I am, taking a minute to write out my thoughts.

What does slowing down mean to you? Is it possible on a larger societal scale? And what are the effects; not just the (hopefully) obvious positive effects, but what sacrifices are made if we do slow down. Is it a sacrifice? In what ways are we celebrating being swamped and how does this impact individuals and society both in the short and long term?

During one of my recent coaching sessions, my “client” was discussing a current challenge that resulted in the session taking an amazing and lovely zig-zagged path, as they often do, with the end goal to slow down. It seemed so simple, but of course it wasn't. We worked through what was important to her and why, what was missing, and what was perhaps being mislabeled. A couple of days later, I was having coffee and breakfast in the living room and reading an article in HBR magazine (May-June 2023 edition). It was from the founders of Bitty and Beau's Coffee on building a business around employees with disabilities. This wasn't just about DEI strategies that so many companies are investing in (or trying to with varying degrees of authenticity). It very clearly was about slowing down. About people coming in, and taking an intentional, open-minded, and human pause – having meaningful personal exchanges with their team members.

With a bit more of a look at this company and the founders, I fell in love. As noted on their website's homepage, this is a “human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop” and it highlights their focus of acceptance, respect, love, values and perceptions to name a few. I shared this article and some of my thoughts with my oldest brother and he simply replied, “isn't this what coffee shops were always meant to be? A place to come in, slow down, and talk.” Sometimes it is simple.

This article stuck with me, and some of my favorite takeaways (or reminders) include:

  • Leading from behind. The employees are the face.

  • People who are put in the right roles and set up to succeed simply will do just that. Succeed. This results in immense dedication and “infectious enthusiasm” when people can lean into their strengths.

  • Disabilities are part of the human condition. Let's adapt accordingly.

  • It's ok to start small.

  • Humans need kindness - this coffee shop makes it their personal mission to be personal (in my opinion).

So this article gave me all the feels. And then, I was reminded of a podcast I recently listened to (and therefore bought the book - still waiting to be read) on the Leadership Pause

by Chris L. Johnson. And just a few days ago, another article from my beloved Brené Brown stated that the number one skill that leaders need to cultivate at the moment is the ability to be a “calm-space maker.”

I could go on, citing how many times this theme pops up, whether it be in print, podcasts, or regular chats with family and friends on being busy, being too busy, or wanting to do more. Wishing there was time to do more, and of course, just how fast time goes. How we seem to simultaneously acknowledge and crave that busyness to feel accomplished, or to avoid the guilt, known or not, of just pausing. But the popcorn that is popping in my brain wants to understand a few more things.

  • What does it, slowing down, really look like? Feel like?

  • How vast should or could the difference be for varying individuals, with varying goals?

  • In a society where we seem to always be prompted to want more, I even wonder what the “more” really is. (And I'll probably think about it more than I should - in a nice coffee shop!)

I'll wrap up with this. Yesterday I was sitting in my dad’s living room with him, my brother, and our home health aid, Jill. We just had a call with the local hospice program, to start gathering some information for something we know we will soon need. My dog Tina, who was sitting in the middle of us, went to scratch one side, unsuccessfully, and then went to scratch the other side of her belly, also somewhat unsuccessfully. As if she wasn't sure where the itch was. So she just then looked slowly at each of us, walked over to Jill, and leaned on her to have JILL scratch her tummy. After a head shake and quick laugh, the discussion switched to one of how great it would be to come back as a dog. Because the only things that seem to matter to a dog are the most simplistic, pure, and beautiful traits. Food, shelter, love, and companionship.

Is this what slowing down is meant to be, a refocus on these things? Sounds ok to me, but what is the cost? Is there a cost? Either way, the topic is everywhere, so we might as well try to become a little bit more intentional about what we are doing and how. At least that's my plan.

What does slowing down mean to you?  Is it possible on a larger societal scale?

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