I was at an informal ‘Transition’ meeting last night, informal means down the pub, and someone kindly asked what I did. I now reply I am a writer. I have had various careers, educational psychologist, innovation and creativity consultant, software salesman, local food supplier and so on, none have been an easy job to describe but writing invokes some odd mixed reactions.
I suppose if I said I wrote cookbooks that would be easy, though, well, I have and actually people only want to tell me about their favourite cookbooks, they never want to know about mine, and maybe whatever you write about it is a funny kind of situation.
My reply that I wrote about thinking then lead to the inevitable request to tell them something about thinking. In my head I was thinking this was not going to get very far, so I thought I would just tell them something simple about how you see a coloured world but most of it is made up for you. The response was a quick ‘that’s not true’ followed by ‘tell me something else’. So I said, well, ‘you are not in control of your own thinking’ to which the reply was ‘of course I am’.
The speed of response clearly showed there was no time to control any thinking, it just popped out, but I don’t think I was ever going to get any point across, so the conversation moved on to others things, conspiracy theories, OK, so the situation was reversed and I found myself not listening.
Walking back I reflected on what went wrong, and remembered the one rule for improving thinking. Stop talking!
We often think we are listening but actually there is a conversation going on in our heads even if we are not mouthing the words. So we are still not really listening. Switching off the conversation in our heads is one way of managing the traffic flow of ideas which severely impedes anything new coming in from outside. We have created our own traffic jam which holds back new entrants.
Switching off the conversation in our heads is not easy, first of all you have to recognise it is happening, then you have to decide it is important enough to do something about it, which takes effort.
There are techniques, but as we know from those who have tried various forms of meditation, it is not easy whatever you do.
But it is the best thing you can do to improve your thinking. It is part of the ‘will power’ advocated by Baumeister. It does make a difference.