To slow down the pace of life, and make sure I wasn’t living on autopilot, I gave myself the challenge to Think Every Day in May. I was hoping this experiment would draw me back into the habit of applying conscious consideration to ideas, decisions and events happening in my world. Here’s what I have learned so far (three days in): spending time with your thoughts is not about controlling the speed of life, its about your level of participation in life.
Now that I have made that potentially bold (to some of us) statement, lets back track a bit and I’ll tell you how I got there.
To recap, I’m not planning for ‘thinking time’. I’m simply trying to notice opportunities for deeper thought and take them. My thoughts (probably yours too) cover a lot of ground. Work, home, finances, food, politics, family, social issues, friends, medical issues, random celebrity tidbits (poor Khloe), weather, breaking news, and on and on. Don’t forget the bigger, typically scarier thoughts about fears, self-limiting beliefs, thinking habits, or new insights from personal growth efforts. Lots to muddle over.
Maybe its an excuse, but I always felt that I didn’t have time to stop and think about stuff. Life was too hectic. I prefer to reflect on things, which I always believed was time consuming. So far, that has not been the case. To feel like I have had the chance to reflect, what I need is not a day to ponder but a minute or two to clear all the other thoughts aside and consider the topic at hand. People who know me have heard me say “I need time to think on that before I make a decision.” From now on I’ll be saying “I need to clear my head so I can really focus my thoughts.”
Auto pilot doesn’t only apply to activities you do throughout the day, it also applies to how you consider things, or maybe more accurately, how you don’t consider things. The great thing about the human brain is we don’t have to relearn something each time we come across it. We call up prior experience and that helps inform our reaction and decision-making. Unfortunately, that also makes for a lot of short cuts when it comes to thinking. We take that earlier incident and make assumptions. While this was helpful to a cave man assuming “That saber tooth tiger is going to kill me”, today’s circumstances are not the same, there is constant change, and by defaulting to assumption we miss the chance to observe nuances and make a different (aka better) decision. It’s beneficial to weigh your thoughts, even briefly, based on what is happening to you right now.
After less than a week of active thinking I’m also acutely aware that we often default to the consensus if we don’t take time to think for ourselves. Case in point: my view of James Comey. (I’m not turning this into a political forum, so please accept this as an example of the impact of thinking and not an invite to debate him or his actions.) Let’s suffice to say I was not a fan, nor were the people around me. This reinforced my stance. As I gathered more info, I spent time looking at the circumstances from new angles, deliberating about decisions and implications and asking myself what those meant to me. Thinking on the issue(s) I came to some different conclusions. After sharing my insight with my confidants, nobody had a similar change of heart. Faced with this, my instinct was to revert to my earlier position.
Groupthink is real. Dreading being cast out, my instinct was ‘stop thinking that way’. Because of Think Every Day in May, I shut that impulse down. Instead, I’m continuing to explore my reactions, embrace my own thoughts and determine how to shape my opinion, even if it is unpopular with some. By the way, not one person has shunned me since I shared my evolving view. I assumed they would, but they have not. A few congratulated me on challenging my own perceptions.
I believe we are all connected but we are also all individuals. Getting to know and accept the individual that is You only happens when you take the time to let your thoughts go where they need to. That’s where you meet your Self.
I’m using Maple for my #ThinkingEveryDayInMay challenge. Join in! What might you benefit from thinking about today?
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