The Fastest Way Forward is to Slow Down...and Think

December 21, 2021

The Thinker

In the middle of World War II, when Britain was at a breaking point in its ability to fight back the onslaught of attacks from Hitler's Germany, President Franklin Roosevelt took a fishing trip to Lake Huron for six days (1).


Because he needed time and space to think.

Think about how the United States could help the British with arms and desperately needed supplies to continue the fight.

FDR's dilemma?

The United States was officially neutral at that point in the war and any assistance to Britain or it's allies would violate the 1935 Neutrality Act passed by Congress which prohibited the export of “arms, ammunition, and implements of war” from the United States to foreign nations at war (2).

In the tranquility of his surroundings, and away from the stress and pressures of Washington, a creative solution came to Roosevelt.

The United States could "lend" the much needed military supplies to the Allies, to be returned once the war was over, in exchange for leases to the United States military for bases in the Ally's territory. Now known to history as the famous "lend-lease" program.


(Wikimedia Commons)


In her book Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin identifies several of the most important characteristics of our nation's greatest leaders, including "finding time and space in which to think."

At the darkest moments of the Civil War, president Abraham Lincoln found this much needed time and space, away from "the crush of hundreds of visitors and office seekers who poured into the White House as soon as the morning doors were opened," at The Soldier's Home, a short distance north of the city.

Early each morning, he would ride his horse from the country cottage to the White House and back again in the evening when the air was cooled down from the oppressive summer heat.

What was Lincoln contemplating on these rides back and forth and while sequestered away in the evenings from the busy work of the day?

The issue of slavery, the technicalities of how the Emancipation Proclamation should be constituted and, most importantly, the language that would be used in the Proclamation to convey his ideas to the nation.



Time to Think

While the examples just provided are clearly extra ordinary in magnitude, time and space to think is critically important in multiple important ways to every day life as a small business owner and leader of your organization.

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of making time for rejuvenation, which is blocks of time away from your business when you do everything you can to NOT think about work.

However, finding time to think about, and develop solutions for, the most challenging issues you may be faced with related to personnel, customers, products, finances, etc., is equally as important.

And, the space and time to think doesn't require special arrangements to remote destinations for long stretches of time.

You can find space and time throughout your day, every day, if you just consider when and how to make it happen.

Think of this time as "mini-rejuvenations" in between your longer chunks of time for quiescence.

For me, this is time on the treadmill for 30 minutes twice a week.

It's also when driving in the car from place to place, or simply time in the shower.

Everyone could find these same small bits of time in their daily life just for thinking, but they don't.

It's HOW you spend this time that creates the "space" necessary to do quality thinking.


Quality Thinking Time

Not all "thinking time" is created equal.

Too many people fill time when on a walk, the treadmill, driving in the car, or taking a shower with distractions that don't actually allow for quality thinking.

For example, listening to audio books and podcasts 
is great, but you're actually listening to other people's thoughts on a topic.

While this can, and often does, spur ideas for how to solve problems, you still need space and time to think more about how your specific circumstances should be addressed.

Listening to music, particularly if it allows you to think and is not a bombardment of your senses, is a good alternative to educational material that involves people talking.

Better yet, try silence every now and then so it's just you and your thoughts.

I listen to music when on the treadmill, and most of the time drive around in silence.... just thinking.

Too many people fill time when on a walk, the treadmill, driving in the car, or taking a shower with distractions that don't actually allow for quality thinking.

Thinking and Rejuvenation Time

The picture below is a portion of a half-mile loop at the cabin I visit regularly throughout the year for rejuvenation time.

Every evening I spend the last 45 minutes of daylight walking around the loop, at least four times, thinking.

If I come to the end of the fourth loop and still haven't worked out in my head the thoughts on my mind, I go around again, and sometimes even a sixth time if the thinking is really good.

Every time I'm on that loop, I think a little bit about past thoughts from past walks, and often the progress made solving personal problems and moving beyond personal challenges.

Those thoughts alone are rejuvenating to me, and motivation to do more of what I'm doing that works, and avoiding those things that do not.

Freedom Rejuvenation

Essential to Finding Freedom

Finding time to think is critically important to personal and professional freedom because it leads to higher quality decisions and increased creativity, as well as innovative solutions to problems and an increased ability to take maximum advantage of opportunities.

Make certain that you have regular intervals throughout your day, and week, for time to think... whenever it makes most sense to you, and in whatever way allows you to be most thoughtful.

And, as you spend time thinking, don't forget to...
Stay focused on your freedom!

Listen to the podcast episode: #014 The Fastest Way Forward is to Slow Down...and Think

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