On a recent train commute, I was standing near the door waiting for the train to stop, when I happened to look down. On the floor were the words “Keep Clear” with a dashed line we shouldn’t cross right in front of the driver’s compartment.
I’ve seen this signage several times in the past, absorbing it without paying much attention at all. Like most, wrapped up in whatever keeps my mind busy on a commute, whilst unconsciously staying behind the line, heuristics doing their job in short-cutting that conscious decision.
This time though, I understood the meaning of the words in a totally different light.
After contemplating each word, I thought …
… and then I instagrammed my visual thought for posterity. ;)
But that moment peaked my curiosity about what other opportunities and signposts may be out there to motivate a change in perspective? To remind us to be open, to listen actively, to see and think more clearly, to convey our thoughts and ideas better.
We tend to forget that communication doesn’t always involve speaking. It is also how we hear, what we see, and how we interpret what we hear and what we see.
In a noisy world, where we are conditioned to be on problem-solving auto-pilot, it’s becoming easy to miss the signs.
Our interpretation of our environment is largely subjective, because of the way our brain works. Which means that what we think we see and hear other people doing, is often a filtered version of what they’re actually doing, seen through our specific coloured lens on the world.
What if we tried to look at our environment as someone else might see it, once in a while? What if occasionally we tried to separate our reaction to what we see, from the emotion we may feel, to change how we may respond? Or, what if we stopped to question how we and others may automatically react to our daily mundanities? We do things in a certain way out of habit, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective or helpful way to do it.
It can also be challenging to create time to just be, time to just think. As I’ve referenced in a previous post, research is showing that we are losing the ability to be alone with our thoughts. If your endeavours require what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work”, then the ability to be alone with your thoughts is an important part of your work process.
Maria Popova also talks about creating “pockets of stillness” to do creative work. It’s a phrase I’m fond of. However, finding stillness doesn’t have to mean shutting yourself off from the world. It can mean carving out some conscious time for yourself within it.
Separating the noisy chatter inside you and around you, from how you perceive the noisy chatter, requires paying better attention.
As I’ve noted before, we’re clamouring for attention in the wrong places, and not giving it where it is due. Saying and doing are ways to convey your attention, but not saying or doing is a form of communication too.
What are we not taking action on? What are we doing without thought that we would be better off doing actively and attentively? What do we want to be communicating about ourselves and our capabilities to others? Is that what they are actually seeing and hearing when we speak?
Communicating differently involves practising being more conscious.
Be open to a different perspective, listen actively, see and think more clearly.
Look out for the signs.