Think your way to discipline
Our diary is organised down to the last minute. Our computers – the filing systems of today – are in as orderly a fashion as we can bring ourselves to arrange them. Our relationships, both at home and at work, are tended as bulbs in a Dutch tulip field. But how are our thoughts working for us? We talk a lot about the power of thought but pay scant attention to organising, motivating and energising our own mind to serve us as well as it could.
It is a human fault to take for granted those closest to us. The person who organises our desk, our travel, our medicines, our diary – these are all people we assume are happy with what they do because they do it for us. Similarly, we don’t question the physical assets that are always there, the handrail just where we need it, the car keys in a memorable place, our local supermarket for when we have to buy food and so on. We don’t say many ‘thank-yous’ for these.
The same applies to ourselves. We don’t appreciate sight until it is threatened, hands until they are damaged, legs until they can no longer support us. Above all, we don’t fully recognise what a wonderful piece of equipment we have between our ears until we start to forget things. It is an asset that has developed over millions of years. We should cherish it, nourish it, challenge it. Above all, we should motivate it. It is what makes us who we are. It may even be our ‘soul’.
Just as we take daily exercise to keep our body working, so we should do mental gymnastics to keep our mind in trim. Playing games that demand some intellectual input helps. Crossword puzzles, card games, board games, computer games can all contribute to a healthy mind provided they make demands beyond the very limited. If the circle is kept too small it merely makes us good at that particular game or event.
But what about thoughts that can help to motivate us at times of specific need?
We know that if we are required to consume some revolting concoction in order to have a medical examination it is vital to think of nice things while doing so. If we think of something as unpleasant as what we are drinking, we will throw up. So we imagine a nice hot chocolate drink if that is what enchants us. Equally, if you have to walk through a pig farm you had better think of sweet smelling lavender – and keep your eyes firmly on the ground.
So, what if we are developing a novel form of gearing and we get stuck? We can think of nature and how a plant or tree will use the assets available to it – sunlight, wind, rain, leaf-mould food, even animal and passenger traffic – to leverage cells to eject its spores. Or if negotiating a tricky treaty to distinguish differences but retain benefits, as they are trying to do in the cockeyed process of Brexit, thoughts of ‘business flows’ will most likely lead to agreement. Always assuming that is what they want. Difficult to know if it is.
It’s not that people don’t think of these things, of course they do. But they will be the people in the thick of solving the problem – and even they will lose sight of the simplest opportunities. The rest of us often wait to be fed the answer or prescription. Many sensible solutions are lost because of that. When the answer is revealed it is probable that the person who thought of it is not mentioned at all. Some casual conversation over lunch, a sparky exchange during a competitive banter in a bar – these are the places that solutions emerge.
Now we are faced with the devastation of Covid-19. Our responses have been sensible but not yet dramatically creative. What is tactile but survives and flourishes without touching? What has to outwit the threat of annihilation from stronger attackers than itself? What manages to remain in contact even after a barrier has been erected? And, please, no ‘Mexico wall’ answers.
Seven billion people are thinking about how to overcome or cope with Coronavirus.
Somewhere out there is an answer we haven’t thought of yet.
Perhaps you will think of it?