Filmmaker Chloé Zhao has said that throughout her career, there have been moments where she could have signed on for bigger projects. However, she has refrained from doing so because it isn’t who she is. In an interview with The Atlantic, Zhao says that success might come a bit more slowly this way, but you’ll find the people that make up your tribe by being authentically yourself.

It’s not often that many people are advised to play the long game with their careers. What would happen if we started playing the slow game now? How can slow, steady work set us up for a lifetime of success that empowers us to achieve our dreams?

A slow approach is a more mindful approach.

Success is not a sprint. Success is a marathon. Running a marathon means you need to go slow to succeed. At times, success isn’t a marathon. Instead, you may find yourself going for a hike or a run at varying points in your career.

Professional speaker, consultant, and psychologist Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, PhD, MBA, has found in her work that many career professionals tend to question the perspective that implies we should reach success quickly or it should happen overnight.

The reality, according to Pelletier, is that our career progression is in part in our hands and in part dependent on external variables. Taking what may appear to be a slower approach means that we get to explore a more mindful and realistic approach.

“A mindful approach means we are still very alert to opportunities and active in taking those that make sense while being aligned with our professional and personal values,” Pelletier says.

Pelletier notes that taking a mindful approach pays off now and later with our success and overall career satisfaction.

“By being clear on your values and what choices best align with them, you are charting your own path,” Pelletier says. “This not only creates your unique distinction and differentiation in your field, but also will be healthy and allow you to experience moments of flow amongst other things.”

We’re able to focus our energy on what excites us.

Kelly Nolan, an attorney-turned-time management strategist, thinks of slow work as intentional work and decision-making. Nolan says that when we first join the workforce, we are often told to be responsive and accommodating. This tends to be good advice when we’re inexperienced and trying to figure out what type of work we want to do in a field.

As we gain experience, however, our value within a business means bringing smart, creative strategy to the table. It also requires us to maintain excitement about where our career is heading. Being in reactionary mode makes it difficult to pause and think about our careers, but the slow, intentional approach can change everything.

Nolan, who uses an intentional approach to run her business, has found it serves her well. She was able to get clear on who she enjoys working with, who she is best able to serve, and how she likes to work with them. On occasion, she declines certain work requests. Nolan admits that it does feel odd at times but saying yes to everything is a more reactionary approach to business. Continually saying yes, and never saying no, would likely lead to feeling overwhelmed and burnout.

Best of all, using the intentional approach makes her excited about the future of her business.

“The slower, intentional approach helps me focus my best energy on my best offerings and avoid wasting time and energy on work that I find less exciting,” Nolan says. “Being more intentional and slow in my business will help me stick with it for the long haul and enjoy the ride.”

Slow growth keeps us proactively open.

Elissa Baker is the founder and CEO of, an AI marketing platform for doctors. She is also the managing partner of Phase2 Health, which works to help digital healthcare startups increase productivity to grow to their next phase.

Baker had no idea when she first started nursing school that she would be using that training and foundation as a key player in navigating the complexities of digital health marketing and startup growth. Further, she could not have predicted all of the innovations and shifts that have occurred over the last decade and changed the paradigm.

“When you factor in all of that uncertainty, you see the flaw in overnight success thinking,” Baker explains. “The overnight approach to success places the importance on luck — something which is out of your control.”

Baker encourages embracing the slow approach because it is the strategic approach. She also advises reframing the way we look at success as being on a journey, rather than reaching a destination. Keeping ourselves proactively open is truly the key to success.

“We never what is going to come our way, who we will meet, what will happen in the world that shifts how we work,” Baker says. “If you reframe thinking on the journey by keeping creating solid work top of mind, luck is no longer a factor. By refocusing on the journey, you gain agency and the ability to evolve and pivot.”