By Kim Gratny | FullCIRCLE creative + coaching LLC founder

Several years ago, my family and I were driving south on Interstate 35 on a picturesque summer morning. The deep blue sky’s canopy of low-lying, dimensional clouds was breathtaking.

About 20 miles from our final destination, a bright orange detour sign directed us off the interstate into unfamiliar rural space. Our solid, 70 mph, easy-to-navigate, drive-it-with-our eyes-closed route was replaced with easy-to-fishtail-out-of-control gravel roads that twisted and turned through the steep and desolate southern Iowa hillsides.

In reflecting on that experience, I realized that the moments filled with frustration and uncertainty about the altered route were also the ones in which I felt most alive. Stepping in, surrendering to and being still in "what was" granted me blessings beyond what I could’ve imagined.

While I was unable to articulate it this way as it unfolded, space and time led me to gain a different perspective. The side trip from our "normal" – busy, distracted and noisy concrete route along I-35 – provided an opportunity to appreciate the quiet, less-traveled roads where slowing down is the prudent choice.

In other words, the fast, familiar route felt like outcome-focused half-living where the question "How fast can we get there?" was top-of-mind. The slow, uncertain route felt like process-focused, eyes-wide-open living where wonder, exploration and awe tantalized our senses.

This experience feels similar to what it's been like since mid-March when gifts such as more free time and a fresh viewpoint are challenging the status quo. If you’re wondering how to preserve what’s been learned from living life slower during the pandemic, consider these seven ideas:

1. Decide what really matters. Alexander Hamilton once said, "When we stand for nothing, we fall for everything." Create time and space to get clear on your values. Prioritizing how time, energy and resources are spent is easier when you understand what’s most important.

2. Prioritize process over outcome. Doing so helps us accept mistakes, learn faster, be engaged and less distracted, and experience a more meaningful life.

3. Stay in the moment. When we’re future-focused, we miss opportunities to observe and participate in the blessings unfolding around us.

4. Seek community, support and accountability. No one grows alone. Find others with similar values desiring growth and connect to encourage one another.

5. Cultivate margins. Have you wondered what it would be like to read a publication's text without the white space? Margins are life’s white space. Our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being improve when we allow time for the unexpected.

6. Learn to say no. Saying no can feel unkind; it doesn’t have to. Coupling "no" with gratitude can help it feel more lighthearted. Consider "Thank you for thinking of me; no, thank you."

7. Be an example. Busy doesn’t equal productive. Going slowly helps us learn to be smooth. As my husband says in reference to training humans and horses, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." Ultimately, we can speed up by slowing down.

In transitioning from where we’ve been the last several months to what could be a better-than-we-remember life, I encourage you to pick one tip and take one step. After taking one step, pause, reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Celebrate – quietly alone or with others – your progress. Repeat as often as necessary for a slower, more thoughtful life.

FullCIRCLE creative + coaching LLC founder Kim Gratny combines her lifelong passion for horses and dedication to transition and transformation into a coaching and consulting business. Kim is certified in Equine-Guided Education, a member of the International Coaches Federation and the Iowa Center for Economic Success Strategic Advisory Committee. She’s part of a ministry team with Right Turn Cowboy Church, where God connects humans and horses to learn the Gospel. Her peaceful place is outdoors on the farm with her husband, their five children, friends, horses, cattle, sheep and dogs. Connect with her via email.