When I was a young man I was always in a hurry. I drove in the left lane, rode the tail of anyone driving “too slow,” and was impatient in traffic. I got lots of tickets, and paid high insurance premiums.
Now middle-aged, I find myself in the slow lane most of the time. I give myself plenty of time to get where I’m going, and listen to a book along the way. When the traffic is slow, I wait. When it moves swiftly, I go with it.
I like living in the slow lane. I take time to reflect. I do work that is deeply satisfying to me. I focus on the work itself, rather than the status of my particular vocation or job title.
In the slow lane, less is more: less stuff, more relationships; less status, more significance; less travel, more walks in the parks. It means having enough to share, and enough time for family and friends; it means having enough time to figure out what’s important to you, and making the time to do it. You learn to find what’s real good for free.
When I lived in the fast lane I was in a constant state of stress. I felt anxious without knowing what I was anxious about. I continually measured my own life against the lives of others.
It’s easy to confuse status with doing good work, or living well. It’s human nature to want the respect of our fellow human beings, particularly our peer group. So much so that marketers have become expert at turning that need for respect into a desire to buy their product; we’ve come to associate those products with the thing itself. That is, if we have the right job title, drive the right car, wear the right clothes, and travel to the right places then we must be successful. If we don’t, then we’re not.
Living in the slow lane is very simple and very difficult. It’s as simple as being aware of what’s driving your need for status, and as difficult as letting go of it.