So far in this series, I have analysed the idioms: ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, ‘A bird at hand is worth ten in the bush’, and ‘We will cross that bridge when we get there’ (I don’t know if you’ve noticed but these are getting harder to do each week!).
Today, I will analyse the idiom:
Slow and steady wins the race.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure that this idiom was worth analysing because I pretty much agree with the premise behind it. As Know Your Phrase puts it, this idiom means that:
Hastily jumping into an activity, job, or something else can cause problems; sometimes a more consistent approach, even if it is slower, can be ideal and give better results (emphasis added).
I definitely believe in the power of being steady and consistent, so I will not dispute that aspect of this idiom.
What I do have a problem with, however, is the reference to slowness. If you are unnecessarily slow, you might get to the finish line, but I doubt that you will win the race.
Let me give you a Biblical reference. The Bible explains how the Israelites took forty good years to travel from Egypt to Canaan, The Promised Land, when the journey should have taken just days (see a succinct version of the story here). Granted, this delay was because of their own sin, but the analogy is still relevant.
Did the Israelites, as a people, eventually reach their destination? Certainly! (Their children did.) But at what cost? They might not have been able to make the journey in one day, but that did not mean that they should have taken forty whole years!
And this is why I am disputing the ‘Slow and steady’ idiom. Yes, pace yourself, work gradually, and be consistent. But also don’t be too sluggish!
Time is valuable. And if you waste too much time, you might still get to the finish line, but you may not win the race. Indeed, by the time to get to the finish line, you might be old and frail, or your skills might no longer be relevant.
So I guess my point is that you need to strike the right balance. You won’t achieve everything you want overnight. There are some goals that take years to accomplish. But don’t take ten years to achieve what you can in five years.
In other words, don’t be like the Israelites: don’t use forty years to make a journey that should only take you forty days!
Unless I find another idiom that I want to analyse, I think this concludes the ‘Rethinking Idioms’ series. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
More in this series:
- Rethinking Idioms #1: Jack of All Trades
- Rethinking Idioms #2: A Bird at Hand
- Rethinking Idioms #3: We Will Cross that Bridge
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