Every morning when I slip into the pool to exercise, I do a lap (back and forth the length of the pool) to get my mind into a stillness so I can exercise without having my mind run ahead into the day.
One of my exercises is to run, lifting my knees very high and pumping my arms. Since I’m in water over my head, I do not race ahead. I move sluggishly, surrounded by water that holds me in place. Resists my progress, while it’s building up muscles.
And as I ran, it occurred to me that frantic running–in or out of the water–doesn’t achieve anything except exercise. Frantic running is not productive. It doesn’t get work done faster, or with more accuracy. We’ve all raced around only to make the situation worse instead of better. And wasted time on top of everything else.
When I sit on airplanes, I see people who are frantically busy. They stay on their phones till the flight attendants ask them to shut them off–for the second time. They pull out their laptops and work the entire flight. As soon as the flight touches down, they are back on the phone. I asked the man next to me how much he had accomplished. “Not enough,” he said, “and I’m late.” He ran off, pushing down the aisle.
I saw him again a few minutes later, mopping up his suit with a coffee stain on it. He was furious. As he grabbed more napkins, he knocked over a ketchup container. It just got worse.
Moving forward is a deliberate act. It combines planning and thinking and often, not doing anything at all. And as I run in the pool in the morning, struggling to make headway, I know that when I get out of the pool, my actions need to be far more deliberate. Sometimes, when I get out, I deliberately move very slowly, feeling each exercised muscle do its work. And it feels like I’ve accomplished something.
–Quinn McDonald is moving ahead. Sometimes faster than others.