Your problem is you have time to think…

…a couple of years ago I experienced anxiety and depression. A number of factors conspired in a perfect storm; I’d been working silly hours in the run up to redundancy, there was a significant anniversary of my sisters death, the annual wrestle with SAD kicked-off, and last but not least, I was assaulted in my favourite “quiet spot”. My thoughts were conflicted, I was tired and the chemicals in my head ran riot. I found myself in a place I didn’t understand and I couldn’t see or figure out a way forward on my own; thank goodness for my GP.

ThinkBut I didn’t write this blog-entry for sympathy, I wanted to highlight an insight that the sharing of my experience with my family and close friends provided. I didn’t hide my issues from those closest to me and their responses were fascinating. When I shared the fears I felt with them, they said that the anxiety I was describing was the reality of both their everyday lives and most of the people they knew. It wasn’t that they didn’t understand or didn’t sympathise, it’s just that they genuinely didn’t understand how I should have the time to think about things for long enough to worry about them. I asked them what they meant when they said this and they explained to me, each in their own ways, that their lives are so physically busy, emotionally full-on and financially stretched that they have no space or time for thinking. They can’t afford to let themselves understand or dwell upon the gravity of the situation they are in because it would cause them such discomfort, they openly acknowledged to me that they had adopted an Ostrich philosophy because they felt so powerless to adjust their circumstances. I was shocked and humbled. I wondered how they kept going and I asked them to describe how they had reached a point in their lives at which they were willing to admit that they could no longer afford to take time to think; had they seen it coming and how did they feel about it…and much like the frog which when heated slowly in water cannot climb out the boiling pan they acknowledged that circumstance had crept up on them and now they felt powerless to change their situation.

I’m sure the same is true for organisations, they often only realise that they need time to think when they find out that they don’t have time to think…the Indians have already surrounded the wagons and the focus then turns from aspiration and achievement to survival and fire fighting.

Martin Luther King is quoted as saying, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” I think we can all recognise the truth in what he was saying and I think we each need to do all we can, individually and in-turn organisationally, to address the deficit in thinking that is so obvious in many parts of our society. 

I’ve believed for a long time now that thinking time is worthwhile and precious, in my personal life and in my work I make time to think and to contemplate. I encourage others to make time to think, to block out time in their diaries to think around and about the important challenges and issues they are facing.

So my suggestion for 2014 and beyond is to start to try and make time to think; as one of the heroes of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged said, “There are no evil thoughts except one, the refusal to think”…Happy New Year and Happy Thinking

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