I recently was at a meeting where someone outlined how we sometimes get off track and react negatively to situations. The presenter was talking about was Dorothy Day and a book called Tools Matter; while not in the arsenal of most Project Managers, I liked the way the information was presented.
How thoughts affect us
For some reason, after my 56 years on this planet, I never considered the fact that I have any control about thoughts that come into our mind. Imagine a ticker tape with random messages flashing across the screen, rather like watching the news on TV today. We see them, but for the most part ignore them or park them away. Then suddenly we pay attention, some thought seems interesting, distracting or more important. We pause to reflect on that message. One thought starts another going.
This happens every day when, if you are like me, you see scores of emails coming across your screen every day. For the most part we can avoid the distraction, but when that message or thought comes across that we pause on we take some action.
This action is another thought, thereby reinforcing the original thought, now we are paying attention. If we pay enough attention this thought moves to the next step and becomes a desire. A will to do something about it, might be investigate, call someone, do some research, or just become distracted enough to create a desire to do something about it.
Once at the desire stage, we may get impassioned about doing something about this desire and at that point it becomes a passion for us. We get riled up about it and whether positive or not, we put this in the category of “do something” about it.
This simple little map of how we are affected by things in everyday life is a very useful guide in deciding how we might react to a situation. How often during the day are we faced with information or thoughts that cause us to pay attention and then finally to take action.
If we can discern which thoughts are worth working on or paying attention to, we can save ourselves a lot of grief, either by ignoring them or paying attention, based on where they fit into the spectrum of usefulness.
Similarly, when a desire emerges, we can decide if it’s worth taking them to the passion level, taking some serious action. Understanding this sequence earlier in my career could have saved me some trouble, and I today I use it to help me be more consistent in using time, dealing with people and getting better results.
The bottom line of course is the outcome from a passion can be either virtuous or the opposite, therefore this may be the most important decision. Determining whether having thickened those thoughts from its infancy to desire, and into a teenage stage of passion what do we do next? Most of us can determine the difference to what is going to be good for the organization, the project or just for our own ends.