By Carl Honoré
The other day a woman walked into a doctor’s office and issued a demand that summed up why the world is in such a mess.
“Look, I know I got a million things wrong with me, but I really don’t want a lecture,” she announced. “I just want a pill that will make it all go away.”
The doctor, an old friend of mine, waited for the woman to laugh at her own joke. But she didn’t. Because it wasn’t a joke.
Looking for shortcuts to good health is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch denounced the army of quacks peddling miracle cures to the citizens of Ancient Rome.
In the impatient modern world, however, we want a “just-add-water” solution for every problem. This craving for a quick fix damages more than just our health. It also takes a toll on everything from our relationships to business, society and the environment.
Why? Because quick fixes seldom deliver on their seductive promise of maximum return for minimum effort.
I know this from personal experience. To combat lower back pain, I spent years churning through treatments like a chronic weight-watcher flitting from diet to diet. My spine was twisted, cracked and stretched by a procession of physiotherapists, masseurs, osteopaths and chiropractors. Aromatherapists rubbed birch, blue chamomile and black pepper oils into my lower lumbar region. Reflexologists worked the back-related pressure points on the soles of my feet. I wore a brace, guzzled pain-killers and muscle relaxants, spent a small fortune on ergonomic chairs, orthotic insoles and orthopedic mattresses. Hot stones, hot cupping, electric currents, heat pads and ice packs, crystals, Reiki, ultrasound, yoga, Alexander Technique, Pilates – yup, been there, did all of that. I even visited a Brazilian witch doctor.
Nothing really worked, though, because I never stuck with it long enough. I wanted a quick fix. I wanted the back-pain equivalent of “One Step to a Flat Stomach.”
Of course, a speedy solution can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. In every walk of life, there are moments when you have to channel MacGyver, reach for the duct tape and cobble together whatever fix works right now. The Heimlich manoeuvre saves many lives.
But when it comes to the really hard problems in the world – turning around a failing company, combatting poverty, tackling illness, rebuilding a marriage – there are no instant remedies. It’s always more complicated than that.
The good news is there is now an alternative to the quick fix. It’s called, not surprisingly, the Slow Fix.
You may have heard of the Slow Movement, which challenges the canard that faster is always better. You don’t have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone or join a commune to take part. Living “Slow” just means doing everything at the right speed—quickly, slowly, or at whatever pace delivers the best results.
Applying a Slow Fix means taking the time to: admit and learn from mistakes; work out the root causes of the problem; sweat the small stuff; think long-term and connect the dots to build holistic solutions; seek ideas from everywhere; work with others and share the credit; build up expertise while remaining skeptical of experts; think alone and together; tap emotions; enlist an inspiring leader; consult and even recruit those closest to the problem; turn the search for a fix into a game; have fun, follow hunches, adapt, use trial and error, and embrace uncertainty.
Around the world, you see more and more examples of the Slow Fix in action: Couples rebooting relationships. Families ending feuds. Children resolving playground conflicts. Companies boosting sales and productivity. Designers building better stuff. Scientists making surprising breakthroughs. People are also applying the Slow Fix to global problems such as poverty and the environment.
What does the Slow Fix mean for health in a world that wants a pill for everything? It means taking time to figure out the root cause of any ailment; learning what we can from the unhurried, holistic approach of traditional forms of medicine; marrying medical treatment with wider changes in lifestyle; and treating the mind and body together. Above all, it means learning to be a patient patient.
I have finally started mending my back with a Slow Fix that involves regular yoga and swimming, and monitoring my posture throughout the day.
In every corner of life, we face problems that defy quick fixes. The time has come to resist the siren call of half-baked solutions and short-term palliatives and start fixing things properly. The time has come to get off the fence, (slowly of course), and learn the art of the Slow Fix.
Wishing you health, happiness and the gift of savouring the moment.
About Carl Honoré
Carl Honoré is an award-winning journalist, author and TED speaker. He is also a globetrotting ambassador for the Slow Movement. The Wall Street Journal hailed him as “an in-demand spokesman on slowness.”
After working with street children in Brazil, he covered Europe and South America for the Economist, Observer, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, Time, National Post and other publications.
His first book, In Praise of Slowness, examines our compulsion to hurry and chronicles a global trend toward putting on the brakes. His second book, Under Pressure, explores the good, the bad and the ugly of modern childrearing – and offers a blueprint for change.
Carl’s third book, The Slow Fix, explored how to tackle complex problems in every walk of life, from health and relationships to business and politics, without falling for superficial, short-term quick fixes.
Carl wrote Bolder: How To Age Better in 2019 and 30 Days To Slow Notebook.
Translated into more than 30 languages, his books have landed on bestseller lists in many countries. His TED talk has been viewed over 3,000,000 times and translated in 24 languages. On top of writing, blogging, tweeting and giving media interviews on the benefits of slowing down, Carl rushes (slowly, of course) around the world to deliver speeches and workshops.
He lives in London with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he plays for the top ball-hockey team in the UK. For more information, visit: www.carlhonore.com
I absolutely loved this post. I have been guilty– not necessary of looking for quick fixes, but of rushing through life and missing moments. Can you relate to looking for the quick fix? Have you embraced slow, or do you rush? This is an important topic, as it relates back to our overall well-being and happiness. I am more cognizant after reading this, and will be trying to move slower today. Would love your thoughts…