Emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are. A simple statement, but one that deserves a second, third, fourth, and hundredth thought and not just because it is an interesting concept to think or talk about but also because it serves as an important reminder that what is, simply is before we interpret it. I first heard this phrase a few years ago from someone close to me, and I cherish it as one of the more powerful pieces of advice that I have ever received. It has opened my mind to trying to, at some point during each day, just be. To just acknowledge a moment—why it makes me feel a certain way, what that feels like, and how I can just let myself feel that briefly. To just feel and understand that moment in an unbiased way.
A story that reminds me about this concept and might help clarify what I am thinking occurred while I played baseball in college. My college baseball field was smack in the center of campus—between the library and the dining hall—and was one of the busiest areas with students walking, biking, or just socializing. One day, towards the end of a closely fought game, a Wesleyan batter, poised to win the game for us, stood waiting for his moment.
The story goes that during that moment of total focus and concentration on the task at hand my coach approached him, put his arm around him, and just said “look at all the students walking around right now. They don't even notice that there is a game going on. You are about to engage in one of the most important moments of your playing career, and they don’t even know. How about that?”
Sometimes, the team would joke about this being some crazy and strange action from our coach, because—as players might think—he was just missing the point of the moment, like someone telling you that you should stare at the clouds while driving. Maybe that is true, but maybe it was insight to embracing and realizing a moment. Realizing that yes this moment is important for the baseball game and yes that it is all you want to focus on, but also that if you look 50 feet over the other way, there is someone with a completely non overlapping reality—they are just running because they are late to class.
In the same way that we get caught up in our minds with stress, hurry, or worry, there is a beauty to taking a pause to be present in the entirety of a moment. One would not be able to fully appreciate or embrace what made that baseball moment special unless they thought beyond their own immediate reality and focused and tried to just digest the moment as is. There is no harm in going right back into the grind and the tunnel vision, but I think it is huge to just gain that momentary perspective every once in a while and simply acknowledge the moment without any judgement.
One of my favorite things about design thinking is that it continuously emphasizes and works to understand the essence of people's experience—their feelings, emotions, and motivations. “Designers” may have weird gadgets and gismos and have brainstorming sessions where we speculate out into the unknown future and challenge the realm of possibility, but, in interviewing end-users, we are just looking to find what makes people tick. We want to let our users be themselves in the sense that we don't want them to feel like there has to be a right or wrong answer, a right or wrong feeling, or a right or wrong idea. We are going to ask questions—what were you feeling during that experience, why did you feel that way, where do you think that feeling came from—that force someone to simply be themselves and to reflect on the raw things they experienced in a moment. An experience isn’t right or wrong, it just is. Emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are. I love how design thinking emphasizes acknowledging an experience, instead of immediately interpreting it.
Someone recently told me that we all have 30-50 thousand ideas any given day, which simply amazed me. I would guess that has to mean that we process most if not all of them to some degree during the day. We ignore, reject, execute, reflect, worry, stress, hope, act, procrastinate, or some variation of this on all of these ideas. But, my new challenge is to just feel some of them. Just let the thoughts or moments be, before executing some judgment or action. It doesn’t have to be every one—just a few will do. Let the experience, emotion, or thought be free before it gets put through the processor. Just like that baseball player, try soaking in the moment. How might we just be?
Hope everyone has a great rest of the week! Happy almost March!
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