Thoughts come at the speed of light, at least that’s how it sometimes feels. One idea after the other appears, sometimes contradicting the previous one, leading to the next idea. It happens at incredible speed.
Thinking is something different. It’s “concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it” as William Deresiewicz described it in his essay Solitude and Leadership.
When thoughts appear, they still need to be organized, to be categorized, to be evaluated and to be linked with one another. You want to go beyond the ideas you’ve heard elsewhere. You want to create associations, to connect the dots, to let yourself be surprised. Your work is to develop your idea about this thing you’ve been thinking about.
It requires to take time, to concentrate, to stay focused. It requires to remain uninterrupted. It requires to pass by your own wish to have it done and finished and stick to it until you’re done.
It’s not an easy task. Our culture invites us into distraction, into doing several things at the same time calling it multitasking. It invites us into doing things faster and seek to reach the next performance level.
We don’t even realize anymore how often we are trying to multitask. Any time we react to attention grabbers we move away from what we’ve been doing. We are switched to capturing whatever else might be happening, interesting or important. Moving quickly back and forth from one task to the other interrupts us. It’s distraction.
A distraction we might secretly appreciate as it gives us the feeling of being performant and allows us to hide away from something hard. It allowed stopping listening to ourselves, to that voice telling us that it’s hard, that we aren’t getting it, that we aren’t fast enough or whatever it has been telling you.
If it would have been easy, if we had been in the flow and fully concentrated, the attention grabber would have been irrelevant. We would have continued to think.