Slowing Down – More Than Just A Luxury?

Slowing Down – More Than Just A Luxury?

We all know the benefits of slowing down. Slowing down the pace of life, I mean. Whether this means taking time to yourself to play a sport, read a good book, or simply sit on a park bench listening to happy birds chirping in a nearby oak tree, slowing down, to be in a current moment rather than in one that has passed or one that has yet to come, is a healthy practice. Slowing down reduces stress, which in itself, results in a plethora of positive physical and mental outcomes.

In today’s world, slowing down can be classified as a luxury. Earlier this week, I read an article titled, “How working less could solve all our problems. Really.” I instantly thought about the systemic nature of overworking culture and its negative consequences. In the article, Rutger Bregman writes,

“While the poor are working longer and longer hours just to get by, the rich are finding it ever more “expensive” to take time off as their hourly rates rise. Nearly a hundred years ago, our old friend John Maynard Keynes made an outrageous prediction — he understood that the stock-market crash of 1929 hadn’t called curtains on the entire world economy. Producers could still supply just as much as they had the year before; only the demand for many products had dried up. “We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age,” Keynes wrote, “but from the growing ­pains of over-­rapid changes.””

Bregman’s reference to rapid change and growth reminded me of the Limits to Growth model. Even though Limits to Growth was published over 40 years ago, the model’s predictions of overshoot from growth (in economics, population, and so on) remain timeless and ever relevant. As suggested by Limits to Growth, our societal and environmental issues reflect the damage rapid overgrowth produces.

Contrary to the way many people live today, I envision what a life with more leisure would look like. I imagine working well for six to seven hours a day, spending time with family and friends, and exploring the outdoors. While each individual’s vision of a life with leisure may look different, they have one thing in common – leisure implies less work and less growth. Leisure suggests spending time doing things that an individual enjoys, not necessarily working to make a living or stressing about when the next bills are due.

The pressure to work, produce, and provide is why I started this blog post with the idea that slowing down is a luxury. As I imagine adults that work 90-hour weeks to provide food for three kids, parent these kids, and somehow manage to also take time off, it is clearly impossible to find enough hours in a day to do it all. For adults that do not have children, the threat of overworking is still very present. Spending 15 hours at the office every day means that there is not time to socialize, exercise, or do other activities to take care of one’s physical and mental health.

As a result of these unsustainable, daily habits imposed on individuals due to the habits’ deeply-rooted, systemic origins, it is not surprising that Bregman wrote that climate change, gender inequality, and socioeconomic inequality go hand in hand with the plague of working too much.

I write this post as a means for continuing discussion about work and leisure as well as to ask each of us to consider the type of paradigm shift required to change the status quo.

Warmly,
Madison

Academy for Systems Change Summer Intern 2017

P.S. If you wish to read the full article by Bregman, click here.


Bregman, Rutger. “How working less could solve all our problems. Really.” TED. 11 April 2017. <http://ideas.ted.com/how-working-less-could-solve-all-our-problems-really/>.

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