Shortly after my sister had her first child, she told me about coming across a chapter in The Happiest Mom titled “Aim low, and go slow”. The chapter was focused on setting realistic expectations – of yourself, of others, of the outcomes of events or day-to-day occurrences. In the years since, my sister has, from time to time told me that it is an “aim low, go slow” day. I too have had “aim low, go slow” days. When I hear my sister talk about her aim low, go slow days, it almost takes the form of an apology – she’s implementing a solution and mantra for the days she can’t possibly aim high or quickly accomplish a million things before lunch. Sometimes the statement has a tone of failure to meet the supermom standards and so “aim low, go slow” is what you do if you can’t “do it all”. So while the author’s intent is about realistic expectations, the volume of messages communicating something to the contrary are often too overwhelming to ignore and “aim low, go slow” seems to be something some of us may resist or do apologetically.
Although the author’s focus is on happiness in motherhood, I have started to see “aim low, go slow” as a way to resist the dominant messages we all receive in one capacity or another (e.g., work life, home life, family life) that suggest we need to “do more”, “be more”, “go big or go home”, “try harder”, “strive for excellence”, and “shoot for the stars.” I’m not necessarily against any of these things. There are times when doing more is a good idea, necessary, and even important. There are times when trying harder is the best action. But there is also incredible value in doing less; being content; and taking small, steady steps toward various goals
It is possible that an “aim low, go slow” approach to certain aspects of life could create more time and space for leisure and allow greater satisfaction to be experienced during leisure. For me personally, I have been reflecting on how more realistic work and career expectations (both the scope and the time frame in which I hope/plan to achieve them), could allow me greater opportunities to choose leisure over work. It may also allow me with more mental energy for our leisure. So, I think of “aim low, go slow” in terms of where it can be applied in my life that would afford me more leisure, encourage more leisure, and support me in choosing more leisure.
I also have been thinking about how “aim low, go slow” can be applied within the leisure activities that I choose. There are those people you will meet (I meet them) who, for example, start running for the first time in their life in April with a goal of running a half marathon in October. I’ve known those who have done it. I am amazed by them, but recognize that this kind of goal would likely set me up for failure. It’s too ambitious. I kept “aim low, go slow” in mind when I reflected at the beginning of the year on my goals for 2014. I wanted to get outside more. I set what I perceived as a very achievable goal of 1 hour more per week. If I’d set 20 minutes per day, I would have failed. There are just days when it’s -30 degrees Celsius with a windchill, for example, when I don’t want to set foot outside the house. However, 1 hour per week was a reasonable enough goal that I knew I could be successful. So far so good.
I also set a goal to visit one new leisure/recreation space or facility, attend one new annual community festival or event, and learn about one new leisure/sport activity in 2014. Again, hardly challenging goals. But my goals/resolutions were not meant to be a checklist of accomplishments or to push my limits. They were meant, instead, to support me in enhancing my personal leisure experiences, broadening my knowledge of leisure opportunities in my community, and expanding my leisure repertoire.
In terms of the “go slow” aspect of the mantra as it relates to leisure – to me, it represents being in the moment and having a quality leisure experience. How often do we rush from one thing to the next… even pleasurable or enjoyable experiences. We rush through dinner to get to a theater performance. We rush from a family swim to a friend’s birthday party. If we’re not rushing, we may be conscious of the limited time we have to engage in a particular experience – watching the clock or thinking about what we need to do next (e.g., make dinner, run an errand). For me, “go slow” reminds me to choose carefully how many leisure-related activities or experiences I plan for a day, week, or month. It reminds me to plan these experiences in a way that will allow me to be in the moment when I have them and to enjoy the opportunity to anticipate them. It reminds me to focus on quality not quantity and to savor the experiences.
Aim low, go slow may have incredible value as an approach to thinking about or planning leisure and as an approach to other areas of life that may afford more time and mental energy for meaningful leisure. I am looking forward to testing the approach out in my own life and paying attention to whether or not it makes a difference in, for example, my leisure satisfaction.