Today as I drove in to work, (a mix of 80% rural and 20% urban) I started by doing what I usually do; turned the radio on to a talk and news station and then sat back and listened. I do this each day so I can arrive at work and know what’s going on in this big beautiful world we live in.
It’s important to me I suppose to know which country some gunman originated in and which faith he’s associated with; which religious group is claiming responsibility for the murders he committed. Then there’s the people who were flushed out into the streets in the wee hours of the morning I guess it’s important I hear about in another city. And of course, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t hear about the night club that had a shooting just outside its doors at 2:00 a.m.
Do I need to know all of these events? My usual answer must be yes because this is my daily routine; listen to the radio, stay up on local, national and world events on a daily basis so I can intelligently contribute to discussions at work. Without consciously intending to, I’ve developed a reputation at least with a few people, of being informed about such things. This is usually great advice by the way, so you can network, connect and talk with others in your circles without having to always say, “Gee I didn’t know that” when others are talking. The radio is a great source of information that can turn your experience into, “Yes I heard that. Here’s what I think…”.
If it’s not the radio, some other drivers turn their time into learning opportunities. They have CD’s, MP3’s, Bluetooth – a multitude of services that provide access to podcasts, language development and just about any topic they feel is of interest to them. It occupies their thoughts; the driver is in control of what they hear, experience and learn.
Today however, about a third of the way along my commute, I did something that I should do more often. I disconnected entirely. I turned off the radio and with a couple of windows down, I didn’t control what I heard, I let the great outdoors bring me its sounds. Now in the country drive along a secondary highway, I heard the silence, birds, passing traffic and silence. The silence was outstanding. I became aware that my thoughts were shifting from one thing to the next, it was as if there were conversations going on and all I had to do was let go and allow my brain and its thoughts to wander aimlessly; shifting, moving, in and out, coming and going.
The stimulation was all around me. The sun was dawning over me all along the drive and as I passed through small communities, even pausing at intersections waiting for the green lights wasn’t unpleasant but relaxing. As I moved into the urban city nearing the end of my commute, I heard the beep, beep, beep of construction vehicles backing up, the voices of workers communicating. I heard the sounds of large vehicles as they struggled to move from fully stopped and proceed through intersections; their engines resisting the process of gearing up.
It was a relaxing, enjoyable experience and when I arrived a work and parked the car, I was very much aware of a sense of calm I was in. It had been a great drive in and had taken exactly the same amount of time – no slower or faster. This disconnecting thing was pretty cool.
So what’s this got to do with jobs, with work, with employment advice? Well, perhaps it’s a good thing every now and then to consider disconnecting yourself. Do you really have to be listening to music, the news, a podcast or whatever you do listen to during your commute. What if you disconnected and just listened; let your thoughts tumble around without consciously trying to focus on solving a problem, resolving an issue or mentally going over your daily agenda? You can look at the daily agenda when you arrive at work.
I’m not saying disconnecting is something to do everyday. There’s a lot of time on your commute to be productive, to be inspired and to be entertained. That’s good for you if that’s your aim. Can you disconnect however and be comfortable with the silence and the lack of activity? Have you got so programmed yourself that you can’t go more than two minutes without checking your phone for messages? If nobody texts you even though you’re online can you survive? Hmmm…look around you and there’s a lot of people who appear to need to be connected. Notice their eyes are on a screen in a subway or on a bus when they could be looking out the windows and taken in different kinds of stimulation.
Disconnecting and just looking around on a commute in or back home can change your frame of mind, alter your mood and maybe put you in a better place as you walk in the door at home or work. This is where the connection lies between disconnecting and your workday.
Have you had a similar experience on your way in to work? My experience isn’t life altering, it’s not nirvana realized or paradise gained; it’s just a small change that created a different experience; one for the better.