What Is Your Pace Of Life?

06/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"The minute you're born they make you feel small, by giving you no time instead of it all" (John Lennon)

Time is our most precious commodity - we never seem to have enough and we always wish we had more. And as Lennon notes, when someone gives you their time, their attention, you feel far from small.

We all hurry, especially when we are in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, in the midst of building careers and families. I used to look at my parents' slowness when I was in that stage of life with frustration and at times disgust. How could they tolerate the slow pace of their lives (in their 60s/70s), I wondered?

Of course now in my 50s I see it quite differently. The other day I watched a dad take his young toddler-aged girls to lunch and as I watched their actions, the dad was rushing through the experience. One girl had placed her doll in the high chair with her, folded the napkin, re-arranged her table wear to serve her doll friend; the other girl had carefully awaited her own high chair, studying her father's quick movements and sister's methodically actions. All this unfolded around me when I was that father's age, but I know that I raced through much of it, focused on the day-to-day activities of life with young children.

This is likely one reason science has found a beneficial role for grandparents in research on children's health and resiliency. A grandparent is often more relaxed and observant, attentive to the requests of his/her grandchild, and pretty much moving at a pace more in line with the child's - steady, slow, and full of exploration.

As families have become separated over the last several decades and grandparents often live far from their grandchildren, this slower pace - a synchrony of sorts between elder and youth, may be more difficult to find.

The varying pace we embody changes as we move through life, and as a function of the pace of those around us and the environments in which we live. Technology allows us to speed up, but the pace it offers may not fit well with our biological make-up. I'm starting to pay attention to the pace that feels most comfortable - most healthy - to me.

I notice the varying paces of those around me, whether it's my own children, husband, co-workers, or friends. There are times when I like to be amidst a more frantic pace and times I prefer slowness. The most enjoyable times are when I am in sync with the pace of those around me. Steven Strogatz wrote in Sync about how runners on a track quickly become in step (in sync) with one another and how synchronization occurs in biological and non-biological systems (e.g. clocks) all the time. I wonder if our individual pace of life, when synchronized with one another or the environment in which we live, is not a key to health and happiness. Perhaps dissatisfaction - whether at work, home, school, etc. - arises in part because we are out of synchrony with the pace of our environments. Children and adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are often moving at a different pace than those around them, and that can be a source of difficulty. Recognizing your pace (and ranges of comfort and discomfort) can be an important part in discovering how to sync with the world around you.