Not everyone who is alive at the same time is experiencing the same era in history. As examples, may I present the Amish, modern hunter-gatherer societies, and anyone who is still using a VCR. It’s possible for different people to use time differently and get different results. Anyone who shares a bathroom with a teenager knows how true this is. Let’s explore how the same hour can be perceived and used by people in different slipstreams.
An example of slipstreams would be lanes on a freeway. Slow traffic keeps right, speed demons keep left, and if there are center lanes they tend to be inhabited by those who want to avoid a lot of merging and tailgating. Everyone on that stretch of freeway is traveling in the same general direction, and they’re going to arrive at different times.
Another example would be a group reading menus in a restaurant. One person walks in already fantasizing about his favorite dish. He orders quickly and turns his attention to the conversation. Another person dithers over what to order, fretting and fussing and focusing only on the food. These people are in completely different slipstreams. The decisive person may be decisive for any of a list of reasons: He may get the same thing all the time because he loves it or he’s super-picky or he’s not terribly interested in food. He may be impatient or he may be bursting with news. One way or the other, he has a priority that is more important than this one particular plate of food. The indecisive person is stressed out and worried, either about missing out on the best dish or getting stuck with something yucky. A chronically indecisive person feels this way all the time, and that’s what makes this a different slipstream.
We get stuck in the slow lane, the slow slipstream, all the time. Sometimes we can’t figure out what to do. Sometimes we don’t know what we want. Sometimes we’re afraid of what comes next. Sometimes we want to be let off the hook, to avoid being stuck with extra responsibilities or higher expectations. Sometimes we simply don’t realize our own power.
I’ve worked with people who’ve spent years “clearing clutter.” I’ve also met people who’ve gotten rid of almost everything they owned over a weekend. You can spend the same hour flipping through old school papers (that you then keep) or hauling a dozen boxes out to a truck and driving them to a donation center.
There are people who have struggled with debt for decades, and others who have buckled down and paid off the same amount in just a couple of years. You can spend the same hour reading a book on your couch or running up $300 of credit card debt buying things at the mall.
We sometimes see this in romantic relationships. Some people meet and get married six months later, while others may be engaged for years without setting a date. Some people break up and never see each other again, while others reunite and break up again over and over.
Other common areas where we see people in different slipstreams are in advanced education, writing a novel, starting a business, doing research, and completing projects such as reconditioning a classic car or knitting an afghan. We do things at our own speeds, sometimes cruising along in one area while puttering in another. Every hour that passes is either an hour that goes toward that goal, or an hour that goes to something else.
I’m training in martial arts right now. The classes are divided into Beginner and Advanced, and test windows come up every two months to advance to a new level. There are all ages at this gym, from tiny tots to people in their sixties, but age doesn’t differentiate people as much as their fitness level does. For instance, we all jump rope together for three minutes during warm-up. I always trip on the rope several times. I may skip 200 times in three minutes, breathlessly, with a lot of stumbles and false starts. Next to me is a guy my age, an avid cyclist, who does all kinds of rope tricks and whose calves look like they were carved from wood. He probably skips at least 500 skips in the same three minutes. Same hour, different intensity, different calorie burn. Many of our classmates take two classes a day. I’m training at my own beginner level four times a week, while others are showing up ten or twelves times. They’re in faster slipstreams, and they’ll make much faster progress than I do.
In a one-hour period during my (slow, awkward, uncoordinated, amateur) fitness career, I have walked, bicycled, run, done yoga and water aerobics and ballroom dance, ridden an elliptical machine, or even tried a bootcamp in the mud. Each of these activities is its own slipstream, a route to radically different results. Within each discipline are also various slipstreams, where people choose their own rates of effort and learning. This realization is why I chose such a physically demanding school this year. I want to be in a faster slipstream. In fact I’m pushing my limits in hopes that I can also level up and handle two classes a day.
We often feel judged or criticized for our progress in life. There’s always a naysayer or a critic to make snarky little comments about every single thing, from our work schedule to our housekeeping to our physical appearance. What we don’t always realize is that we have the power to choose where we want to go and how quickly we want to get there (and the power to ignore naysayers). Sometimes it’s simple lack of information, like when I thought I would have to wait an extra year to finish my bachelor’s degree because the math class I needed was already full, but then I got the requirement waived. Sometimes we burn energy in envy or jealousy, focusing on how other people have results that we don’t. Ultimately all we need is that click, that feeling of decision and resolve, that we’re going to focus on moving forward as quickly as possible.
What would be different today if you had already accomplished everything on your to-do list? If you already had everything the way you want it, from your job to your house to your relationships to your body to your cooking or artistic skills? What would you do next? Is it possible that you could jump forward and do that thing right now? How can you shift into a faster slipstream and get to your goal all the quicker?
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.