Slowing Down: The real reason you can't break up with being busy

Published October 30, 2021 by Sheila Anne Murray

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As I crawled out of an Epsom salt bath at noon on a Saturday I thought to myself, “Wow, this is so nice. Why don’t I do this more often?”

And isn’t that what we always think after doing something especially nice for ourselves? Followed by an intention to “make more time for it in the future.”

But that commitment hardly ever pans out. Why? We’ll that’s what I’m writing about today - the real reason you have trouble slowing down. Spoiler: it’s not about finding the right routine or putting it on your calendar. No, this runs much deeper than that.

As a coach I have the pleasure of hearing the big visions and deep desires of others. More often than not, I hear similar themes: finding inner peace; feeling fulfilled without losing their achiever edge; leading a slowed-down and more intentional version of life. As a recovering hyper-achiever and busy bee, this hits close to home. The idea of “slowing down” was foreign to me just a few years ago. Even when my body craved rest, or a small voice inside me said “this can’t be all there is” as I tackled the daily grind, I struggled to develop any sort of mindful, slow way of living.

I didn’t know the extent to which my learned behavior was working against me. I didn’t know that the very patterns I was trying to adapt ran counter to the patterns that my mind and body had labeled as “safe” and “necessary.” I had built an identity on being a busy achiever and I fell into step with the societal norm of working hard and staying busy, no matter the cost.

The bottom line is that changing habits, making time for mindfulness, and taking deep breaths is actually not all there is to living a slow and intentional life. I’m sharing this message with you today because I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle to slow down but that you can make a difference if you open your eyes to the learned behaviors within and around you. 

Reason #1 Why You’re Not Slowing Down: You’ve built your identity on busyness

When you’ve always been the go-getter, busybee, doing-all-the-things type of person, a new routine or habit is not enough to break the cycle you’ve worked so long and hard to create. Consider what your lifestyle was like in high school, college, and beyond. If you’re like me, you were always running from one thing to the next - balancing clubs, sports, friends, family, and work. Perhaps like me you used phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “I just need to push through this and then I’ll relax,” - the latter promise, of course, never happened.

For over half my life my identity was built on my ability to do it all while attempting to appear calm and confident. Slowing down was not part of the picture. These learned patterns are also known as “armor” and they occur at a subconscious level, making it more difficult to identify without pause and conscious attention.

Within each of us there does exist a part that craves pause, rest, and slowness. Like nature, we cannot constantly be in bloom and bearing fruit. If you only get to know the version of yourself that is chronically striving for more, you will miss out on so much of your multidimensional humanness. 

Reflection questions:

  • How can I help those around me to slow down?
  • What could others learn from seeing me slow down?
  • How do I feel about myself when I’m busy? Example: proud, energized, exhausted
  • Apart from my achievements and work-ethic, what do I want to show myself and the world?

Reason #2 Why You’re Not Slowing Down: You surround yourself with other busy bodies

If you are not in the practice of slowing down, you are more vulnerable to the energy and influence of others. Busy people tend to attract busy people and that hyper-active attitude becomes the norm. This is dangerous territory. If you are working on slowing down, you become the fish swimming up river, fighting not only against your learned behaviors but also the norms of your social group. This can lead to guilt, resentment, confusion, and regressing back to old ways.

Don’t lose hope! If you recognize the norms of the community around you and the behaviors that trigger you, you will be well resourced. Deepen your self confidence and connection to your individual values and you will be unstoppable in your quest for slowing. Just think - you could be the ____ of your friend group

Reflection questions:

  • In what ways do I compare myself to others?
  • To what degree is my behavior of busyness influenced by others?
  • Who in my life (intentionally or unintentionally) is enabling my habits of staying busy and always achieving?
  • How do I want to show up for myself when I am in a season/time of rest and others around me are focused on achieving?

Reason #3 Why You’re Not Slowing Down: Society favors perfection, busyness, and overworking

I recently spoke with a new mother who was completely exhausted. She told me her plan was to keep driving herself into the ground because she knew vacation was on the horizon. I asked her where she learned that strategy. Together we learned that for her whole life she had witnessed exhaustion as commendable and rest as indulgent.

The reality is that society honors perfectionism, allows “busy” as an acceptable response to “hey, how’ve you been?”, and tolerates work-life balance so long as it’s only talked about. Add on the rise of social media (and with it the ability to curate others’ perception of your life) and we have quite a mess of socially-encouraged workaholism and unattainable standards for excellence. 

Though it’s unlikely these norms will break anytime soon, it’s vital to recognize that the problem of slowing down is beyond you. As I shared in Reason # 1, it may be your way of fitting in, staying safe, feeling a sense of belonging within your community and workplace. 

Reflection questions:

  • What do I want my life to be about?
  • How do I want to take care of myself?
  • What cultural norms or phrases have influenced my behavior?
  • How do I want those in my company/organization to witness my commitment to self care and well-being?


If you are a leader, high-achiever, or identify as a woman trying to live a more conscious life, I’m here to support you. There are various ways to work with me and you can always drop a note if you are looking to learn what offering is best for you.


Sheila Anne