Personal development

In an overwhelming age, head back to humanity

Hey there! How is your diary for today looking? Do you have meeting after meeting to go to, or will you have time for a peaceful lunchtime stroll?

Whether you’re enjoying a quiet spell in the office, or you’re battling through a full-on day, one thing is for sure: today your brain will process somewhere in the region of 34 gigabytes of information. That’s the equivalent of reading almost 200 newspapers every single day, or 23 words for every second you’re awake. The fact is that the amount of information our brains receive has increased year-on-year since the turn of the century. Oh, and you’ll do the same again tomorrow, and the next day: in fact, you’ll do it every day of your life. Do you feel overwhelmed yet?

In the face of such a barrage of information, it’s little wonder that we often feel we’ve got less time for the relationships in our lives. When we spend our lives shifting from screen to phone to meeting to email to conference call then back to phone again, it can feel like we’re always running at capacity. And when our brains are completely full to the brim with information, we get to log off and go home, where we need to pay a completely different kind of attention to the people that matter most to us.

But it’s tough to give your full attention to your partner’s rundown of their stressful day, when you’re in recovery from your own. It’s hard to find the enthusiasm to talk through your child’s latest drama with their friends, when your brain feels like it’s work is done for the day, and it wants to power down and recharge.


People are the antidote

But here’s the thing: people are the antidote to life in this non-stop information era. Forgetting about everything else and focusing all of our energies on the person right in front of us, is exactly how we can block out the din of this disruptive age. Maybe we could all use a little time in which we feel free to switch off our brains, and instead open our hearts.

But to do that – well, you have to commit to it. Don’t get distracted by the latest headline, tweet or email. Don’t start chopping the carrots for dinner halfway through the conversation. Don’t say ‘I really want to know more about your day, but I just have to google this one thing first’. Don’t look at your watch. Searching for the treasure that’s hidden deep inside your best friend, your partner, your child, that colleague that you find tricky to handle, means you have to spend time doing nothing but digging. Ask questions, listen to their answers, laugh, talk, imagine, get silly, get serious, open up, tell your truth, and seek their truth.

By rediscovering the humanity that’s all around us, we can choose to remember what we’re really here for, and what matters to us most. It centres us, and gives us back the focus that slips away during our frenetically busy days. Giving the people that matter to us the gift of our own humanity can quiet the mind, open the heart, and ready us all for the next day’s 34 gigabytes.