Thinking is highly overrated

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Are you a human being or a human doing?

Recently I had a client who wanted to find time to do some thinking. Her life was one long to-do list. A human doing instead of a human being.

And it made me think.

What is the fascination with thinking?

Why do we crave sitting down to think so much? And why do we need to ‘make time’ to think? Why do we seem to think of thinking as a luxury? Something sacred that needs to happen under specific circumstances only (you know: clear desk, no distractions, curtains drawn, phones off). Something we will do … well, when we’ve made it through our to-do list. Probably.

I believe that ‘thinking’ as a stand-alone activity is highly overrated.

If thinking alone had the power to solve your problems, would we not make time in our busy diaries to sit down and think every day?

And also: how often have you had your best ideas when you weren’t actively thinking? I’ve certainly had my most creative ideas when I was in the shower, or out for a walk. Or just staring out of the train window, looking at the clouds. Or when cleaning the bathroom, weirdly.

My best ideas did not appear when I was at my desk trying to come up with the answer. And definitely not when I had set time apart specifically to ‘do’ some thinking!

I recently read Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘A new earth’. In it he says that thinking is really only another form of doing. It is something that your ‘ego’ does. Every action, every thought, every emotion, is an expression of your ego. And your ego is not you. The reason you know this is because you can observe your actions, your thoughts and your emotions. It is you observing you.

In this view being with yourself, just being, is the clue to becoming clearer on who you are (as opposed to your ‘ego’ and its busy-ness with actions and doing and thinking and feeling) which will ultimately lead to knowing what you want and need.

And yes, being with yourself takes a bit of practice.

When I first learned about meditation I was terrible at it. Just sitting down and not getting distracted by my thoughts? For twenty minutes? No way! There was always something to do, or thoughts to be thought, or outside distractions.

Over time though I’ve found other ways to be more ‘mindful’. Having that shower. Going for a walk. Or writing my ‘morning papers’ (or a journal) in which I write without thinking and without judgement.

I’ve found that you can be more mindful in your normal day. Having a shower? Make it a ‘mindful’ shower, where you witness your thoughts and let them go! Taking a lunch break? Go for that walk and listen to the rhythm of your footsteps. Sitting in the train for 20 minutes? Write your ‘morning papers’*

Little mini-steps to become clearer. Clearer on who you are. With space to allow ideas to bubble up. Not a great momentous ‘thinking’ event, that somehow never happens.

What mini-steps will you take?

*For more about morning papers read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Or head to my blog on ‘Five books that shaped my life’.


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