Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about thinking.
I’ve always been the type of person who spends a lot of time deep in my own thoughts and a career in architecture has certainly done nothing to ease this situation. The volume of information I find myself juggling in my head on a daily basis make it the type of job that can seem all consuming at times. All this thinking circling around in my head can make it hard to shut off, even long after I’ve switched off my computer and gone home. It’s not only tiring, it can be unproductive. It leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
I am, however, making significant efforts to change this. My goal is to free up some head space and make life more enjoyable again. To be more productive at work, yet leave capacity to be more present in other aspects of my life. Obviously, changing such well ingrained behaviour is not an easy thing to do, but, through the help of some good books, and a great personal coach, it turns out it’s not as hard as you might think.
For the first time in a long time I’m starting to feel like I’m getting more of a sense of peace and clarity. I still fall back into old habits of thinking, but I’m developing a strategy to deal with them. This strategy, when it’s boiled down, has been little more than the result of a fairly simple realisation.
What I’ve come to realise is this; I’m not alone in how I think, we are all thinking constantly. We do it so much we often don’t notice we’re doing it. What’s key, is an awareness of the content of our thoughts. Once you become more conscious about what you are thinking, you realise the power your thoughts have. You can see the effect they are having on your experience of life.
A good illustration of this for me is my bike ride home. I often used to leave work on my bike, my mind completely occupied by something I was working on at the office. Half an hour later I would pull up at my house and realise I had almost no recollection of the journey home. The reason for this is that my mind had been somewhere else entirely. Because my journey wasn’t in my thinking, I didn’t experience it. As a result, it might as well not have happened to me.
Once you realise this connection, you realise that all your life experiences are similar to this. They are not so much a result of external influences, but more a construct of your own internal thinking. From here it’s not a huge leap to realising that, through your thinking, you have a lot more control over your life than you may have previously believed.
You still may not be able to choose the thoughts that pop up in your head, but you can choose the ones you pay attention to. You can choose to dismiss unhelpful thoughts to make space for new, clearer thinking. You start to see that the more you dwell on certain thoughts, the more traction you give them, so choosing where to focus your mind is instrumental to how positive and productive your experience of life will be.
For me, the biggest takeaway from all of this has been that I now realise that a lot of the stress I had been experiencing had been brought on by my own thinking. Like anyone, I have the power to completely transform that situation by simply changing my thinking about it, and I can choose to do that at any moment.