Monday, August 3, 2009

Festina Lente (Make Haste Slowly)

Are you the sort of person who is so diligent you occasionally break the rules, or your lack of planning is revealed and there’s embarrassing re-work involved? Or, are you the sort of person who ponders things a little too long, perhaps toward procrastination; i.e. not likely to fail, but not likely to succeed either?

Our human nature dictates we all venture to one end of this Diligence-Prudence (or Intelligence) continuum or the other. We either produce a lot and some of it goes into the waste basket, or what we produce is like fine art, but it doesn’t go very far and doesn’t satisfy people. People see us as either, or more so, diligent (industrious) or prudent (careful), but rarely both.

The key seems to be a balance right in the middle… or better still, the best of both worlds i.e. not either/or but and/both. What on earth do I mean?

Well, let’s set about thinking of this conundrum in a way that produces intelligently diligent deployment of tasks--what do we need? A plan. A skilful way of monitoring the plan. Agility in quickly responding to upsets the plan did not account for. These are to name a few.

I think most of all we need a vital ingredient that’s often missing in our busy lives; and this gets missed even when we know we should do it. It’s the discipline of focus, of being purpose-driven, and not being driven by the winds, which blow each way randomly--blowing us often way off course.

And what is it we’d focus on? Here’s a clue: “Festina lente is a royal motto.” –Balthasar Gracian.
We must make a pact to make haste slowly; be diligent as possible without being at the mercy of whims, and taking enough time to do things well. In my profession we tell people to “Take 5,” and in so doing, foresee the risks before starting or proceeding with the task. Take 5 is really a tool to assist in making haste slowly; at its zenith it is efficiency and effectiveness all wrapped in one. It’s simply the discipline to stop watchfully for a moment before engagement.

The sage also says, “Celerity [i.e. the rapidity of motion or action] is the mother of good fortune.” If we get going and keep going--not giving up--we end up making our own luck.

We can have the best of both worlds if our focus is correct.

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