The Benefit of Stopping to Smell the Roses [Slow Down Challenge: Day 1]

Note: This week, I’m writing a series of challenges to help you (and me) slow down and savor the good parts of life. Find out more about it here, and make sure you’re signed up for email updates so you don’t miss a thing.

When we live such frantic lives, we can end up moving from one thing to the next without really concentrating on anything in particular. We can hit the fast-forward button on life and not stop until the end. Which isn’t much of a life at all.

Smell the roses
Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via Compfight cc

Life is not a race. It’s a walk around the block, a casual stroll through the park, a deep abiding in where you are right now. Anything else is a facsimile, a farce, some cruel distraction from what’s most important.

It took the birth of my son to help me to stop and smell the roses, as they say. The introduction of a new life into our family made me realize how much I was missing.

When Aiden was first born, sometimes I would go on a short trip for work and when I would return, my son was a different boy. I had missed a lot.

As a new parent, I began to understand that cliche everyone tells you is actually true: it all goes so fast. But I don’t want this experience of raising a child to race by; I want it to drag on, deliberately and definitively.

I want to enjoy being a dad. Because I’m not waiting for this to be done; I’m not biding my time until the “good stuff” comes. This is it: the very best stuff life has to offer.

The reality is, this is true for all of us, wherever we are. Right now is the only time you will ever have. So it has to be the best — because it’s all you get. Better make the most of it.

Challenge: Notice

Slow Down Challenge: Notice

Take time today to notice the things that other people are overlooking (tweet that). Find a way to interrupt your busy schedule and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

Spend at least 15 minutes going for a walk — around the block, around the yard, or even around the office. As you do so, try the following:

  1. Look around (if you’re the praying type, ask for eyes to see).
  2. Take note of whatever catches your eye; concentrate on it.
  3. When you get back, write down what you saw.
  4. As you go through your day, revisit your list. Remember what you noticed and say a quick thank-you for each item.

This is a simple but powerful exercise to help you not only slow down but appreciate the things we so often miss or ignore. For example:

  • the way sunlight refracts through a glass of water on the kitchen counter
  • the squishy sound dew on grass makes when you trudge through it
  • the cute face your kid makes just before he smacks you right in the face (I’m speaking from personal experience)

These are not distractions from life; they are life itself. Let’s not forget or rush through them on our way to the next big accomplishment. Because in the end, these moments are all we have.

For more on this concept of taking your time and enjoying every moment, check out my new book, The In-Between, which is a call to embrace the slower moments of life (it’s currently 40% off on Amazon).

What do you see when you stop to smell the roses? Feel free to share what you saw on your walk in the comments.

88 thoughts on “The Benefit of Stopping to Smell the Roses [Slow Down Challenge: Day 1]

  1. I started your new book last week. I was in a line on Sunday and in a hurry as we were on our way to see Michael Hyatt speak at a church a couple of hours from where we live. Immediately, you popped into my brain and the thought came “rest in the moment and pray”. In addition, my father, long deceased used to tell me to “stop and smell the roses” – thanks for the reminder and bringing him into my world today!!

      1. Jeff – For what it may be worth to you, I have been following your blog for a few months via finding out about you thru MH and also Platform University. Particularly, your comments about how you started out have been an encourgament to me to put feet to my quest of writing and had a major impact in me arriving at the sentiments expressed in a recent post YES I AM ! found at
        Thanks again…for being another person who has opened the mind door of POSSIBILITIES for me…Bruce

  2. Beautifully written, Jeff!

    An attitude of gratitude is of the power. When you find a parking spot right in front of the store, stop for a moment and give thanks. When you have a meeting that is cancelled last minute, give thanks for the opportunity to be still. When your spouse is annoying you, give thanks because they are still alive and around to be annoying.

    Blessings are all around us… if only we allow ourselves the moment to be thankful.

    1. Even better, Shannon, when you find a parking spot at the very end, also stop and give thanks.

      Well said. You’re right that blessings are all around; we just need eyes to see them.

  3. Jeff, your book and this challenge it truly what I need right now. I just returned from Guatemala and I’m having a hard time settling back in to my daily routine and maybe my normal routine isn’t what I want anymore. I want and need to slow down. I want and need to make the most of right now. Seems appropriate that your book, Wrecked, (and also Alene’s book, Graffiti) would help lead me to say yes to going to Guatemala and I would then find myself needing your words when I returned. Thank you and God bless.

  4. Just recently, I was beginning to see how I was going at a frantic pace, never really slowing down. This series should be helpful.

  5. Jeff, we can never have too many reminders to stop and smell the roses. The exercise you suggested sounds great. I do something similar each morning as I take time to step outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s world. I’ve actually written a piece about it called Sacred Minute. Such a blessing to notice the small things — the things that are in fact miracle things, huh?

  6. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and embrace life Jeff. My favorite quote was “These are not distractions from life; they are life itself.” I have two kids under two and it does fly by!! One thing I do that helps me is block out specific times each day to spend with the kids…no phones, computers, tv, just me and two cute kiddos. They do change fast and I don’t want to miss a moment.

  7. Your challenge to Notice is terrific. The very act of noticing requires a body to move from race to rest. It is at that point of stillness that we can admire the dew on a spider’s web in the early morning sunlight or marvel at the way the last rays of the day suffuse our world with the most beautiful golden light.

    I had to literally force myself to stop this morning because I was headed off the rails on the crazy train, to quote Ozzy Osbourne. Once at rest, however, I was able to think clearly and create a better plan. Amazing the weight that is lifted when we do this!

  8. I’ve been trying to do this. I love music, and podcasts. Instead, I’ve been walking (without the ulterior motive of physical exercise) with no headphones.

    I walk for the pure sensation of seeing what’s out there, and feeling what my feet can as they travel.

    1. I try to do EVERYTHING without the ulterior motive of exercise. 😉

      Also, Erik, as you walk, pay attention to the music around you — the sounds of your neighborhood, park, street, etc. It can be beautiful in its own way.

  9. I want it to drag on, deliberately and definitively. Each tiny moments of our children. What a beautiful way of slowing down.

  10. Your blog posts and book ‘The In-Between’ is helping me reshape the way I see things I might otherwise consider dull. I’m not really being attacked with busyness per say, but quite the opposite. I’m an aspiring writer and have put school and my retail job off to give it my complete focus. I thought all of these changes would help me achieve my goal but eventually what has happened instead is that I’ve begun to lose complete sense of time. Losing my sense of time has made me a creature of…melancholy. It doesn’t matter when I get up, it doesn’t matter when or even if I go out and do this and that, it doesn’t matter when I eat. I’m sure this wouldn’t happen to everyone, but for me it seemed to rob me of my appreciation for the time that I did have. Reading your blog posts and your new book is helping me come to realize that balance is so important. That I need to invest myself into this time that is passing by me, otherwise I won’t grow and I will easily lose myself in what has become a stagnant reality.

    So like everything else I’ve put off writing just for a few days. To try some new things and heal myself first before going back to do the only thing that makes sense for me to do. And like your book suggests, it really is the small things and taking time to reflect on it’s significance. Taking time to do the dishes, or prepare a meal, or driving my husband to work and etc., are all things that I don’t have to see as just: things-I-need-to-get-out-of-the-way-so-I-can-move-on-to-the-rest-of-my-day.

    I feel happier and more at ease now that I am taking my time to invest myself into my routines and times of waiting. What has happened is that because I have changed my attitudes, I am now looking forward to greeting my day. My sense of time is coming back, but in a healthy sort of way…in a way that feels natural. Not rushed, not non-exsistant, just there and me being a part of it, for all of it.

    I hope I explained myself in a way that’s clear but if not I just want to at least say Thank YOU Jeff Goins! 😀

    1. Hey Sandra, I just read your comment. I am inspired by what you shared here on this post. I myself am working on the same things! You are on your way to doing great things – I just know it! Take Care

      One Life / One Legacy
      Thomas Joe

  11. I was doing a pretty good job today of taking those breaks you talked about but, upon reading this, realized I wasn’t maximizing the moments to notice the little things. Thanks for smacking me right in the face, Jeff. 😉

  12. My husband and I have been in Las Vegas this weekend, and last night at around midnight we were crossing over a very crowded pedestrian bridge between Bellagio and Caesars when we happened upon a violinist and cellist playing some beautiful classical music together. We stopped to one side of the bridge and stood there to listen to them play. We stood listening for fifteen or twenty minutes as hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people walked by, most of them too much in Vegas-mode to even notice this unusual, beautiful and serene thing happening right in front of them.

    Vegas is so much sensory overload (don’t get me wrong, I love it!) that to stand there and listen to the relaxing classical music these two musicians produced was a real gift. It brought me a sense of peace amidst so much chaos. Guess I was getting a head-start on this week’s lesson! 🙂

  13. Hey Jeff, I am excited about this slow down challenge! This couldn’t come at a better time for me because recently I have been feeling very scattered.

    Too many things going on at the moment and not being able to focus – I need to SLOW dooooown!

    I look forward to each challenge and can’t wait to see how it changes my focus.

    Just last night I was looking at my 2 year old son Ryder who is turning 3 this weekend on August 18 and thinking – he will grow up FAST right before my eyes and I DON’T want to miss out on every moment!

    My daughter Ava is turning 8 this year and it went by so fast – it’s scary!

    Jeff, let’s do this brother!

    I look forward to each challenge and can’t wait to see how it transforms my life!

    One Life / One Legacy
    Thomas Joe

  14. Life is too short and when we rush, we lose some of that precious time! We have to learn how to be fully present in all that we do. Our family is taking Tae Kwon Do this year and the first thing we were taught is be aware of your surroundings, so this challenge fits 🙂

  15. My wife is great at calling me out when I’m getting lost in the check lists of life. We try as much as possible to create memories. It can be a goofy day in the house, a trip to some place special, or telling funny stories in the car.

    It can be anything–but if we don’t make the effort I find we miss out on those opportunities to make memories.

  16. Hi Jeff!
    I always enjoy reading your stories. Every morning when I get
    up I take my little Pekingese out for her walks.
    I enjoy my walks by watching her do the funniest things.
    But during the afternoon I go out into my yard sit and listen to
    the birds singing in the air.
    I look up to the Heavens and thank our Heavenly Father for one more day.

    May God Bless You and Your Beautiful Family.

  17. My front door has a cut glass insert. When the sun goes down in the evening the light shines through and makes prisms of color on the carpet and walls. This evening I placed my foot into the colors and took a photo. It was good – I needed the light in my life this evening.

  18. Love this challenge. Tomorrow I’m going to notice the little beauties that are all around me that I tend to overlook, take time to relish nursing my baby instead of thinking ahead to the next thing I have to do, and maybe even try to appreciate my 2 1/2 year old daughter’s personality when she’s about ready to drive me crazy. 🙂

    Was it ever great hearing you at Declare. Thanks for all the words of wisdom you spoke. I’m ready to pursue passion and can’t wait to read your book.

  19. Great ideas. The other day I was sitting in the car as my husband ran into the store to get something (the kids were sleeping in the back seat). I started looking around and decided (inspired by your book) to notice everything pink. It was amazing all the things that jumped out that I wouldn’t have noticed before. I agree with this post too — sometimes taking a walk helps reset our “hurry” in a terrific way. Thanks, Jeff!

  20. I’ve been enjoying the “roses” for a week and a half now on vacation to some of the most gorgeous areas in the West. Yet even at home, my daughter with disabilities has taught me to appreciate the little things. Her perspective is transforming. Great post; great series!

  21. Hi, just found out about the daily challenges so I know I’m a ‘day late,’ as they say … but definitely not a dollar short!! I find that my dog is a great way to stay present. I just got back from taking him for a short walk, and I came face to face with a beautiful white feather drifting to the ground. I considered myself lucky to see it at all because had it been even a few feet higher, I would’ve missed it. It was so beautiful and calming to watch it. Taking my dog for a walk is the greatest way to clear my mind and reset!

  22. Hi Jeff,
    Let me say first I appreciate your work so much. I read You’re a Writer, so Act Like One. And I’m writing, and it’s awesome. I’ve had your blog open in my tabs for a few weeks straight now.

    But I’d love a little clarity. Please know I’m asking in all earnestness and good faith. I would love thoughts (from your busy life).

    When you say life is like a stroll around the block…ah, I just can’t seem to reconcile that with the reality of the spiritual struggle we all face. Yes, God says not to worry, to be grateful, to rest in him, but he also calls us to put on our armor and fight. Daily. If we don’t, we get taken out.

    And, we don’t just have our time here on earth. Yes, God says to live wisely because our days are short, but we also have the promise that this fleeting, futile life is nothing compared to what we will enjoy in eternity.

    i would love to know how you fit all this together!

    1. Hi- I’m not Jeff, but I had a thought on this matter….I think it’s all about balance. You are right- He calls us to daily put on our armor in order to be ready. There are times to pull out the sword and shield, and there are times to stop and rest while suited up. We never know what a day will bring, but God does. That’s where the “strolling” part comes in. Trust Him that He’s got this day, suit up and enjoy. Fight when necessary, but take time to rest the troops and see what is beautiful all around you. Some days take more battling than others; but even in the fighting for, there are always things to revive our spirit, if we’ll just take the time to notice them.

  23. Jeff, I bought your book ‘Wrecked’ and enjoyed it thoroughly, and on the heels of it happened to read Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’. Because of those two books, I started keeping a book where I would number and write every ‘grace gift’ I felt God brought into my life, even the smallest thing. I joined your Slow Down Challenge on my own blog as a reminder of what I’ve been doing with the gratitude journal. I really enjoy your work!

  24. It’s funny – a force from a different place made me do your task today – and now I’m reading this. Unfortunately that force caused an illness ;( still, I loved my walk and I did see things I normally would have missed rushing through the city. I really should do this on a regular basis – great, simple idea.

    Nico   @   Leaf ♦ Pub

  25. I wrote this quote of yours on a notecard and placed it on my fridge: “I’m not waiting for this to be done; I’m not biding my time until the “good stuff” comes. This is it: the very best stuff life has to offer.” This quote really spoke to my heart, especially as a parent. Thank you.

  26. Today, when I stop to notice, I immediately get choked up. It’s a rare day for me, this momma; I have all my grown children home with me today, mine all mine to love on and cherish . I hear the clink of the bowl and spoon as my home-for-a-day oldest eats in the other room, and I thank and praise God that he’s here. I got the biggest bear hug from my 23 year old daughter, and I am in awe that she opens her arms wide and waits for me to be wrapped in them. And the youngest? Well, at 19 years old, it’s almost noon and he’s still sleeping, but I’m thankful that he’s there and he’s mine.
    There is so much to stop and notice, if only I will.

  27. In spite of the heat, the shades of the late afternoon are getting longer and longer each day. I know that the weather is unbearably hot, yet when I look out the window, it appear cooler. There’s a gentle breeze ruffling the leaves of the trees.

    I wasn’t quite ready to do a post on this first one. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have my act together.

  28. This is so timely for me right now. Yesterday on my walk, I noticed the sun illuminating the tops of the trees. I heard my son yelling “FBI-stop, FBI-stop!” as he chased his sister on her scooter. I watched is little legs pedaling as fast as they would take him and I noticed my dog walks slightly sideways. The simple things have always brought me the most pleasure – thank you for the reminder.

  29. I think I lost my comments, so here’s take 2.

    I noticed the tough guy in the muscle tank and mohawk hairstyle asking the guy on the other end of his cell phone how his mom was doing.

    I noticed how split my area is. One side of the work has people who own condominium mortgages, who eat organic food and drive expensive cars. The other side, equally dense, rent their units, take transit, and are just trying to get by. And it’s only a 5 minute walk between them.

  30. Today was a perfect day to start this challenge. My latest blog post was on when writers should take time to breathe, and here you’ve confirmed what I wanted to convey — taking time is so important. Today walking around my yard I noticed the drops of water on leaves from last night’s rainfall, new and unexpected buds forming on plants thought dead weeks ago from the heat, the massiveness of our Douglas firs growing outside our windows, busy squirrels burying and digging up almost not sure which to do, our cat sitting on the windowsill wanting to get at those squirrels, and my happy husband restoring an old car. What a beautiful day it is! Thanks for the reminder. I wasn’t quite prepared to blog this today as I’m packing for the long weekend away, which leads me to wonder what to do about tomorrow and the weekend. Guess I’ll just catch up when I can!

    BTW, your new book arrived just yesterday. Will be reading it this weekend and plan to review it soon on my book blog, Found Between the Covers ( I even caught my husband perusing it!

  31. As I was walking
    Today I noticed the way people look at you when you dress professionally, how kids stop talking as you walk by. How a girl in a McDonalds uniform will smile at you because you are dressed sternly. How your feet have a steady rhythm as you walk down the sidewalk. How it’s not really hot unless you start to think about how hot it is and that is when your body starts to perspire. Or maybe your body perspires and then realizes how hot it is which in turn causes you to think that it’s hot, either way I noticed it. How the birds endlessly peck at the ground while watching their surroundings ready to take flight at the first sign of danger. How the grass is actually greener on the other side until you walk to the other side and realize that it’s just as green on the other side. It makes one wonder if they can see the trees for the forest or however it goes. How sitting in front of a pond can drown any anxiety you have just because on the surface the water look so calm and serene.

  32. we are spending our life in a day sleep in just a routine way without knowing and appreciating the real values of life. nature has blessed us with god gifts but we have not appreciated them and also not properly utilised . many thanks for this reminder and for future inspiring articles which may follow.

  33. I noticed the pretty landscaping of the homes in my neighborhood. I smelled pizza wafting from the local Pizza Hut. 🙂 I felt my husband’s hand in mine as we went on this walk.

  34. Reflective moments 1

    Shoes off….wet grass underfoot….frogs calling
    from the wetlands and the distant hum of traffic going home….the world is
    winding down for the day and so am I….The sunshine has lifted my mood so home
    to rest……

  35. watched squirrels having lunch.. holding a lump of rice in the forearm and then biting small chunks of it, gulping them rapidly and creating a worth while watching scene….. whenever a slight disturbance occurs their rush is a magical moment to observe…..

  36. I walked with my kiddos (ages 4 1/2, 2, and 6 weeks) to the neighborhood park. I carried the youngest in a wrap, and noticed his hair is growing back in-and dark. Very different from my two blondies. I noticed that my 2yo’s dress isn’t a dress anymore, even though she got it at the beginning of summer. Why do they keep growing? My 4yo kept running ahead, “I beat you mommy”. Every time.
    Of 35 trees at the park (I counted), one does not have any leaves. It is covered in galls, though, so I think the pest infestation has taken its toll. I hadn’t noticed this tree until yesterday’s walk, and I go to the park a lot.
    On the way home, my 4yo found a shoe on the grass. “Mom, why is there only one shoe?”
    Why is there only one shoe?

  37. I may be the Animal Whisperer. On one of my now regular walks around a local lake, I believe a woodland fairy tapped my head with her wand, bestowing this special power upon me. I sense if I’m about to step on a critter, be it a daddy long legs (they used to be everywhere when I was kid; this was the first I’d seen in ages, or “noticed”), fuzzy black caterpillar, toad, or yesterday, a lithe little snake, thin as my pinky, with intricate markings like an argyle sweater. I stopped and stood guard as she S’d herself across the path. (Magically, turning vegan has rendered me unafraid and calm around snakes. Well, so far.) And like a typical American tourist in London, I gaped through the trees to watch a regal white heron hold court at the edge of one of two islands with dozens of geese subjects in attendance.

    I’ve seen a beaver, turtles, fish, bunnies, hawks, and downy goslings grow as the summer passed. And the sight of white goose tushies in the air as they dunk under water for food never grows old.

    As a runner called to me once as we both noticed a deer in the woods, “What a gift!”

  38. all my life as a child growing up in the 60’s – I was told to STOP daydreaming — its a shame those in the teaching profession back then weren’t advanced enough to understand the benefits and creativity that came when a child was allowed to daydream
    as a result today I always say, I have no dreams or desires, pretty much because it was removed as an option for me at such a very young age….
    relearning daydreaming will be something I will do going into the Automne of my life…
    thanx for this! ♥

  39. Yesterday I noticed how the river water sparkles in the sunlight like a Vegas night club sign. Shimmering, sparkling, shifting. And I noticed that the dragonfly that landed on my notebook looked like it had 2 sets of eyes and that its head seemed to be on an up and down pivot. So cool!

  40. I went for a walk with my 7 year old son and simply embraced the feel and comfort of his little hand in mine as we walked and talked. His hand is growing by the day. My mother in law warned me that one day I was going to miss seeing his fingerprints on the mirrors one day… Since then … I fell in love with his dirty little hands all over again.
    Thank you for the reminder:)

  41. Thanks for this Jeff. With three kids 5 and under it is easy to say it will get easier when___. This is such a fallacy as I know I will miss every second. I know that there will be a day when I would do anything for my little girls or my son to wake me up to go potty in the middle of the night. Thanks for the reminder. The biggest thing I noticed on my walk where my kids. When do we stop being like a child? When did every thing amazing around us just become another sunset or another sunrise. Not the beauty that it is.Thanks again, Be Blessed Jeff.

  42. My three best friends in the entire world all make substantially more money than I do at their jobs. It’s deservedly so. They all work incredible hard, have made sacrifices for themselves and their families, made the connections needed to make such significant professional strides.

    Meanwhile, I toiled at a job I didn’t like out of college. I rowed against the current for eight years until this summer when I left the job to pursue writing full-time (which was my major in college). Now I’m home, not making any money (yet). This has prompted me to notice and appreciate the smaller things in my life.

    This is not to say it wasn’t a practice I used before. I’ve always been a bit, let’s say, Buddhist in this way. I grew up in the woods, grew up writing, grew up observing and taking pictures. I notice things. Refracted beams of light, reflections in the water, the broad-winged hawk that circles my neighborhood in the summer.

    My dog and I walk daily. Today we noticed tracks in the snow, both ours from yesterday and those of probably a skunk or raccoon from the night; We noticed a heron on the driving range (we walk on a golf course); We noticed the increasing accumulation of snow, the water on my glasses.

  43. I just linked your blog to my blog Jeff as I am writing about smelling roses and enjoyed yours.
    My sister pasted away last year and this was her favorite saying, now i wish she took her own advice and took the time to smell them her self.

    1. Jill, can you tell me more about your Oasis class. I belong to a women`s Wellness group, and we are always looking for more ideas.

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  45. I belong to a Wellness group. It is my turn to host next month. Out of the blue, I chose the them, to Stop and Smell the Roses. As I have always loved this line… and it is very difficult to actually slow ones pace down, and Just Do It ! Although I am retired and you would think, Hey what is she talking about… Life can get busy and out of hand when retired. So, I started googling today. And happy to have stumbled upon your blog. Especially the Challenge notice, which I will be happy to add to the outline of my my theme.

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  48. I have been making a sincere effort to live more mindfully and with an attitude of gratitude. This article has some greal tips for putting that into practice. I especially love the idea to write down the things that catch your eye!

  49. I noticed the amazing sensation of utter calm and quiet in my home. Instead of being deafening, it was so soothing the sound of the silence.

  50. Thanks Jeff and BIG UP! Your approach is something I´ve been looking for a long time. Very well articulated. Starting to exercise and going deeper 😉

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