When I drive to and from work, I listen to podcasts. It makes the trip go faster, and allows me to focus on something other than the traffic. It also takes my mind off the day’s events if it was a rather difficult one.
But sometimes I need to shut everything off and have quiet time to really think. Listening to podcasts and the radio gets in the way. It can cause you to avoid seriously thinking about life and what you should be doing, which is something that can be uncomfortable to think about. That’s because this usually involves having difficult thoughts you have to face, and even terrifying decisions you have to make. But sometimes you’ve got to just sit in your car, and think clearly about these things without any distractions.
Life Defining Decisions
I was recently in this situation. My boss had set up a meeting for the next day to discuss my future goals at our company. I wasn’t totally clear in my head about my plans. Or was it that I was unclear about what I wanted to tell him? I wanted to say that I’d like to stay in the technology field, but I needed to work on something that would make a real difference in the world. There’s an idea that I’ve been working on for several years with a couple of other people. We’ve put together many revisions of a business plan, have a working prototype, and feel that if we can get this product out there, it could improve the productivity of millions of people. It’s software I’d love to use myself.
Eventually, a lot of us find ourselves in interesting but ultimately unfulfilling jobs. Some of us get to the point where we want to spend our time and energy towards making our own dream a reality, instead of supporting someone else’s dream.
It was during one of these deep thought sessions when I decided to tell my boss my true goals. I work for a startup (well, I’m not sure you could call us that anymore, but I’m one of the very early employees), and ownership is entrepreneurial. They know what I’m capable of, and I know the owners pretty well. I’d heard that they’ve helped other like-minded employees before, so I was willing to open up. It’s rather liberating to no longer keep this bottled up.
Literally Listening to Yourself
Even after turning off the podcasts, it’s easy to get distracted with bottled up thoughts bouncing around in your head. So one thing I’ve started to do is record my thoughts. This prevents them from slipping through the cracks, making it all too easy not to take action on a lot of this stuff. I’ve found that recording is great. I can review later, analyze better, and think more clearly. I often feel embarrassed talking out loud — even to myself. This is one of the reasons I want to try Toastmasters. Not only to get more comfortable speaking in public, but to feel more comfortable speaking to myself.
Since I began this habit, almost all of my blogging entries have originated from this self-dictation. I find myself debating a topic (with myself) for an hour, and later on I transpose it all to a draft entry. Over the next several days (or weeks, when I have a lot of recordings), I refine it, and eventually post it.
I highly recommend talking to yourself in this way. You’ll learn a lot about yourself just by listening to your thoughts through your own ears. You may not always like what you hear, but you will become more comfortable doing it. And it may lead to some life defining decisions.
The next step… video?
I would recommend the use of mind maps as well. It is a great tool for organizing and documenting your thoughts.
That’s definitely something I want to experiment with, Michael. I think I went overboard when I tried this in the past, using different colored pens, etc., and it began to feel too forced. I’ll try keeping it simpler this time, and see how it works out. Thanks.