The Garrulous Jay – Not Thinking

Publish date


Last weekend a friend asked me what I think about when I’m out on my bike. After a couple of moments’ reflection, I replied by saying what I like about my time pedalling along the country lanes of Norfolk is actually not thinking.

That’s not to say I ride along in some sort of Zen-like trance oblivious to the trucks, tractors and other traffic around me. I tried that once and ended up acquainting myself rather more closely than I would have wished for with a parked car (see photograph).

So by not thinking I actually mean I relish the opportunity to just let my mind wander and see what comes into it. I have no agenda or framework.

Sometimes I’ll reflect on events in my life or the wider world. On other occasions, I may recall memories from my past, particularly if I’m covering familiar ground. Alternatively, I may contemplate the dismal performance of Norwich City. Once I even challenged myself to come up with a couple of rap songs.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that the vast majority of what I think – or don’t think – about is forgotten by the time I get home.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I believe not thinking can be extremely beneficial in one’s business and personal life.

I find not thinking in this sense can be refreshing and reinvigorating. It can also provide perspective and possibly even solutions to seemingly intractable challenges. And being away from distractions can also open up a window for a level of creativity that would otherwise be disturbed by what was going on around me: quite a few Garrulous Jays have been composed while I’ve been in the lanes and lokes around Haveringland.

It strikes me that this may also be why some highly successful people appear to be able to excel in multiple fields. Rather than this being despite the need for a high level of commitment in each area, perhaps it’s because of this requirement. By not thinking about one thing all the time, maybe these individuals become better at all of them.

Matthew Syed’s excellent Sideways podcast entitled “The Endurance of Arlene Blum”, explores the facets of a woman who was not only a pioneering mountaineer, but also an incredibly successful campaigner for the removal of toxic chemicals from household goods and toys.

In it she describes the way in which her lessons from one part of her life informed her approach to the other, but I also wonder whether the time spent not thinking about one or the other all the time also served her well.

So, next time the opportunity presents itself, I would encourage you not to think and see where it takes you.