When was the last time you stopped to think? I mean think, really really think. When was the last time you turned off, completely off, all your gadgets, screens, and computer to just sit quietly in thought?
If you’re like most people it’s probably been a long time, a very long time. Thinking, really thinking, about yourself, your life, and your legacy has never been harder. That little helper you carry around everywhere you go (some people call it a Smartphone) robs you of truly quiet time.
These days “thinking” is too often equated with day dreaming and it’s frowned upon. If you have time to think then apparently you aren’t productive enough. If you have time to think then you have extra “bandwidth” and you should be doing something real with it, not wasting it thinking.” That’s what bad bosses and poor leaders believe anyway.
The fact is thinking, truly thinking, can be one of the most productive activities you will ever do. I’m not talking about becoming “lost in thought,” just the opposite, I’m talking about being “found in thought.”
I suppose some people might call it critical thinking but I’m not smart enough to write about that. What I’m talking about is just slowing down enough and eliminating the distractions that are now so common we don’t even realize they are distractions, and just considering your life.
Your phone is a distraction, the little noise your computer makes every time an email arrives is a distraction. The sound machine you use to block out distractions is a distraction. Great thinking requires silence and solitude, as in the absence of noise and distractions.
If fact, maybe reflection is a more accurate term then just thinking. Whatever you want to call it, maybe I’ll call it reflective thinking, just stopping everything else to think from time to time has real benefits.
It helps you learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to dwell on their mistakes but investing at least a little time to reflect on how they happen helps ensure we don’t endlessly repeat them. Mistakes can be a great learning tool, if we stop long enough to consider how they happen and what to do differently next time.
Thinking is where great ideas originate. Taking stock of where you are in life, in your relationships, in your career, and just in general provides you with a guide for planning your future. It’s really difficult to know how to get someplace if you don’t know where you are to begin with. You might get lucky and things will work out but I for one don’t really want to count on luck for my success.
Thinking gives you fresh perspectives. Everybody, well most everybody, likes a good pity party now and then. True reflection brings that to a halt pretty quickly. I’d hazard a guess that on your worst day you’re better off than most people. Life is made up of good and bad and if you invest your time thinking about the good you’ll see just how much good there really is to enjoy.
If you really want to invest some time in reflective thinking then you’ll need to develop some discipline to do. If you were to look at my calendar you would see 30 minutes, everyday, every single day, set aside for planning. That’s my time, it’s from 5:00-5:30am each morning. I’m the only one in the house awake at that time, there are no distractions and most of that time I’m just thinking. A good many of these blog posts are thought up during that time. I take just a few minutes looking back at yesterday to see what I need to be better at today. I make a plan to get closer to one of my goals that very day. The 30 minutes fly by.
I do it at the same time everyday, no matter what else is going on. It’s safe to say those 30 minutes are the most valuable minutes of my day and I rarely give them up for anything.
What do you think about the idea of stopping everything just to think? If you have ever thought about doing it then set aside some time, some distraction free time, and give it a try today. Please don’t tell me that you don’t have time, I won’t accept that as an excuse. It’s a question of priorities, not time.
Oh, just one other little caveat…thinking is vital to success but all the thinking in the world does little good if it isn’t followed up by doing.