Tiny Wisdom: Letting Go of the Stress of Rushing

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”  ~Will Rogers

It was like a scene in a movie. I was waiting to cross the street while pedestrians were crossing the perpendicular one. A number of cars were piled up, with drivers waiting to turn when the people made it to the sidewalk.

Several impatient drivers honked, as if they didn’t understand why the first one wasn’t going. So that first guy stuck his head out his window and yelled at the pedestrians, “Come on—hurry up!”

Then one of them yelled back, “I’m &%*#ing pregnant %$*hole. So shut up!” (No swearing here—this is a family friendly place!) She was pregnant—visibly. Meaning that first driver either didn’t actually look at her, or knowingly yelled at a pregnant woman because people behind him were applying pressure.

This got me thinking about an accident I read about many years ago. Several cars were stopped, and a woman behind them couldn’t see why, so she sped into the left lane to pass them—fatally injuring a third grader who was crossing the street.

Both situations boil down to urgency—that need to keep moving, and quickly. This not only fills us with anxiety and compromises our judgment, it also affects everyone us.

It can cause us to be careless in ways that directly impact others, and it creates an environment of tension that creates stress for everyone within it.

It’s when the person serving customers feels the need to run because he can sense people in line are getting impatient (or worse, he’s responding to criticism from them). It’s when you don’t really hear what someone’s saying to you because you’re too busy thinking about what you want to get done—not later, but right now, instead of having to listen.

We might gain five minutes we could otherwise have lost. We might get a sense of accomplishment for finishing one extra item on the to-do list. We might feel a sense of control instead of having to stand still and feel stuck or unproductive.

But we might also lose our peace, our composure, and opportunities to really connect with other people.

Wherever we are, this is life—it’s happening right now. Do we really want to rush through it?

Photo by j / f / photos

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Mindfulsearcher

    What a wonderful perspective!

  • This is a good reminder for me when I get caught up in the stress of yet another deadline passing me by. It will get done..

  • Diana

    Just the other day I found myself getting annoyed at a driver in front of me who was signaling to make a right hand turn, but didn’t even though he easily could have. I wanted this person to just GO! But then it dawned on me, if I were sitting at a red light, I wouldn’t be impatient. I’d just wait for it to turn green. It’s interesting how our expectations can make us impatient, indignant, and angry. 

  • Lola

    Perfectly fits with my practice yesterday. Everything I did or was thinking that I had to plan to do was delayed. I could NOT rush for the planned activities nor for the surprising interludes that seemed to cross my path – like the flat tire that added further “not rushing” into my day. Yes, and excellent practice day it was for me! Thanks for re-posting this blog!

  • I absolutely loved reading this today!

    When I get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle in traffic, I try to see it as an opportunity to slow down, take a deep breath, and simply enjoy my day.

    If I happen to be already late for work or an appointment, chances are showing up 2 minutes later is not going to make a difference. If I’m almost late, I have an opportunity to realize that I’m creating stress and unmanageability in my life through my own poor planning.

    Continuing to rush myself and others is rarely going to help me achieve my goals, nor will it help me life a happy, fulfilling and grateful life!

    I experience my best life when I can slow down and focus on the things that are truly important- and time is not usually one of them.


  • Nancy

    thank you for this perfect reminder of the futility of living our lives this way! next time I get caught up in it I will think of this post and breathe…

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  • Otterspace2001

    Being a recovering “Type A” personality I assure you I know what it is like to be driven by a sense of urgency. From the moment I saw the rewards of being the first first grader to answer the sum on the flash cards (flash, eh? there’s a signal!) I was hooked. Speed is good, speed is smart speed is rewarded. Ever have a job where you had to complete a certain amount of work in a given time if you wanted to keep the job?  Anybody have a parent that was in a constant rush hurrying you as a child, basically training you to be urgent. Life becomes an ongoing emergency so chronic that it becomes something you don’t even notice anymore. You’re just fast. period-

    It’s one thing to come up with a better way to achieve a goal and that sometimes gets something done faster but…at the risk of trading quality for quantity…is it really what we want? 

    Lately, I am very mindful of my habit to rush ahead and gratefully I see it more and more quickly (that speed I like) and am able to stop myself, take a big slow belly breath and return to a state closer to calm; one of being here in the present moment. One thing at a time. Simple cliche but definitely worth the wait, wouldn’t you say?

  • Mon J Gamil

    Thanks for posting. We all need to be reminded. We can’t rush our life, because we will never get it done & we will never get it done. Enjoy the journey!

  • I try to plan things so I’m never in a hurry. Also, I’ve discovered that I can accomplish just as much whether I’m stressed or calm. It’s my choice. Calm feels soooooooooo much better.

  • You’re most welcome! I love what you wrote. We’re always looking to get things done, and yet life itself isn’t something any of us want to finish. Why not allow ourselves to enjoy each step of the way?

  • Yes, I have been telling myself that a lot lately, as I’m working on a lot of different things that are new to me. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but then I remind myself, “It will all get done. Things always work out.”

  • I know that feeling Diana! I thought of that while watching this little incident. There have been times when I’ve gotten frustrated because the person in front of me, who was going straight, didn’t leave enough room for me to move up and turn (in lanes that are unofficially two lanes). I’ve been seeing these moments as opportunities to challenge my instinct to keep moving. It’s actually nice sometimes to just wait, without indulging impatience or urgency.

  • You’re most welcome! This was actually a much shorter blog last year (I used to write much tinier posts!). This story was from the weekend near my new apartment community–where, incidentally, there a lot of mothers moving slowly while pushing baby carriages. Seeing that fills me with a sense of calm. It reminds me to nurture myself instead of driving myself crazy with urgency. Our environment really plays a huge role in our mental state!

  • Thanks for sharing some of your experiences, Chrysta! You bring up a good point about the logic behind rushing when you’re running late. I am someone who feels a strong need to be punctual, and I often feel anxiety in my body when I know I’m not going to be on time. I have to consciously breathe through this to slow my heart rate down. Next time I will also remind myself that late’s late–so whether it’s 10 minutes or 12, it won’t make a big difference!

  • You’re most welcome. =)

  • Your comment made me laugh! In third grade, the boy who sat next to me referred to me as Speedy Gonzalez because I always finished our morning assignments first. And I DID have one of those parents. I could never complete a full sentence without that parent finishing it because I wasn’t making my point fast enough. I also remember being pushed through doors and yelled at many times for taking too long. (In a response to someone else’s comment, I mentioned I sometimes feel a strong physical reaction to running late–I suspect this is why.)

    Deep slow breaths have completely changed my life. It sounds so insignificant, but learning to breathe and be where I am has been one the most helpful things I’ve ever done.

  • Oh my goodness, I could just FEEL the stress of those sort of incidents while reading this.


    I don’t want to rush. And I don’t want to succumb to others’ pressure to do so.

    Thanks for the reminder. Let’s all simmer down and be here now.

  • I felt so bad for that pregnant woman. There was just a giant ripple effect of pressure from one person to the next. Let’s all simmer down–nicely said!

  • Thanks for the article.  Living in Singapore (where people are always on the rush), I can relate to the contents of the article.  The question is whether you want to sacrifice your inner peace for the extra few minutes that you can “save”? Not worth it. 

  • You’re most welcome. You’re right–we generally end up saving very little time, and we sacrifice so much to do it!

  • Sassy4life

    While growing up, my mother did not like us to be idle while she was and she was always moving. Her thoughts were that you were being lazy. That thought procesd has consumed my life & I feel I have to be doing something so as not to be lazy. However, that is wrong & I kmow it now because my childre feel like I had as a child. I don’t want that for them. So, I am working on being “lazy”.

  • I know exactly what you mean about feeling resistant to being lazy. It’s such a nice feeling to be able to do nothing without guilt.