By Leanne Vastbinder, Opinion and Online Editor
When’s the last time you were waiting in line for something and didn’t pull out your phone to scroll through social media? When’s the last time you were driving to a place and didn’t turn on music or a podcast to listen to on the way? If you’re anything like me, it might be hard to recall the last time you weren’t busy doing something, scrolling through something, or listening to something.
Personally, I’ve started to put away the phone more, turn off the radio, and just sit alone with my thoughts. Why? I recently read an article about the importance of mindfulness, and realistically, most of mindfulness is about thinking. So, I think we should all strive to have more time to just think. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about uninterrupted, undistracted and unhindered time to internally process life.
Now, this isn’t me suggesting that we all just try to constantly “sit in our feels” and not try to live our lives. On the contrary, I believe that taking more time to think could help us to live more fruitful, fulfilling lives. Thinking is a pathway to innovation. Think of some of the world’s greatest inventors: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. It’s highly unlikely that they came up with their inventions without taking the time to make internal connections and just sit with their thoughts, pondering various possibilities. One could argue, “Well aren’t inventions mainly just about repeated experiments and actual physical testing?” For sure. However, one doesn’t test until they’ve thought through hypotheses and even then, hypotheses come from considering pre-existing background information and simply thinking about how the various aspects of the project work. Innovation and problem-solving require tons of thought. And there are endless possibilities out there to innovate; there’s so many problems to solve. However, if we aren’t willing to stop and think about the world around us, will we ever be able to innovate? I’m afraid not.
The second opportunity that thinking allows us is the ability to learn. We can be taught facts. We can memorize figures. However, it’s not until we think and personalize what the ideas mean to us and for the world that we truly learn. Some of the most meaningful classes I’ve taken here at Newman have covered serious topics and forced me to think about the condition of man, human compassion and the world through the eyes of others. Looking back on some of those classes, I honestly believe it has changed the way I look at the world and even interact with others. But that’s only because I took the time to process those ideas and think about what they mean to me.
In other classes where I haven’t done that, if I’m being totally honest, I probably can’t tell you almost anything I learned in the class because I didn’t invest in grasping the material or even spend time thinking about why it mattered and what it meant.
But I bet we can all think of classes where we felt like we truly learned something, and I bet it’s because the class or material made us think and spend time contemplating.
Lastly, I believe that thinking can lead us to greater self-discovery. Though certainly possible to overdo, how will we ever grow and succeed in life without spending time getting to know ourselves? Many people even go to counseling or therapy for the sole reason of figuring out who they are and how who they are affects their actions. Personality tests are also amply available to help people figure out their motives, values, and guiding principles for navigating life.
However, it’s easy to get caught up with our day-to-day schedule and forget to figure these things out or to spend time figuring out what makes us tick.
I realize this probably sounds like I’m asking for all of us to isolate ourselves and spend hours in some kind of silent, self-reflection meditation. I assure you, I’m not. Instead, I’m advocating for intentionality. Maybe we could set aside even 10 minutes here or there each day to think about how something works. And if you already do this, awesome, keep it up!
If you’re like me, though, and sometimes struggle to process or reflect on life, consider this your friendly reminder to put down your phone, turn off the radio, and just think for a minute.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Unsplash