Everyone has an opinion in today’s tightly connected, always-moving, overloaded and uncertain world. How do people get their opinions? By thinking—at least a little bit. Walk up to just about anyone on the street, ask them about a recent public event, and they’re likely to have some thoughts already formed about the topic. We all develop opinions because we all have individual lives, and nearly everyone likes to shape their opinion to fit who they already are.
We also want to live a certain type of life, and our opinions blend into our future goals. In order to plan a goal, some thinking is required, because a fulfilling goal will not simply achieve itself. What I’m here to challenge, however, is the notion that thinking too much or too often can actually become a hindrance. As someone who loves thinking, this is strange for me to hear and stranger still for me to write, but it’s a concept we can all benefit from. Prioritizing implementation over thinking can yield incredible results.
1. Don’t think. Listen!
Listening is an incredibly underrated and rarely experienced state (or action) in today’s societies. People are working more hours now than throughout most of human history (primal humans engaged in recreational socialization for roughly six hours every day). Sadly, we’re seeing the effects of this. It’s commonplace now to see restaurants packed to the brim from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. without a single person engaged in peaceful reflection.
The catch here is not to think too much about when, where or how to listen, but simply to listen. Think just long enough to find a time when you can listen intently, then listen. Pay attention to a river, creek or lakeside. Listen to birds chirping early in the morning. Listen to the far-off hum of cars late at night. Or, simply listen to silence. There’s so much peace and vitality to be gained in taking time to listen.
2. Don’t think. Feel.
When is the last time you thought about what you want to do with your life over the next 2-5 years? Was it during your first job? Back in college? Perhaps all the way back in high school? Whenever you did your most recent deep contemplations about life, you may not have gotten the results you wanted. You may have accepted a job that hasn’t truly fulfilled you, or perhaps you’re still on the path to the job you want.
Before you think too much about it, though, ask yourself this: “Am I really feeling out what I want to do?” This may sound like a foolish question on the surface, but in all reality, the best results in life come from emotionally convicted decisions. It takes guts to face your true feelings about your future and come out with a decision you’re set on. So, do yourself a favor and feel your way through life’s current questions.
3. Don’t think. Observe.
Closely related to listening is observation. In fact, people who are skilled with one are typically skilled with both. They’re so closely tied to each other that you can most often do them simultaneously. They provide you with the power to see and gather things you couldn’t before.
A business owner can think he knows what his customers want, but he won’t really know until he takes enough time to watch and listen to them as they mill about a store, commenting on likes and dislikes. A dad who has been away serving the army can think he knows who his daughter has become, but he won’t really know until he’s back home, watching her interact with the whole family again. An individual can think they know what the solution is to a problem, but they won’t really know until they spend enough time in the according scenario to gather enough information.
Observation is one of the most powerful skills you can obtain, second only to listening. Rather than automatically assuming you know the answer to something, take two hours (or more, if you want) to observe the appropriate situation. This way, you’ll be far more familiar with the people involved and the best way to get a solution going.
4. Don’t think. Rest.
Rest is a gift that most people desperately need and want. The ragged single mother, the overworked college student, the melancholy grandfather, the hyperactive businessman, the nightclub owner, the schedule-packed grade-schooler and everyone in-between. Everyone needs rest now and then; it’s literally impossible to lead a healthy life without it. The benefits of proper sleep and rest have been long touted, so anyone who avoids these recommendations does so at their own peril.
Before your next day, it’s all too tempting to think about what you need to accomplish and in what order. We can quite honestly think ourselves sick if we think too much about what needs to be done. As the great writer Sydney J. Harris once said, “The best time to rest is when you don’t have time for it”.
5. Don’t think. Believe.
Just like opinions, everyone has beliefs on various subjects. Some people have limiting beliefs, other people have empowering beliefs. Regardless of where you stand on a given spectrum, your beliefs shape the actions you’ll take.
While this post is not predominantly about action or how to achieve something, it’s challenging to argue the premise that one’s preconceptions and inherent notions about life (and themselves) are directly related to their outcomes.
This is why shaping and then acting on the beliefs you already hold is so critical. A belief can only remain a belief if it is tested and holds true. For example, someone could believe the ocean is red, but when they see the ocean, their belief is most likely to be changed.
What does this have to do with the subheading, though? The key is to strengthen the beliefs you already have. In this case, thinking and believing aren’t necessarily worlds apart, but you have to know what you believe—and then believe with conviction—before you can act.
These are five ways you can harness the power of putting different mindsets into practice. This week, rather than thinking about something too much, use one of these prompts to change how you’d approach a situation, and watch how your results transform.
Featured photo credit: Ponder by AleXander Agopian via Flickr via flickr.com