Everyone needs space, whether they know it or not.
To think, to feel, to connect the dots… to be. It doesn’t take very many clicks on Google or tweets in your feed to find someone’s take on the busy-ness and overstimulation of our lives and how to either maximize or manage it. Every day there are more options to get more input- through every medium, device and airwave possible. If you’re not getting enough- well, that’s for another day. Most of us have no shortage of people around us all the time, either. Whether you’re actually connecting with them in a meaningful way is something else to examine another time, to be sure. Meanwhile- there they are around you, pulling your attention. Despite where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum and how energized by people you are or not, you also need space and process to work through all that’s in your head, by yourself.
The challenge with all that input, all those people and the stimulation they’re giving you is that it’s not all going to turn itself off- it’ll keep coming, and it’s up to you to purposefully find some quiet space for yourself anyhow. Easier said than done. And why should we, right? How can learning or exploring more or connecting more be bad, right? I’m the biggest advocate there is for true, meaningful connection between people and creating more of it. Yet this is different…that constant buzz around you- can become an easy, justifiable addiction. It also can keep us from getting to true, pure personal clarity.
Yes- some people like to talk their way through ideas, learn with others and get big insights in a group. I’m a huge fan of team brainstorming and collaborative thinking, yet know that it only works well when balanced with solo time.
Most of my impact with people as their coach comes from something fairly simple, yet elusive for most… getting a vantage point or perspective on oneself, which brings clarity of a certain kind. I help people do that in lots of ways, yet one of the most powerful is just in creating clear space for someone to process their own experience- without an agenda or task other than thinking/feeling through what’s there. It’s amazing to see how every time, insight and clarity into oneself, another or a situation occurs just with some space in which it can. While I love coaching and facilitating this process for people, you don’t need me or a coach to do it…
One of the most important differences between child and adult learners is when their big a-ha’s occur in learning. For kids, it happens right in the moment of learning (why they’re so much fun to teach), while adults have their a-has in reflection afterward.
Letting it marinate. Process time. When we don’t create space for this to occur, it all backs up in your head like your computer when it’s been running with all its applications open for too long. At best it makes everything else run slower (like your thinking) and at worst, it’ll eventually crash (you know what this looks like for you)- neither good. As with all your devices, you’ve got to shut it all down and reboot to run clear and fast.
There are many ways to do this, and I challenge you to actually create some deliberate space in which you can just process and let your mind connect the dots- even for a brief reset. While of course vacations, daily meditation practices and retreats are great and healthy, THIS can be effective with even just 5 minutes at a time. Do what appeals to you…
- Get out. Go for a walk, jog or run by yourself, without music (and in a way that you don’t have to be preoccupied with breath or body)
- Just sit and look at something in nature (outside is best)
- Get some window time- for just looking and thinking. My personal favorites are airplane windows.
- Journal. Whatever’s in your head, just capture in writing. It doesn’t have to be linear or fit a certain template. Mindmap, free-associate. To start…
- Draw. Not as a way to entertain yourself during something else (meeting, class, etc.) but as a way to empty out your head.
- Meditate right where you are. This can be formal or informal, the practice of clearing the mind.
Give yourself some real space like this, and you’ll notice a difference- guaranteed. You’ll get some connections you otherwise wouldn’t. You’ll create ideas that would’ve taken many more iterations to reach. You’ll solve questions you’ve struggled with for too long. With some practice, you’ll get some much-needed perspective on yourself, your questions and your answers.
And then there’s the space you don’t have to find or create, because you already have it. Built into your day, simply notice the several-moment windows you already have, and claim them as your own. Here are the easiest top three…
- Walk time. Instead of talking on your phone or checking your screen as you walk, actually just think, eyes up and around. Even take the long route to your destination to give yourself a little extra process time.
- Shower time. There are fewer things more consistent or calming than warm water pounding down on you, creating a space between you and the rest of the world. Take advantage of that time to intentionally breathe the steam deeply and let your mind go.
- Drive/ride time. Rather than listen to your headphones/radio or talk on the phone, actually take the solo time you spend in the car/train/bike to just take in the landscape and listen to your own thoughts.
Fair warning- if you’re not accustomed to solo think time or creating that space for yourself, know that it might take some adapting to just learn how to be with your own thoughts, alone. If you’re averse to the idea, there might be some anxiety about what might come up in that space. That time to just be with your own thoughts can bubble up layers of feeling and insight you didn’t even know you had. This is where the clarity, the layers, the pulls on your energy are waiting for the space to get up and out…
It’s also where you get to work it all through, get to the best a-ha’s and finally get some peace in your quiet.