Something that struck me above all else today is how little time we put towards actually thinking. Whether it be about our jobs, our lives, or even about the movie we watched last night, thought often gets left to the wayside.

After all, it’s much easier to let someone else do the thinking for us. As an example, I hate watching basketball. Yet I find that I often want to turn on commentary from other people about basketball, because then at least I get some sort of description of what’s going on. I don’t have to be responsible for my bizarre choice to watch a sport that just doesn’t interest me. Is that a good example? I’m not sure it is, and that’s part of my point.

I didn’t pause to think of a good example, and it resulted in a haphazard one.

What might a better example be of how we prefer to have others think for us? I’m not sure, but maybe I could Google something. Ha. That’s probably the best example from my daily life. Why would I try to come up with some sort of answer when I can just do some quick “research” and find an answer in a nanosecond?

We also structure our days to prevent thought. Not deliberately, I don’t suppose, but it’s certainly the case. I’ve written before about how we love to subsume ourselves in our busy-ness (and so too, has Greg McKeown, in an HBR piece), and our insistence on this state of being actively prevents us from engaging intellectually with our surroundings.

I just recently moved to Los Angeles, and there’s a lot to think about here. But it’s also true that everywhere you look, there are reminders of the industry nearby that does the thinking for you. That is, television and movies. Rare is the program that actually requires of us more than passive consumption.

Now I love movies, and television shows, as much as anyone. Well, maybe it’s more appropriate to say that I enjoy them tremendously. They’re entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking, and  can be both good escapism and worthy bonding time. However, I also find it hard to believe that our days are so tough that we really need to tune in and tune out the world on a regular basis.

Presumably someone is doing the thinking about television – they must be made and planned, after all. So the producers and directors and second assistants and costumers are thinking. So too are some professional writers who focus on the industry, like Wesley Morris, whose writing about movies earned him a Pulitzer in 2012.

But a distinction must be made both between those who consume and those who produce, and also between those who spew content into the ether without thought and those whose creations bear signs of analysis. I know that most of what I end up reading or hearing, especially, bears little resemblance to a thoughtfully-constructed perspective.

This is ending up being much more like a rant against consumerism than I had intended. Indeed, I’m sure many a wise reader will likely [and rightfully] point out that even this piece of writing isn’t so much thought out as it is extemporaneous. I didn’t carefully think through the intentions of each paragraph, map out the supporting elements and details of each idea, and tie them together in a novel way. So it’s possible that I’m part of the problem of a lack of genuine thought. I don’t think so, but it’s possible!

So where does this lead us? I’ll return again to the concept of a lack of thought. I commit to challenging myself, and to thinking through each piece’s contents and basis structure before simply writing and writing until my words seem to have formed a passable ending.

How will you commit to increasing the amount of thought you put into your day? Some ideas for you:

  1. Prune your contacts tree. Every day for the next month (nearly), pick a letter of the alphabet and review your contacts with that letter as their last initial. Are you doing anything with that contact? Or just letting it sit there? I’m not saying you must delete the information, but evaluate instead whether there’s a connection you could use, or a relationship you could revive.
  2. Stop before you send that email. Must it be sent? Can it be shorter? Clearer? Would a phone call be better? Or a meeting? Remember that not every email needs an immediate response (assuming it needs any at all).
  3. Unplug your modem. After reading this column, power down your internet access. Then you might even have to really think about what to do this evening. What’s for dinner? I’m not sure, but without the internet, you’ll have to really consider available options, which will access your latent memory!

Those ideas weren’t particularly thought out. But I promise to do better next time by actually thinking things through first.

What about you?

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