All aboard the train of thoughts.
Scheduled around the clock.
They’ll keep you working on the railroad,
all the live-long day.
Our minds constantly look for things to do,
or problems to solve,
or problems that might need to be solved,
if they ever happen.
It loads them into cars,
hooks them to the train,
and runs them in circles,
like the toy trains we had as kids.
Going nowhere fast,
and sometimes going off the rails.
Perhaps, the problem is the metaphor.
Do we really want trains running through our heads?
Maybe a caravan of thoughts would be more useful.
Or a stream.
But if trains are as good a metaphor as any, perhaps the challenge is to decide which train to take.
And when it’s time to get off.
We have to interrupt the train of thoughts.
Bring it into the station.
And observe what it’s pulling.
The workplace is full of problems, people, and possibilities. Our minds can become so busy and crowded that we struggle to think clearly.
There are so many cars on the train that we find it hard to prioritize and difficult to focus. The train might be going in the wrong direction or traveling at an unsafe speed.
Being in this state can put us on edge and leave us vulnerable to burnout, bad behavior, wasted time and poor choices.
Here are some questions that can help you interrupt the train of thoughts. Let’s call them stations. A place you can pause and wait for the next train that will actually take you to a place you want to go rather than carry you in an endless loop.
Station 1 – What’s happening right now? This seems like a simple question but how often do you lose track of what you are doing or what you are feeling at any given moment? This can be as simple as taking a deep breath, bringing nearby objects into focus and noticing that you’ve been in a trance.
Station 2 – What’s my body telling me? Your body will tell you the state your mind is in, the kind of thoughts you are holding and the emotional energy you are producing. If your forehead is tight, muscles clenched and your stomach in knots, that’s a pretty good sign you need to pause and calibrate your thoughts.
Station 3 – What am I trying not to feel? Sometimes we keep our minds busy to avoid dealing with a troubling emotion or a problem we want to avoid. This question can bring you back to the issue that really needs attention and get you moving in the right direction.
Station 4 – What am I missing? The thought train, if given no destination, prefers to wander through the wide-open spaces of the past and future pulling cars full of if-onlys, what-ifs, and shoulds. It’s like riding through a beautiful countryside with the shades pulled down. We miss what is right in front of us.
Interrupting the train of thoughts creates space. It allows us to choose our focus and to give ourselves more fully to the problem, the person or the possibility that most needs our attention. In doing so we will be more effective and fulfilled in our work.
Visit these stations regularly to keep your train of thoughts running in the right direction.