Designing Slow

When your world moves too fast
and you lose yourself in the chaos,
introduce yourself
to each color of the sunset.
Reacquaint yourself with the earth
beneath your feet.
Thank the air that surrounds you
with every breath you take.
Find yourself in the appreciation of life.
-Christy Ann Martine

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the slow movement. The idea of lessening our pace and making time to soak up the deliciousness of every moment. Slow food. Slow beauty. Slow living.

Most people are either on-board or coming around to the idea that food is just better when we are connected to it. Vine-ripened tomatoes from my grandmother’s garden come immediately to mind. I waited patiently all summer for them to turn from apple green to that glorious sun-kissed red that begged to be picked and eaten. That first mouth-watering bite? Juicy, complex, luscious, magical. The taste experience worlds apart from a mouthful of those dense, mealy, disappointing grocery store tomatoes—picked too early and ripened chemically—that we’ve become accustomed to.

My point is—slow is usually better . . . much better . . . and yet, on a daily basis, we live our lives in the fast lane. None of us are exempt anymore from moving so fast on a daily basis that we forget that every moment we are rushing through is actually this thing called “life”.

Why can’t we extend to those things and people most important in our lives (ourselves included) the same unhurried courtesy that we do to the common tomato?

There’s something beautiful in the simplicity of slow. The thoughtful embrace of human connection, of quality, of attention to detail.

I’ve been encouraged over the past few years by the conversations I have with friends—and hear on podcasts and TED Talks—about dialing it back; and, while I’m certain we haven’t cracked the nut on a solution of how to do this successfully, at least people are talking about how we must slow down and find balance again. (Check out a few of my favorite thought leaders, Nigel Marsh and Erin Loechner, on work-life balance.)

While the perception of the non-profit work environment is one of Utopia—friendly, flexible, nurturing, and of moderate pace; most non-profits I know operate with employee burn-out and bureaucracy that is on-par with, or exceeds, their corporate neighbors. To be honest, my non-profit colleagues and I often find ourselves running the race full-speed ahead—unable to and unsure of how to slow down, log-off, and find balance.

This certainly isn’t to say that non-profit work isn’t fulfilling or rewarding or even well-paying because it can be all three; it is simply to validate that burnout is real (and high), the stakes are higher, and the pressure is never ceasing to be more successful with less.

So, how do you slow down when fast is the default setting? When your office is a revolving door of staff or clients? When the stakes of your sick day could be to lose a client to the world of gang violence, drugs, or trafficking? When missing a funding deadline could mean shutting down a program?

I don’t know. But I do know that if we don’t figure out how to slow down, how to do better SLOWLY, and how to allow time for contemplation and incubation of ideas then we are seriously limiting ourselves and the impact of our organizations.

Part of the reason for this very blog was my effort to uncover what I knew was there all along, but had gotten lost in my haste to move on to the next task on my to-do list. To find Joy. Connection. Leisure. Creativity. Deliciousness. Beauty.

As fundraisers, we espouse and champion “relationship cultivation”. We are experts at it, or strive to be. Yet, cultivation by definition takes time. When we cultivate donors, we go slow. We listen, we nurture, we search for unique interests, we embrace the journey—sometimes for years—and, the result is beautiful. Lasting. Life-giving.

Slowing down certainly doesn’t translate to all areas of fundraising, but there is value in recognizing that slowing down often creates those things of most lasting impact.

While I don’t have the answer, I encourage you to take some time this week to slow down, or even stop completely, and reconnect with what you are working on. Quite honestly, sometimes you have to design a little “slow” into your life. You might be surprised at how many creative ideas for your next newsletter are generated on an evening walk, or that you find that solution you’ve been looking for when you skip out of the office early. Looking for simple ideas on how to live slowly and simply? Check out one of my favorite lists on The Beauty of Living Slowly from Tsh at The Art of Simple.

My wish for you is that this new year, in these slow moments, you find your vine-ripened tomato, and that it changes your every day experience.

When you feel the need to speed up, slow down. – Kimi Werner, Spear-Fishing Champion



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