Do you remember a time before the internet and smartphones? I do (because that’s how old I am).
We had to be more mindful about how we were in the world. We had to plan our time better – no messaging a friend to tell them we were running late to meet them. We had to exercise our memories more – no smart phones or social media to remind us of our favourite aunt’s birthday. We had to go to the bookshelf to answer questions that no one could help us with – no Google searches for us.
We trusted ourselves more because we could trust ourselves more. And we had more time, patience and fortitude to navigate our lives.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk about my new book, Recover from Burnout, (you can listen to the podcast here) at the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg. The venue for the conversation was new to me, although in an area that I used to know well a few years ago. Had I thought about it for a few minutes before I set off, I would have taken myself on a very easy and direct route. Instead, rushing out the door at the last minute, I leapt into my car and took off down the driveway. While waiting for the gate to close behind me (in the olden days we had to get out of the car to open and close gates), I quickly punched the address of my destination into my phone and, confident that the lady who lives in my phone and gives me directions knew better than me, set off under her dulcet instruction.
I was wrong.
Gently, kindly and very melodiously, that woman took me on the worst possible route. Road works, faulty robots, traffic…every obstacle that could be found was found. It was a nightmare. Anxious that I would be late, I took to shouting at the traffic and my phone, throwing my hands up in exasperation and generally behaving in a rather unbecoming manner.
Happily, being stuck in slow/stationary traffic gave me the opportunity to pull myself towards myself and reach the rather unwelcome conclusion that it was my own fault. Instead of drawing on my own knowledge and experience, I had handed over choice about the direction I was taking to some inanimate entity!
I used to pride myself on my self-sufficiency, my ability to problem-solve and to ‘make a plan.’ At that moment I was able to see that I have increasingly handed over the reins to a not-always-that-smart phone.
My challenge to myself (and to you, should you choose to accept it), is to relearn how to think for myself. Not just in relation to the routes I take but also the choices I make: the information I expose myself to, the things that I spend my time and energy on and the people I do and do not pay attention to.
This month I’m starting with checking in with my inner GPS before I open Google Maps.
I’d love to hear how you do.