Most of us end up rushing around at times, and it’s usually not good for us. Being in a rush can also have a negative impact on how we treat other people, as was discovered in a famous 1970s psychology experiment.
Two psychologists, John Darley and Daniel Batson, were interested in why people help other people. They conducted an experiment in which students had to walk by themselves to another building to give a talk. Before they set off, the students were separated into three groups: the first group was told that they were early and had lots of time, the second group was told that they were on time, and the last group was told that they were late and needed to hurry. On the way to the other building they saw a man lying down in the street moaning and in need of help. So, who stopped to help?
From the ‘early’ group, 63% of the students stopped to help the man, 45% of the ‘on time’ group stopped, and only 10% of the ‘late’ group stopped to help. The results suggest that situations can have a powerful effect on how we behave, and being in a rush greatly reduces how likely we are to stop and help someone. Interestingly, the students were studying to be priests, and some of them were actually going to the other building to give a talk about the Good Samaritan (a religious story in which a Samaritan stops to help someone), but this had little impact on whether or not they stopped.
As well as reducing how willing we are to help other people, rushing can also be bad for our health and happiness. As psychologist Rick Hanson explains, although we might experience some excitement when hurrying, often there is more stress and anxiety, which, over time, is bad for your mind and body. Anxiety can also be one of the reasons that we rush, says journalist Oliver Burkeman. He explains that, in our fast-moving world, we become anxious about not keeping up, so we go faster in an attempt to reduce these feelings and have more control over our lives. However, it only makes us more anxious, he says.
Another downside of rushing is that we can actually miss out on life. In his book Four Thousand Weeks, Burkeman argues that we sometimes live our lives as if the future is something better that we need to get to. A problem with this is that when you are trying to get to the next thing, the present will never feel satisfying, he says. Not only that, but when you do get to the place you are going, you may find yourself quickly focusing on the next thing you want or need. The present is all we really have, and this rushing towards the future can leave you missing out on the moments that make life what it is.
Although rushing is sometimes necessary to get what we want or where we need to be, often it’s just not worth it. It reduces how willing we are to help others, creates more stress and anxiety, and leaves us missing out on the moments of our lives.