After studying history and Italian at Edinburgh University, Carl Honoré
worked with street children in Brazil. This later inspired him to take
up journalism and since 1991 he has written from all over Europe and
South America, spending three years in Buenos Aires along the way. He is the author of, The Slow Fix.
How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?
Still hitting the gym every day? Eating more
healthily? Putting your finances in order?
Most of us struggle to last a week on a new regime before
sliding back into bad old habits. We lack the willpower to make deep and
lasting changes in our lives. What we really want when the clock strikes
midnight on New Year’s Eve is a quick fix.
Shortcut solutions to life’s problems are not new. Two
thousand years ago, Plutarch denounced the army of quacks peddling miracle
cures to the citizens of Ancient Rome.
But in today’s on-demand, just-add-water culture, the
quick fix has become our default setting in every walk of life. And that is
taking a toll.
Why? Because quick fixes seldom deliver on their
seductive promise of maximum return for minimum effort. Whether it’s mending a
failing company, tackling poverty, treating an illness, or rebuilding a broken
relationship, the hardest problems are too complex for band-aid cures.
Newsflash: there is no such thing as “One Tip to a Flat Stomach.”
The good news is there is now an
alternative to the quick fix. It’s called, not surprisingly, the Slow Fix.
You may have heard of the Slow Movement,
which challenges the canard that faster is always better. You don’t have to
ditch your career, toss the iPhone, or join a commune to take part. Living
“Slow” just means doing everything at the right speed—quickly, slowly, or at
whatever pace delivers the best results.
In other words, fast fixes are sometimes
just what the doctor ordered. For certain problems, you have to channel
MacGyver, reach for the duct tape, and cobble together whatever solution works
right now. Think patching up a wounded soldier on the battlefield or saving
someone from choking on a morsel of food by administering the Heimlich
But when faced with more complex
problems, the best policy is usually to apply a Slow Fix.
That means taking the time to: admit and
learn from mistakes; work out the root causes of the problem; sweat the small
stuff; think long and connect the dots to build holistic solutions; seek ideas
from everywhere; work with others and share the credit; build up expertise while
remaining skeptical of experts; think alone and together; tap emotions; enlist
an inspiring leader; consult and even recruit those closest to the problem;
turn the search for a fix into a game; have fun, follow hunches, adapt, use
trial and error, and embrace uncertainty.
All of this takes time, and in our
impatient world that can seem like an indulgence or a luxury. But the Slow Fix
is neither. It’s actually a smart and essential investment in the future. Put
in the time, effort, and resources to start tackling a problem thoroughly
today, and reap the benefits tomorrow.
Around the world, you see more and more
examples of the Slow Fix in action: Couples rebooting damaged relationships. Families
ending feuds. Children resolving playground conflicts. People finding lasting ways
to lose weight and boost their health. By applying a Slow Fix, I am finally
conquering a back problem that has bothered me for more than twenty years.
Slow Fixes are also making inroads on
problems that go way beyond the personal sphere: Reformers rescuing a failing
school in Los Angeles. Norway and Singapore slashing recidivism rates among
criminals. Spain transforming its organ transplant system into the envy of the
world. A project lifting children out of poverty in New York. Costa Rican
coffee farmers freeing themselves from the vagaries of the international
commodity market. Formula One engineers fine-tuning the fastest cars on the
planet. Doctors making fewer mistakes. Companies boosting sales and
productivity. Designers building better stuff. Scientists making surprising
breakthroughs. Developing nations rolling back tropical diseases.
Everywhere you look, from the personal
to the collective, the problems we face are more complex and more pressing than
ever before. Quick fixes are not the answer.
The time has come to resist the siren
call of half-baked solutions and short-term palliatives and start fixing things
The time has come to learn the art of
the Slow Fix.