Winning as a Hare — And as a Tortoise

Tortoise1-wbThough I have no scientific proof, I’m quite sure that our pace in life — the speed with which we function — shapes the way we see the world.

For example, I’m like a hare — a speed demon.

Ask me something and you’ll get the answer before you’ve finished the question. Walk down the block with me and I guarantee you’ll stretch your legs!

But how much of what’s around me do I actually see?

I’ve been thinking about personal pacing and observation because I recently had cataract surgery and, for the very first time in my life, I have 20/20 vision. In addition to being miraculous in itself, my new experience with vision has caused me to realize something else.

It’s one thing — a wonderful thing — to have eyes that work.

But it’s quite another thing to take the time to see.

Real Observation Takes Time

My husband is a great example of of someone who takes time to see. Where I’m a hare, he’s more like a tortoise; he takes his time and goes through his life slowly enough to notice the things around him.

Unlike my lightning responses, when you ask my husband a question he’ll take the time to consider his answer – and get back to you just when you think he may have forgotten the question!

Walk down the street with him and the two of you are likely to pause several times. You’re also likely to see (and smell) more flowers.

How do these differences in pacing affect our ways of seeing and being in the world?

If you’re like me and always rushing to get things done, you may get so caught up in the future that you miss the things that are under your nose.

We hares are often oblivious to the dangers and opportunities around us because we are so focused on where we’re going. Tortoises like my husband, on the other hand, are usually attuned to both what’s right in front of them and the possibilities around them.

Hares quickly process information but frequently miss the details. Tortoises, however, assimilate the same information more completely because they take the time to observe and contemplate the very details that coast by people like me.

Slow or Fast: A Fulfilling Journey

While as different individuals, we may be more like tortoises or hares in the way we live our lives, I don’t think we’re like the famous fable. There aren’t any winners or losers here.

The important thing isn’t who “arrives” first.

What’s important is that there’s more than one way to complete a fulfilling journey.

(If this post strikes a chord, take a look at Do You Think Before You Talk?)

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Alter Your Pace to Match Someone Else’s

The next time you are with someone whose pace is different from your own, try altering your pace to match theirs. Notice how challenging it is. Remember that it would also be hard for the other person to change pace.

Do you know someone whose pacing is very different from yours? Share with me what that feels like to you in the comments below.

  • Great advice! My husband and I match your description, and yes, it’s agonizing to slow down (I’m actually not sure the tortoises CAN speed up! 🙂

    • Thanks, Jezra. I’m totally convinced that it’s as hard for tortoises to speed up as it is for hares to slow down! Impossible if you ask me! My image is of the gears in an old watch. If you want to change the speed, you’ve got to change the number of teeth in the gears. If that’s the right image, then we are hard “geared” for a specific speed.

  • Steven L. Meyers