“I’m standing still for a moment, which is great progress.”
I linger on this smart little sentence written by Bertolt Brecht as I sip from my coffee. The café I’m in has large windows that overlook the green and gold of the Sarphatipark. Surrounded by tall, charming old houses this block of trees in the center of Amsterdam has a wonderfully quiet appeal.
My current professional activities require much creativity and allow me large flexibility as to when and where I work. Attractive as it is, this is a challenge too. While I daydream part of me screams I’m wasting my time and should be working like those suited up in towers of steel and glass.
I decide to stay a little longer despite my inner agitation and order another tea. Soon I recollect the memory of a picture shown during a powerful training I attended not long ago.
Three circles, gold, green and blue that each represent one stage of the “input – reflection – output loop”. Gold is input, green is a moment of reflection, blue is output.
This loop is valuable particularly for the emphasis put on the green circle in the middle. What it means is this: before we respond to any form of input we always have the possibility to stand still and reflect on how to respond. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Take this situation, faced with a quick question from my boss, I would often reply instantaneously – even if I didn’t know the exact answer. I jumped from gold to blue right away, because I thought a quick response was expected and felt I would disappoint when I could not meet his demands immediately. Occasionally I bluffed through it like this, most of the time I produced an answer that was unsatisfactory to me and unsatisfactory to my boss.
In comparison, consider former chess champion Kasparov. I once saw him do a Q&A after a lecture. He would typically ponder on his answers for a good thirty seconds in complete silence (a really long time when you’re on a stage facing half a thousand people). By taking his time however, he left the entire audience in eager anticipation and finally left a smashing impression with his answer exactly because he lingered in the green circle: the answer seemed rock solid and authentic.
Whether it’s the answer to a simple question, your decision on a life changing opportunity, or the desired result of your efforts, it seems to me it’s well worth going through the unsettling feeling of standing still for a moment.
Darkness has fallen over the trees outside and the waitress took the cup that once held my hot tea hours ago. I smile as I finish this last little sentence:
I stood still for a moment, and made great progress.