The complexity surrounding our everyday life leaves many of us feeling drained, perpetually chasing an infinite to do list.
We run faster and faster, hurrying to get things done, to meet deadlines, and to keep pace with demands and challenges. This hectic pace is overwhelming that it challenges our ability to sustain high performance.
How do we get beyond this cycle of doing? How do we move beyond simply surviving? How can we embrace complexity rather than cope with it?
The answer might be easier than you think. But it requires a shift in our mental models and our values.
Daniel Forrester, author of “Consider Harnessing The Power Of Reflective Thinking In Your Organizations” posits reflecting thinking has the power to change our relationship with complexity. He argues that with the onset of faster and more efficient technology, the expectation and momentum of making speedier decisions has increased and we are simply not allowing any or adequate time to reflect and learn before acting. Unfortunately, this can result in making poor choices and facing undesirable and unintentional consequences. And we loose sight of what is important.
Forrester contends that distraction is one of our biggest challenges and a significant barrier to overcome if we are to work creatively and productively on complex issues. In his book he shares examples that illustrate how eliminating distractions can lead to a better focus on the big picture and successful outcomes. He cites the example of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign that heavily utilized technology to gain exposure and information, yet showed the discipline of the President who spent a portion of every day on thinking. He also points out that the UK’s Prime Minister Cameron has limited the ability of parliament members to multi-task—taking phone calls, checking and sending email, for example—during sessions. The intention is to eliminate distractions and increase focus and intention to create meaning.
This type of change calls for a shifting away from habitual “doing” in order to find more time to focus on thinking and reflecting. Aaron Benavidez, who graduated first in his 2011 class at UC Berkeley, offered an invitation for his peers involving reflection. He asked his fellow graduates to reflect on how they choose to live in the world and to respond in their choice with “a thoughtful call to social justice.” Forrester and Benavidezs’ messages may just be the answer we have been looking for to kick the “do addiction” and begin to build deeper understandings of the implications of our choices and ensure a more sustainable life.