I’ve been thinking.
Sure, we are all thinking about something from moment to moment, but I wonder how many people sit down to deliberately think about one thing?
In fact, since I sold out of my marketing business in 2007 and have been thinking in a more focused way about thinking, I’ve observed that relatively few people do so deliberately or on a regular basis.
There are a couple of directions that I could approach the subject from (for example brain speed) but it may be easier to look at it in terms of focus.
If you have an imaginary 100 units of focus bandwidth at any one moment and you’re thinking about two different things, for example driving and talking on a hands-free phone (or even to someone sitting with you in the car), then your focus is split between the tasks to some extent… in this case maybe 70/30.
This may be sufficient focus on driving provided there are no abnormal considerations, but the band-width required to take that split-second action that might have averted an accident is essentially tied up doing something else… in this case listening, thinking and responding.
The same is true if I am running and thinking at the same time, something that I regularly do… with last week’s contemplation of smiling being a case in point. There my focus was probably biased more towards the thinking, say 30/70, whilst I allowed my subconscious to keep me moving from step to step. One of the (numerous!) reasons I eschew racing is that the training required is a different task to merely running, or in my case, running and writing a blog about it afterwards.
If I were in training (like Phil) or actually racing, then my focus would need to be more on the running and less on the other cognitive flotsam & jetsam. Frustratingly however, the mind is easily distracted away from the task in hand and into thinking about other things, for example the past and future, or in Phil’s case, probably into thinking about music! Take the focus away from running hard and you slow down.
Likewise to my mind, driving requires 100% bandwidth in order to moderate speed and road position according road conditions and (a conscious awareness of) potential hazards, which is why I generally drive with the radio off and never answer my phone. The habit I have formed here is essentially not to think about anything other than the driving. My occasional passengers will be familiar with my tendency to stop talking, even mid-sentence, in order to assess a situation ahead.
My route this afternoon (after a shameless lay-in) was exactly the same as last week, chosen in part for the ease with which I could think while I ran. It was a glorious if somewhat chilly day and I quickly got into a reasonable pace. The running element of my focus consisted of noticing when I had slowed down and pushing myself on a little, while my head then generally spiralled back to the more cerebral subject addressed by this blog.
I reached the halfway point in 45 minutes, exactly the same time as last week and I made a conscious decision to focus more bandwidth on the running on the way back. I first focused on my footfall, landing on the outside of my heel and leaving from my big toe as I was taught by Andrea Wright, my super-physio. I also focused on relaxing my upper body, where the Bok’s trick is to relax the jaw, since the rest of you then seems to relax. Then, keeping a watching brief on these two elements, I focused mainly on my breathing, in through my nose, out through my mouth, fully and in time to the pace.
Like trying to break any other habit, this was difficult (even for me, where I am conscious about what is going on!) and I found myself back in the earlier subject more than once (my breathing becoming shallow again), but I didn’t beat myself up about it, rather just drawing the focus back into the preferred place.
In general terms I made good time, finishing ten miles in just under 90 minutes, or 6.74mph average.
Whether you are running, driving or working, we should try to be more aware of the bandwidth we are using… and if it is less than 100% (and this wasn’t a conscious decision), then we should focus more clearly on what we’re supposed to be doing.
Keep thinking… and keep smiling too!