Six ways to “being” not just “doing” human
My friend Nick doesn’t talk like other people. Over the years, I’ve become used to the way he leaves long pauses in conversation – last week, I counted a full 11 seconds – as he thinks about what he’s going to say next. It can be unnerving, yet when he does eventually speak, what he says is sound, wise and invariably a smart solution.
I thought of Nick a couple of weeks ago, when Kevin Rudd went on ABC’s Q&A and confessed he’d been wrong in ditching the emissions trading scheme. In the ensuing hoopla over whether he was out to nix the PM, his most sentient comment was overlooked.
During his leadership, Rudd told the audience, he had neglected sound advice to “leave yourself time to think, to reflect and to plan”.
Of course we all think (where did I leave the bloody car keys?), reflect (does this season’s camel suit me?) and plan (if I make spag bol tonight, it might stretch to a shepherd’s pie tomorrow and tacos on Tuesday).
But how many of us actually think deeply about the lives we lead and the values that underpin them? Who has time to ponder in our crazy-busy, constantly connected, mouse-click-driven lives? We’ve become human doings, not human beings.
I promise I’m not turning all self-helpy on you, but surely reflection is essential for a meaningful life, and all the more important for those in positions of power – as Rudd ignored to his peril. The sultans of spin shine briefly, but when the words fade away, the enduring figures in history are the deep thinkers – Gandhi, Mandela, Gorbachev.
So how do we, a generation playwright Richard Foreman has likened to “pancake people” because we’re spread so wide and thin, lure ourselves away from our iPads, iPods and iPhones to, heaven forbid, develop our iPerson?
Ironically, it’s the purveyors of the very technology that gobbles up our time that are the greatest exponents of reflection. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg all take “think weeks” (though probably at some five-star, Wi-Fi connected log cabin).
But it doesn’t have to be that long. A year ago, I felt my life was running me rather than me running my life, so I went to see a personal coach.
Michael Howorth comes from a business background and he made me answer three questions: What are your top five accomplishments? What do you want to make sure you do in this lifetime? What are a few goals you want to achieve in the next 120 days? Then he added: “Remember, thinking is an action, too.”
This week, I had a peek back and here’s what I wrote for my short-term goals:
1. Play a team sport
2. Own a bike (preferably a yellow one with a front basket)
3. Start a herb garden
4. Read more books
5. Spend more time on the sofa cuddling my kids, before they turn into teenagers and loathe me
6. Take half a day, once a month, just to ‘be’, not to ‘do’.
Aside from the yellow bike (which I just know is going to be my next birthday present) and some bedraggled basil, I’ve achieved them all. And that half-day has become both precious and productive. Now when I talk to Nick, I’m the one pausing for thought.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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