I know, the title sounds a bit judgmental. But hear me out. I’m going to ask you a few questions and then you can decide if you agree with me or not.
- Think about the last time someone asked you to do something or help them with something. Did you say yes or no? And did you answer they way you wanted to?
- Think about the last time you were bored. Really bored. Can you remember such a time? How did you handle it? What did you do to fill the space?
- When was the last time you unplugged for an entire day? a few hours? one hour? You didn’t look at your phone, computer, the television, it was all turned OFF. Not just on silent, completely off, airplane mode, no internet, nada. And there was no one around but you and your thoughts.
White space. Does that exist anymore? The vast majority of those reading this, myself included, will answer question 1 with a “yes” and then a “no.” They will answer question 2 with a “no” because the void was filled quickly with mindless activities like scrolling through Facebook, computer games, watching YouTube videos, netflix, or more harmful activities like emotional eating or even drinking alcohol to stuff the emotions that tend to surface during whitespace. Which is why most, if not all, reading this will answer question 3 with a “never.”
This post was inspired by a concept I learned in a book I’m currently reading titled, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It talks about taking time off or “think weeks.” Did you know some of the most successful people in the world have done this for decades? Even in today’s most socially, electronically connected world? Even during the busiest, highest growth times in their businesses? It’s true. Bill Gates takes two, one week long “think weeks” a year unplugged where even family is banned. It is during those times he gets his ideas and can actually collect his thoughts that have propelled his ongoing success. Others that take similar “think weeks” are Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Amazing, huh?
But it isn’t natural. In fact, in a fairly recent study (2014), individuals were given a choice to sit in solitude with their thoughts for 15 minutes or to take a painful electric shock to their ankles to get out of it. An overwhelming majority chose the shock collar (66% of men and 25% of women). Furthermore, the study participants reported having unpleasant experiences when they were alone with themselves regardless if they were allowed to read or allowed access to the internet. It’s no wonder stress eating, alcoholism, and drug addiction are so prevalent. We don’t want to face our emotions. And outside substances do a pretty good short term job at distracting and frankly, stuffing them down and away. I’ve addressed specifically emotional eating in past posts as this is my area of expertise.
The bottom line is, we want human connection with others. But at the same time, it’s good for our well-being to take time to think so that we can healthily co-exist with others.
So, let me know in the comments. Will you be planning a “think week” anytime soon, or at least a “think day?”
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