It’s summer and a great time to kick back, unplug and think slow. Life moves a little slower in the summer. We all need our mental batteries recharged from time to time. Summer is a good time to give our minds and bodies relief from work stress.
When you take time off what do you do? Do you stay plugged into the office because the place can’t run without you? Does your boss think that you don’t need or deserve to get away and unplug from work for a week or two? If this is your life then this reflection may not be for you.
If, on the other hand, getting away and unplugging is something that you control, that you enjoy, then you might find this interesting.
In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman, lays out his work and theory about how the human mind works. He explains that the mind has two systems.
System 1 (thinking fast) operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. The vast majority of things we do and decisions we make each day utilize fast thinking. Our brains have adapted to make quick, efficient decisions about routine situations.
System 2 (thinking slow) allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it. This is focused concentration; blocking out distractions to tackle a challenging issue or idea.
Kahneman determined that the automatic operations of fast thinking generate surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower circumstances in which slow thinking operates can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. Solid analysis and planning require slow thinking.
Slow thinking burns loads of mental energy. It is tiring. Getting away for a few days from the decisions that fill our usual work hours conserves energy. It is the perfect opportunity to think about significant life issues and plan for the future. When you get away and unplug, you set the stage to slow think your way to some answers.
As of this month I’ve logged 39 years as a lawyer. This summer I am using my slow thinking time to work on our firm’s succession plan. Who will take over when I and the other older partners phase out of the law firm? How will things change? It’s challenging. It’s important. When I have it figured out, I am looking forward to the same sense of accomplishment I experienced when we hiked to the peak of a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado.
So, what do you need to do some slow thinking about? A big life issue? The wonder of the universe around us? You’ve got an amazing brain. Give it a workout.