slow down Pause session at Pause Salon

In a research paper led by Harvard Business School in “Conspicuous Consumption of Time: When Busyness and Lack of Leisure Time Become a Status Symbol” Journal of Consumer Research, it was found that someone with a busy lifestyle tends to be associated as a high aspirational status symbol. Not only that, he or she will be perceived as scarce and in demand on the job market.

Inevitably, this phenomenon of busyness tends to influence how fast our lives should be.

In the startup world, speed is instrumental to pivot and to scale the venture. In terms of lifestyle, we were ingrained with the idea that speed will help us get more out of life.

However, this has increasingly exerted a toll on many entrepreneurs’ lives in terms of their physical, mental and emotional well being.

Given the increased means with technology and automation to speed things up, is going faster the only way to go?

What are we losing out as a result of going fast, which are fundamental to growing fast?

Few years ago, I discovered a different relationship with speed through the PAUSE Session X Mindfulness Lunch, led by The Wellness Report Group.

Following up on this, I had the privilege to have a deeper exchange with the Founder, Ferina Natasya Aziz, on “going slow” and how it can actually benefit entrepreneurs to go further and faster than they thought.

Photo by lucas law on Unsplash

On Busyness

Alfred: These days, we seem to wear busyness as a badge of honor. “No time” has become such a buzzword in our daily interaction.

What is time to you as an entrepreneur?

Ferina: “As an entrepreneur, time is opportunity. With everyday, I wear different hats to my role, I allow time to be my segment for total bubble of focus.

I’m a Robin Sharma groupie and for me, time whether it is 10mins to 10 hours, I use that as my tight bubble of total focus – how it can move my business forward.

Alongside my personal view to time. Time to me is a privilege.

I used to look at time as time to work, time to play, time to eat etc.

Now I look at time as linear with no end goal and that every moment should be making me feel my best for myself or my loved ones or the community I’m serving.

More and more as I go deeper into the business, I continue to ask if I’m serving with the time given to me as leader for my initiative AND if I’m forgetting the ‘play’ and fun of it all in doing what I do.

Time is a privilege and I consciously not take it for granted.”

Founder of PAUSE, Ferina Natasya Aziz, sharing her insights at Green Is The New Black Conscious Festival 2017

Alfred: Speaking of time, while many people see it’s a matter of time management, I learned that it is more on defining our priorities.

What priorities do you hold as an entrepreneur, particularly in the area of wellness?

Ferina: “I believe in my daily self-care & my weekly & quarterly slowing down sessions.

I’m a lark and I love my alone time – so there is this non-negotiable scheduled in appointment that I do with myself: meditation, yoga, journaling. And on days where I need more of a ‘yang’ of slowing down, I explore new body techniques like martial arts, surfing etc.

I think many think of slowing down as going to a cave and meditate but I think everyone is different and perhaps a high intensity workout or cooking your own meal helps you to slow down as that takes you to your peace of mind, so go do that. Find your pause, really.

I think one needs to experience the benefits of slowing down to believe that it is beneficial for them.

When I feel overwhelm and still try to tick all that to-do list, I know for a fact it is all half-assed work. But when I take a step back, slow down, pause and witness my own thoughts on why I am rushing this and how this can benefit me and my business, I always end up knowing I need the slow down.

In fact, after the short pause, the clarity and productivity are much better.”

Alfred: Sometime earlier this year, a friend shared her comment with me that burnout usually happens to business owners and entrepreneurs more so than corporate executives. In my opinion, it affects everyone.

That said, what are some impact you have observed among entrepreneurs – physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally and/or spiritually as a person leading the front?

Ferina: “Whatever business one is in, I notice that the ‘feeling alive’ obviously goes downhill after a while and I don’t blame them as the to-do list never seem to end. I notice the lack of vitality.

Using myself as the mirror, I notice that I was doing all the things I must be doing, morning/evening gym, getting work done, sitting almost the whole day, and start to notice I gained weight – due to the stress and bad food choices that I get peaks of energy but feeling low energy throughout the day.

I notice similarity among my business peers.

More and more, I believe that entrepreneurs themselves need more of the mental and emotional break – not that they are not able to face the different waves but allowing their mental emotional states to be of healthy patterns before a possible breakdown just because they have been on a go-go-go behaviour.”

Alfred: While many of us may understand how slowing down can help us in a longer run, this phenomenon of busyness seems like a stubborn vicious cycle.

When we start advising people to take a break so that they have the stamina to travel a longer distance, there is almost always this guilt and fear of losing out on something if they slowed down.

For yourself, how do you transform such inner dialogue and inner conflicts to find that balance of being purposefully productive without compromising your well being?

Ferina: “I ask myself (for to-do tasks): why am I rushing this? What will happen if this gets delayed another day?

I don’t really want to engage in a dialogue with my mind because it usually have a mind of its own. So an affirmation like , “today, I do the best that I can and that is enough. See you tomorrow.”

Beneath the Fast and Furious

Alfred: For me, I learned that the urge to go faster and constantly be in a busy rat race is usually a smokescreen for us to delay facing the stuff that truly matters.

What are some side effects of speed? How is that affecting growth in a venture/movement you have observed?

Ferina: “I think like making a turn with a fast car is usually harder and much more dangerous than when you slow down at a bend.

I remember my first year in the business where I confused frequency, speed to be equivalent to success.

Instead, everything that comes out feels like ‘meh’ or not to the quality I usually hold. Hence, it didn’t work for my business where experiential pause sessions are part of what we do as an extension of the online magazine.

It also taught me that not everything that everyone else is riding on, is what I should be riding on.

That slowing down helps me to go inward in my true purpose. I may sound like I’m off to a silent meditation but I believe that business owners themselves know the answers to how the envision and want to bring their company forward – but because of all the noise and distractions, they can’t really tap into the truest answer.

It may work for competitor A, but if it doesn’t serve your vision and your community, then it is of no use.”

In relevance to that, what are the key habitual mindsets hidden in us that we should take note of and bring awareness to so that we can work on them?

Ferina: “Notice Your Patterns – How you respond to challenges and also how you respond to your wins. This goes also with how you conduct yourself to your employees, business partners and so on.

Are you mindful? Do you make quick decisions or not at all? Are you easily reactive?

Most times we react and regretted because what’s underlying it is something else. It is not an easy thing to do – with the brain being the hardest muscle to change, these are daily practices. No rush on it, no dateline on it. But there is definitely a lot of good in it.”

A PAUSE session in progress | Photo credit: [email protected], Red Periscope

Arriving at PAUSE

Alfred: I realised there is a lot of wisdom in PAUSING once in a while to recalibrate ourselves.

How did you arrive at this whole idea of PAUSE as an initiative?

Ferina: “I think it brought me to a time when I was going on adrenal fatigue, stress and also having constant panic attacks that literally stopped me on my tracks.

I kept being reminded (by my own mind) on ‘what if I had slowed down before that ultimate burnout’ or ‘this panic attack can be stopped only if I come back to my slow deep breathing’ and I saw that as moment of pause – not to be leaving that modern and urban lifestyle (we can’t get away from it or lock ourselves in a cave to meditate) but it is about that space in between how I should respond to it.

This brings me back to the experiential sessions where I always curate with my team where we are not putting the audience out of their normal day to day, but it is about sharing the simple, effective and often overlooked tools (like breathwork, mindfulness, thought perspective) that we can only do that when we slow down. That’s where the PAUSE initiative came about.”

” PAUSE is like a coma, not a full stop.”

Ferina Natasya Aziz

What is PAUSE in your definition?

Ferina: “That space – in – between before you take action.”

Tell us more on how will you be bringing this initiative into our reality?

Ferina: “In a world with global burnout, obesity, depression etc, we seek validation on external where things doesn’t really exist.

Studies have shown that our addiction to that tiny phone screen has brought us to ‘likes’ to define who we are. This also brings in the kind of stress that could have been prevented.

I look at wellness more from the idea where one wants to seek self-actualisation.

After we have all our basic needs, food, shelter etc, we look beyond that and go into that inward journey. This is where we envision PAUSE to be.

We are firm believers that you slow down to speed up and that intermission/ break in between shouldn’t feel like a guilt sentence.

Through our PAUSE sessions, we want to create that space where we bring informative and uplifting perspective to living well.

It is about redefining success in the modern world.”

Alfred: Sometimes when I interact with other entrepreneurs, this whole idea of slowing down is often judged to be unproductive or a sign of weakness. There is this resistance in many business owners to even stop for a moment and just breathe.

How do you counter this type of resistance?

Ferina: “The preventative stories of myself as the founder. I wished I had pause years ago when my body and mind was screaming for a slow down. We usually hit that breaking point and still push forward.

It is only when you have broken down, that you learn. And that crippling and scary time with my depression, anxiety and panic attacks is when I knew I don’t want any other human being to go through the same thing.

This is my purpose.”

Alfred: I totally love what you are doing to create this nurturing space for us to PAUSE, especially in this busy society where people are relentlessly pursuing.

I like to explore from your perspective, what possibilities and future will you see as a result of practicing PAUSE? What difference will it make?

Ferina: “I believe people seek further than just financial success.

With pause, they are reminded to ‘be’ instead of ‘to-do’ – being kind to self, being mindful with their actions and being in a state of peace and fulfillment.”

Slow down. Embrace life. Connect with others. Event: PAUSE Salon Mar 2018. Photography: Ruthi Schooling

Go Slow to Grow Fast

Alfred: I guess many entrepreneurs would like to understand how they can implement some of these practices into their lives while simultaneously growing their business.

As an entrepreneur and through your own experience, what are some of your counterintuitive wisdom to this whole culture of going fast and furious?

Ferina: “Going 10,000 miles to 10 miles per hour is not a bad thing, you savour the air, the scent and journey more.”

Earlier on, we explore this notion of priority. How can entrepreneurs get clear about their priorities and conviction of where they are heading towards?

Ferina: “I am finding my magic sauce for this myself but what works for me is:

  • Make non-negotiable to-BE time daily, weekly, quarterly.
  • Tackle my daily to-dos with tight bubble of focus and using my time in tight bubble of total focus.
  • Do 1 thing a day that will move the needle in your business.”

If you have a quote, metaphor or story to encapsulate all of these, what would it be?

Ferina: “If only I had slowed down, I wouldn’t have spiralled in depression and anxiety and panic attacks.

The most valuable lesson I gained from Ferina is to define our pace that is unique to us.

As much as we want to accomplish more given the time we have, we all have our own rhythm of speed.

Therefore, it helps to know yourself better, not just on a strategic level, but also your inner capacity as a human being to serve and deliver in a long run, by honouring your up and downtime.

I’m curious, how are you moderating your own pace and rhythm in your venture so that things will not be at a blur when it is travelling at a certain speed?