Thinking on Your Feet

Thinking is easier than you, er, think…

Dales reservoir view

… especially if you change your environment.

Thinking can be a struggle if you are feeling pressure or stress.

Thinking can be stifled in meetings (especially by those with outmoded views about thinking, creative thinking and innovative thinking).

Thinking can be ordinary, dull and limited if you are in a busy office or pushed under the pressure of time.

How can you be expected to think “outside the box” when you are left “in a box” (the office, a meeting room, any bland space bounded by four walls)?

It’s one of the reasons I set aside time to go for walks. Long walks. Typically 10 or more miles in the day.

Sometimes I walk on my own. Sometimes I walk with a group.

The effect this has on my mind never ceases to amaze me.

When I go walking I feel relaxed. I stop thinking about time. My mind stops whirring and whirring about tasks, to-do lists, schedules, projects and things which give me a headache.

My mind becomes calm. My senses become more active as I notice my surroundings more… the landscape, the view, the sky, the air, the light, the temperature, the textures.

When I walk with others, I notice they experience a similar transformation.

Conversation feels more open and easy. People share more freely their thoughts and opinions. People reveal what’s on their minds.

Walking is natural. Walking is neutral. Walking creates an environment for clarity and genuine conversation.

It also has the magic to bring people out of themselves. To raise the spirits. To inspire some fun.

Take this walk I did the other day with a group.

The picture shows an undulating landscape, covered in heather, reedy grass and just a sprinkling of snow left from the previous day. Cloudy but dry in the skies. Very wet under foot.

The walk was filled with conversation. People talking with friends they knew well. People talking with people they had just met on the day.

The air was cool but not too cold and certainly not chilly by means. The sky was light grey for the most part yet the sun was always trying to break through – and succeeded for the latter part of this 13-mile walk.

There was surprisingly little mud. But there was plenty of marshy bog to contend with. As much as people wanted to enjoy the views, eyes were often focused on the ground ahead… to avoid taking a dip in the watery pools beneath the grasslands.

Then there were the becks, streams and channels of water to cross. There was lots of hopping, jumping and leaping to reach solid ground the other side.

And here’s what I noticed.

There was light-hearted fun and laughter… with jokes about falling over or falling in, people ready with cameras to capture mishap, and occasional soft screams or shouts as people struggled through particularly testing sections.

There was leadership. There was teamwork. People helped each other. People looked out for each other. All done naturally without any planning, briefing or formality.

This is why walking in a group can be so enjoyable.

Another reason is you can find yourself coming up with ideas and having fun with them.

At a style, while waiting their turn, one of the walkers started doing a bit of exercise. It looked like they were pretending to be on a keep-fit video. So I just said out loud what was in my head when I saw that. In soft, encouraging tones I said: “Welcome to Emma’s Walking Workout… episode one”.

It got people laughing. But it also had people thinking… mmm, that could be an idea for someone.

Another time during the day, I was talking with another member of the group, Yvonne, and we got onto the topic of food.

Somehow we got talking about Yorkshire puddings. And about creating different foods. Quick as a flash, Yvonne said: “How about Yorkshire puddings… which actually have a pudding inside them.”

I responded: “Yes, a two-course meal in one”

Yvonne: “Ice cream”

Me: “Cheesecake”

Yvonne: “Tart”

We were laughing as we pictured these combinations.

Now, I’m not saying a traditional Yorkshire Pudding with a sweet dessert inside is going to work. The point is a creative idea, a new idea, emerged from walking and talking.

Who’s to say someone cleverer than me about food could not come up with a ‘sweet’ version of a Yorkshire pudding and start playing with desserts, fruits and flavours to fill it.

The idea came out because we were relaxed. We had no time pressure. We did not dismiss the idea and say as soon as we heard it “How silly, don’t be ridiculous, that could never happen”.

Who’s to say where that conversation might lead to with a little exploration.

Walking has this magical ability.

It’s one of the reasons I offer consultations on copywriting and marketing which involve a walk outdoors… not necessarily in the great outdoors but in the City of York (or nearer to a client’s home if they ┬áprefer).

Imagine having a day or half day where you could talk openly and freely (in total confidence) about you and your business… and get some answers to your marketing or copy challenges.

Away from the office. Away from your inbox. Away from your phone.

Just taking a walk. Taking in the surroundings. Having a chat. Hearing someone listen carefully. Knowing that you would have some answers, ideas and maybe even the perfect solution to what’s holding you back.

Want to know more about that? Just ask.


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