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Thinking 101: Put Down The Book And Step Away From The Screen

by Sarah on April 9, 2011

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I’m about to tell you something that goes against most of what you’re told you need to succeed.

But it’s really one of the most essential ingredients for building your creativity, honing your insights and enabling you to really make a difference in your business.

It’s March, and right now you’re probably in the throes of keeping up with your new year’s resolutions/plans/goals/etc.  If you’re like me you’ve got a rich booklist, a couple courses to get through, maybe some teleseminars to attend.

And there’s always the constant hum of ezines, emails, tweets, facebook posts . . . and yes – videos – to check out.

It can be daunting.  But as a professional, you’ve got to keep up.  Who knows what gem of an insight or new twist you might miss.

Well, I’m going to tell you to slam the brakes on this endeavor.

(Okay, not completely – you can’t turn away from everything.)

But for now – put the book down.  Tear yourself away from your computer and go do something completely physical and real.

·    Go ride your bike
·    Clean your bathroom
·    Sort laundry
·    Walk up the road
·    Or even just stand near the window and look outside

Just do something that has nothing to do with absorbing information the conventional way. Give it a break.  Oh, and by the way, do not – I repeat – do not put any earphones in your ears.

See, the problem with the Information Age, is that we’re forgetting how to think.  There’s an invasion of knowledge going on – while thinking is dying.

We stuff ourselves with everyone else’s thoughts, ideas, inspirations and despair.

But we don’t nurture or carve out the space for our own creativity and intelligence to develop.

I grew up in an academic household – a straight-A student, went to the best schools, etc., etc.

Now while I learned a lot of stuff at these schools and was able to turn around and quote all kinds of books and theories, I also diligently learned to shut off my own opinion and observation skills.

I learned that anything I said had to always be referenced.  Where did you hear that? Who said that? What book did you find that in?

It wasn’t until I spent more time doing “nothing” – farming, working hard that I started to find these amazing thoughts well up from inside of me.  I realized I didn’t need to just crack open science books to understand plants.  I could watch them myself and see what happens.

Spending time with my brilliant but decidedly very non-bookish husband has only helped me develop this part of me even more.

If you’ve read this ezine enough, you know I frequently talk about my chickens, goats, family, broccoli and woodpile when I write about marketing.  There’s a reason for this.

My husband and I frequently joke about the amazing life-shaking, potentially world-changing revelations we come across splitting wood or hanging laundry on the line.

But it’s no joke.

It isn’t by accident that some of the most brilliant leaders of our American revolution also loved to farm and tinker.

See, we’re quickly becoming a world of parrots. We google for answers before we even give our minds a chance to ponder.  Before Google, at least we had to let those gears crank a little while we searched for a reference book or took a trip to the library.  Now we don’t even have those few minutes of actual thinking.

We fill ourselves with so much chatter that our mind’s own conversation starts to retreat farther and farther into our inner recesses until there’s nothing.

Not only that, we get lazy. We don’t wrestle with problems and learn how to dig deep and really think about things. We expect easy gratification in quick answers.

Now I can get profound here and talk about how this group-think, overwhelming hubbub we swim in is causing – and will continue to cause – all kinds of problems to occur in our relationships, businesses, communities, nations and the world.

But I’ll let you ponder that on your own.

However, most immediately when it comes to my own particular field – copywriting – I realize that to create something that will resonate with the human being who will be reading this on the other side – you’ve got to let that conversation occur inside of you.

I love reading. I love ideas.  I check into twitter for links pretty regularly during the week and pore through ezines and emails.

But I also know I need to step away from this inundation and let my brain work some too.

I know I need to go shopping at the supermarket and linger near the cottage cheese as I eavesdrop on two older women chatting (I know, shame shame!).  I watch their faces out of the corner of my eye (you can’t do that on facebook) and then muse about what they said as I roll my cart towards the seafood department.

I know I need to sometimes stand outside as I gaze towards our little pond and let my own feelings, concerns, worries, excitements wend their way up into my cortex where I can actually shake their hands and get to know them.

When you do something physical that only half-occupies your mind, it frees your mind in a curious way. You end up freeing your mind to make unique connections and problem solve in ways you won’t believe!

Only when I give my whole self a break and free my mind to really think can I really do something significantly.  This is when I write something that connects with that other human being with all their concerns, worries and excitements reading this.

Just as importantly, when you start to let your own intelligence develop this way, you’ll have a sharper perspective with which to filter other information you’re taking in.

You’ll become skeptical. You’ll have – gasp! – a real opinion.

Not something that is patched together from 3 tweets, a book you just read and what you heard on the news.   Is that really yours?

No you’ll have something deeper in you that’s making connections, assessing, and even telling you when something just doesn’t make sense.

It’s gold – wisdom all your own.

And when it comes to success – it trumps any thousand-dollar seminar or best-selling book.

Tell me what you think about this? (And please don’t quote what someone else said!) Listen to your heart and your very own brain.

Have you applied this strategy and found great results? Is it hard to do?

Share your comments below . . .

And then, step away from the computer for a few minutes. And really think.

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