Thinking about Thinking

Reading my blog, people might come to the conclusion that I spend a significant amount of time in quiet reflection.

Ahhh, quiet reflection. That reminds me of a story.

When I got my first promotion to a supervisory role my boss told me something. She said that her boss, while announcing her promotion had shared the guidance he had received at his promotion to that level. He said, “Before, you were expected to constantly be writing, typing or calculating — always in action doing tasks. Now, you’ve reached the level where you can spend a few moments of each day just thinking. Enjoy it.”

We had a conspiratorial chuckle, laughing at the times of old when big open floors were filled with table after table of analysts scribbling frantically on green bar paper. I accepted my promotion gratefully and ran back to my desk to pound out more work. I did not take a moment for quiet thought.

It was years later before I really thought about how bad I am at quiet reflection. Now, don’t get me wrong — I think. I think constantly, but it is always thought in motion:

  • I think while I am writing, like now.
  • I think while talking, the home turf of the true extrovert.
  • I think in edits, in version after version of a difficult spreadsheet, a multi-layered presentation or a sub-optimal process flow.

I am thankful for computers, because now I can churn through reams of ideas without a wastebasket full of evidence. I am an active out loud thinker.

I envy the friends I know who are inside thinkers, those steady waters that run deep. I’ve considered taking up meditation, but I’m not sure I am capable of sitting still that long or of completely calming my mind. The closest I get to that is the 15 minutes in bed at night before I collapse into sleep, and to be honest those are usually either shallow tactical thoughts (what are the three most important things I need to do tomorrow) or self-sabotaging thoughts (who did I let down today, what could go wrong tomorrow). I’m not sure I want to encourage more of that.

Besides, I’ve reached the point where I embrace who I am and how I work. The world needs the frantic energy of my vividly cycling thoughts as much as it needs those who reflect quietly.

It’s the thinking that matters.

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