Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

So often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.

10 thoughts on “Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

  1. “How much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?”

    Not much, it seems, according to research I keep reading. As you pointed out, a lot of times trying to do two or three things at once (like grabbing oatmeal and a spoon) results in inefficiency. And no one likes trying to have a conversation with someone who is checking their email on their phone and responding to texts at the same time. Some things really shouldn’t be combined. At times, our rushing around robs us of being fully present in the present.

    However, I’ve found that multi-tasking does work with some tasks. Trying to minimize or “krunch” (as I call it) tasks I don’t like together has actually resulted in me freeing up time for things I love to do. I strongly believe that choosing to use one’s time wisely (however you define that) is the foundation of a happy life 🙂

    1. You hit it spot on! I do find myself not fully present when I try to do too much at once. Which of course leads me to having to ask people to repeat themselves or look up information I’ve missed. I’m finding now more than ever that most of my multitasking was a time waster not a time saver.

  2. I understand you completely – I try and do a million things while brushing my teeth, too! I always have to-do lists, which I am rarely able to complete, because I set myself unrealistic tasks. When doing one thing, I am thinking about all the other things I still have to get done. My concentration always wonders and I feel like I am always jumping from tasks to task, with each activity distracting the other. I have started going for morning walks in order to slow myself down and to be more centered for the rest of the day.

  3. Hello Stephanie; I really like what you have to say. It is difficult in today’s world NOT to rush..especially being a mom and running a business and trying to find time for oneself. I have been blogging for almost a year now and have found that writing relaxes me and causes me to pause to reflect and then I write about it.

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