Summer is here! Or, at least it is come Monday. Summer brings an opportunity for curiosity and exploration, reflection and renewal, and planning and preparation. While the academic year just came to a close last month, the clock has not stopped on campus. Indeed, it keeps moving forward at the same speed it always has— sixty seconds a minutes, sixty minutes an hour, twenty-four hours a day, etc. James Gleick wrote Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything in 1999. His core argument remains relevant. While technology has provided efficiencies and saved time in many realms, we can easily succumb to a “hurry sickness.” That is, we pack more into our saved seconds, minutes, and hours and we don’t set aside time for important life activities such as eating well, exercising, developing relationships, and reflecting upon our life experiences. Rather, we do as Dory might suggest, we just keep swimming, just keep swimming…
I spent the past two days in deep conversation with colleagues from across campus about vocation and how we can better invite students and ourselves into the important practice of reflection. Reflection is a practice that can illuminate the deeper value of our experiences and help us to discern the direction our life could be headed. I deeply believe students are hungry for the opportunity to know what their life’s purpose is. At the same time, I see students in a pattern of constant motion and action and not affording themselves the precious gift of time to reflect. Over the past two days, those of us who were gathered acknowledged we must find ways to assist students with the important work of reflection.
For some, slowing down does not come easy. The road from high school to college is packed with activities and this can foster an accumulation mindset. To best position themselves for acceptance by the college of their choice, high school students develop a list of high school activities to show they are engaged in their school and community. When students arrive on the college campus, the same approach often takes hold. Yet, this is not the approach that we as educators want students to take—nor do employers. This approach is the underlying catalyst of busyness. Rather, we want students to commit themselves to purposeful experiences that align with their values, leverage their gifts, talents, and strengths, and propel them toward their desired future. Simply, a student should steer away from a consumption and accumulation mindset. Luther College alumnus and noted higher education scholar George Kuh suggests students should seek to be engaged in educationally purposeful activities in both the curriculum and co-curriculum.
The slow movement has gained attention over the past fifteen years in areas such as food, travel, and parenting. Perhaps it is time for a transformation to slowing down on today’s college campus. With all the pressures and stresses associated with college life, the opportunity to go slower and thus toward a more fully realized and deepened experience could be valuable. Greg McKeown’s Essentialism offers a vision of how this might be accomplished. He argues that the “way of essentialist” involves doing less, but better, so that you can make the highest possible contribution. He further states, it’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us and that we can channel our time, energy, and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.