FROM STOP-GO TO STOP-THINK

You may have muttered it yourself today.

‘Never enough time to think’?

Organisations of all shapes and sizes report staff experiencing being ….overwhelmed. With not enough time to think, decisions and actions are made and taken on the hoof. The emphasis is on ‘just get things done’. Soon, those who ‘just do’ are valued over those who ask questions. The driving force is all about efficiency, completion, and moving on.

There’s another force around ‘no time to think’ that we never talk about.

A moral one.

In the May/June edition of ‘The Idler’, Andrew Smart reminds us of one of the many benefits of idleness by re-introducing the work of Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), a political theorist and philosopher who was particularly interested in the relationship of ‘thought’ to totalitarianism and freedom.

In her book ‘The Life of The Mind’, she explored the idea that stopping to think (avoiding thought-less-ness) was an activity of positive moral good.

Andrew Smart summarises her argument:

Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional standardised codes of expression and conduct protect us from reality. True engagement with the world, and morality, requires that we stop to think’.

The woman who for ever will be associated with the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ in the public consciousness suggests that the ability to stop, observe, become a spectator, and think can condition us not to do wrong.

It makes you see ‘protected me-time’ in a totally new light, doesn’t it?

UNEXPECTED ITEM IN TRAINING AREA

It’s so easy to give the ‘take some time out to think’ advice: much harder to act on it.  Like daily exercise and early nights we all know that we would feel better.

But who can just drop the ‘priority got to do’ list? Everyone’s daily reality now is of demands and pressures that require constant vigilance to keep chaos from the door. (Or if it’s already there, from breaking through).  Inevitably, it can feel hard to justify some hours out of the office to think. To think about change, say, or leadership, or simply to share experiences.

Thus most training days, almost whatever the subject, involve detailed agenda,
minute by minute day plans, and usually plenty of reading material for extra heft. While completely understandable, this can all become a justification process of
such effectiveness that real, long lasting benefits can be squeezed out.

Because ironically, the biggest ‘ahas’ are unplanned and unexpected: occurring
when space opens up to let them happen.  Again and again I hear reported that it was the unplanned discussion or encounter that produced a new thought or perspective.

If you are able to ‘take some time out to think’, and find yourself reviewing any
power-packed training on offer, check for some space and time that isn’t
completely accounted for.

Oscar Wilde’s take on this was that ‘To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly
modern intellect’.

Go a step further: demand the unexpected.

LIGHT FROM DARK

Penny Hunt and Change Chemistry logo imageA contrarian café today. The corners are light and bright. The window seats are dark. The espresso sparkles. The latte droops. Nothing is as it should be. Or is it?

A dark thought, then a laugh. A really dark thought. Addiction.

To the jolly, convivial, comforting familiar, enabling, ritual of coffee and its amazing power to shrug off the guilt and remorse that cling to other lovely consumables.

As substance abuse side effects go, insomnia is an interesting cookie to crumble.

Insomnia image - Penny Hunt's blog on the surprising benefits of loosing sleep

Let me convert you. Let me suggest that taking
an opposite view, just for fun, will yield something of value. Let me suggest that what seems bad may be good.

In the spirit of things not being as they seem: is a night’s sleep of an uninterrupted 8 hours absolutely the best and only sleep pattern for us? The World Service reported a while back on the loss (I heard the programme during the night of course) of a ‘two sleeps’ pattern that had been common until the late 17th century. Imagine. No panic. Permission not to agonise. Just wake up after 3 or 4 hours, have a potter about, write a bit of a diary, chat to the family and then back for another little sleep.

Normals.

Or in today’s world, send those texts that were bothering you, find that address you were looking for, watch that bit of The Bridge you missed and then just shimmy back to bed. It’s all here for you:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

So many possibilities when a familiar truth is reframed: just by embracing an opposite viewpoint, just by letting a dark thing be a light thing.

An undreamed of benefit of staying awake in the middle of the night- this between sleeps time- is the changed quality of experience. It is not just the pleasure of the radio, but its heightened weirdness as the brain chunters A 1950s radio - Penny Hunt and the pleasure of late night listeningalong on over-drive. Insomnia delivers a Through the Looking Glass vividness to sound in the middle of the night.

I’ll share an example of an unexpected gift. This nighttime joke changed the following day beautifully. It encouraged me do the precise opposite of what was expected, to swap goods and bads, to zig not zag, and be in a generally contrarian place the whole jolly day. It was wonderful, productive and a great creativity boost.

Radio 4 Extra was whispering that night: Lord Peter Wimsy, Wilkie Collins, Mark Gatiss all danced through the small hours.

And then – a familiar voice.

Eric Morecombe?

Was it a trailer? What was happening? An unfamiliar sketch was rumbling along. Eric was apparently pretending, as he impressed another character, to belong to a local church.

The lie got bigger. Perhaps he was actually … the Vicar?

Then a challenge:

“But I don’t recall seeing you there on Sundays”

And our lovely Eric made the heroically contrarian response-

“ Oh, I tend to go on Saturdays: fewer people”.

And if that isn’t a little light coming out of some darkness and worth a sleepless night or two, I don’t know what is.

Light from Dark -  Penny hunt's blog

www.changechemistry.com