Life Slug 3: Don’t Stop to Think

Life often rewards action. Or more accurately, activity. Organisations restructure when they feel they have lost their way. Managers look for new jobs. People go shopping, have a baby, throw a party, buy a house. And sometimes those things work out just fine.

But there is also an ‘itchy’ moment when we think ‘hmmm, well I did x so why isn’t it working?’. 9 times out of 10, but often easier to see looking back than forwards, it is pretty simple. It was a great answer…but to the wrong question. And that is why it matters because we can waste a lot of time and oomph on the life slug of not thinking clearly enough about the question before we jump to an answer.

I work with a lot of smart experienced people. Tooting my own horn, I’m pretty smart and experienced too. But I see the ‘Ready-Fire-Aim’ process in me and in others all the time.

So why do we do that? Why do you do that if you do? And where/about what do you think better or less so? And how can one learn to think better or earlier or differently to increase the chance of a successful outcome? (And why don’t we teach people how to think more commonly as part of their basic education as an aside?)

I do believe we live in a world and working culture that values the tangibility of activity and finds quick decisions comforting. ‘Thinking’ is hard to see from the outside and the shape of many of our lives seem to leave little space for it. And we seem to applaud action, the ‘when in doubt, do something’ over deep hard thinking, the ‘press pause and let’s think hard about what we’re actually trying to do’. Perhaps because it looks like progress more than thinking does? Perhaps because it feels like hard work for many of us? Perhaps because we’re not sure that we want to see what thinking first might show us? Perhaps because too much choice or too many options feels stressful?

So we use the 15 minutes we have, jump and accept the need to tidy it up later if we’re wrong. Which makes sense for picking a movie or restaurant, but rather less sense for spending millions on a new company structure or choosing a new job or setting up a business a even choosing a school for your kids.

The cost of not thinking is ending up where you didn’t plan to be, wasting energy getting there and missing options that might seem more scenic but ultimately more fruitful. We can all teach ourselves to think more skilfully…but the first step is to stop and decide to do so. To aim first before firing. You can learn more here but my challenge for this week is to find one thing where you decide to stop and ask yourself the simple question ‘What am I trying to achieve by doing this?’ followed by ‘Why?’ and another ‘Why?’ until you bump into the real question before you try to find the best solution.

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