One choice among many
Q: We've got Blackberries. And iPhones and Droids and notebook computers and Google. They help make us more successful! Don't they?? The new book "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" says the Internet impairs our ability to think long and hard. Do you agree? And if so, does the added productivity justify a little Internet-inspired attention-deficit disorder?
When I feel anxiety over all that is grabbing for my attention, and I begin to consider all the little devices that have become indispensable as part of life in the 21st century, I go for a walk. There is nothing like moving through nature at a quick pace to remind me of the last 200,000 years. What I mean is that I was designed to move through space and it has a great calming effect.
After a few chugs of water, some deep breaths, and long muscle movement, I feel myself again. Then, I can take on the world and am even grateful for all the tools that bring information and messages to me. It feels like a palette of the miracles. Which one shall I draw on just now?
In my family every night we have a ritual of climbing into our king-sized bed and watching a movie or a TV show on DVD, sans commercials. For an hour or so, the three of us (wife, son, and I) get lost in a story together. Then it becomes part of our repertoire of shared experience. Often the movies give us an opportunity to explore together a difficult or challenging topic, something for us each to react to... and occasionally a particularly powerful experience becomes a teaching moment, with each of us taking turns at playing the student.
This late-night ritual takes us out of time, away from the computer, text messages, and email. It helps us to find our way as a mini-tribe in a larger kingdom, crafting our sense of togetherness often in clumsy, heartfelt ways.
Our evening event helps to separate us for a time from all the data, information, entertainment disguised as news, disturbing developments beyond our control, and all the other deemed important bits of knowledge someone else wants us to take in. This boundary is important. It creates a breathing space, a safety zone, a place to reflect or be carried away by something more fundamental.
Then, there are the vacations we take without technology. I like to camp. My son and I go on one trip every year where technology use is minimized, with terms agreed to in advance. We unplug and let our relationship find its way without the interruption of devices.
My wife and I like to breakfast together at a local diner 2-3x per week. Our family dinner time takes place without interuption 5 or 6 times each week. And there are the conversations that spring up here and there... sometimes jovial, sometimes more sober.
What I am saying here is that all this electronic hubub can be managed so that is integrated, not overwhelming.
Of course, there are times when the sine wave roller coaster of life hits a peak or drops into a valley, and life feels terribly out of control. That's part of life, too, eh? But, most of the ride has time for the deeper stirrings... and technology is one choice among many for business, fun, or diversion.
Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com) is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, Project Management Institute, and NASA. His website is VisionaryLeadership.com. Seth's most recent book is "Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out."
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