Personal Writing

Moving fast to slow down

I grew up with a mother who valued speed and quickness above almost all else.

We needed to move quickly, as in, “I’m in the car—get out here NOW!”

We needed to quickly catch a clever story. And it was expected that we be clever, speedy deliverers ourselves.

We needed to not get caught up in too many details. My mother (and I often) almost loses her mind to watch my son, who feels little to none of this urgency, butter his toast. He literally covers the entire surface in a measured, level way regardless the time it takes. My mother slaps butter on in a kind of haphazard fashion and calls it good.

And if you don’t follow suit, then there’s something…lacking about you. Something not quite worthy of regard.

So I move fast. Often too fast.

It was so drilled into me that if my mother is sitting at my counter while I’m cooking today, I’m in a constant panic, waiting for her to tut and move me out of the way because she can surely do whatever it is I am doing much more efficiently and with far greater speed than I can.

Level a measuring cup of flour? Give me a break! Stop to make a point in the middle of mixing something? Don’t be a fool! Chop-chop! Literally and metaphorically in this particular instance.

Here’s where it’s served me brilliantly: I can trust my instincts almost all of the time because I had to make snap decisions when I was growing up or risk being seen as a complete simpleton. That means I am decisive and don’t waste time hemming and hawing.

We all know that our first instinct is almost always right. Studies show your first choice on a multiple choice test is more often than not correct. It’s in the hesitating and checking over that we can discount our original thought and make the wrong decision.

This is happening in real time: I just reread the last paragraph and thought, “Right? Maybe I should confirm that.”

Turns out, that’s a fallacy. It’s also overwhelmingly believed to be true.

Check out “Should you rely on first instincts when answering a multiple choice exam?“.

Here’s what’s fascinating about the findings of this research: it’s both true and false that your first instinct is more correct. The article goes on to say:

On the surface, that might seem like a contradiction. And it would be, if the only tools the students had in their arsenal were “always trust your instincts” or “always change your mind.”

But we gave them a slightly more sensitive tool, a written-down record of their metacognitive confidence, which allowed them to choose when to revise and when to stick. Everyone feels their level of confidence when they make a decision, but the problem is that we quickly forget this information when we move on to the next decision.


This is an interesting point for test taking, but what about life? There’s no question that trusting my instinct and doing it fast has served me well.

Right? Wait…has it served me well?

It’s hard to say. This article so upended my beliefs about first instincts that I can’t really say definitively, and I absolutely can’t spit my ambiguously uncertain answer out quickly.

Oh no! That’s not the right answer for my speed-loving Mother at all!

I think of all the times I’ve heard about a new idea, an opportunity or a concept I wasn’t aware of, and without missing a beat, I say, “No.”

Dr Marry: “DD, do you want to go and see this mov…”

DD: “No.”

Dr Marry: “But you don’t even know which movie I’m talking about.”

DD: “It doesn’t matter. I know I don’t want to see it.”

While Dr Marry does have a history of taking me to see terrible movies, not all of them have fallen into that category. To decide that my first instinct is absolutely correct 100% of the time is to miss out on some really lovely experiences.

That’s kind of a silly example, but it’s an easy one to make the point.

How often in my life have I missed out on an amazing opportunity, a new experience or something just plain fun simply because I’ve given such validity to my first instinct?

And why in the world is my first instinct almost always no?

We’ll leave that Freudian question for another day and another blog post…or maybe not.

Over to you

What’s your first instinct around Spark Start?

Is it a “Hell no!”? Maybe it’s a “Nope, not for me.” Perhaps “No way. I’m going ‘there’.”

Is that your best answer? Should it be your final one? Is it even correct?

Analyze your no and the emotion behind it. If you realize that it’s with absolute confidence you are saying no, then stick with it. I wish you nothing but joy and luck on your journey and release you from any further consideration of Discover Your Spark work.

BUT, if you’re saying no because it’s your knee-jerk reaction to something deeper—a fear you haven’t addressed, a story you’re telling yourself that may or may not be accurate, an insecurity that you simply don’t have a Spark—then I encourage you to reconsider your first answer and change to a yes.

Justin Couchman continues, “Only the self-tracking of confidence levels predicted when each was more appropriate. By using that simple form of metacognition, students could better identify which questions to revise and which were better left alone.”

Whichever decision you make, however fast or slow you make it, what I really want for you is that you make it based on your confidence in your answer. Dare to do that, and your Spark will shine at exactly the speed at which it is most useful to you.

Want even more thoughts on this? Here you go!

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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