The world is awash with data. In an average day we each consume sixteen hard drives worth of information. That’s a lot of emails, texts and google searches. Met with all this global-breaking news, how to get anywhere, anytime and instantaneous answers to our questions you’d think we humans would be evolving into a planet of efficient achievers. Sadly not. Our brains are busier than ever and the cognitive cost is huge. As neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin, explains, “Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.”
Scrambled thinking? You bet. Who hasn’t found of late that decisions in life and business are lacking in a-day-at-the-beach appeal? But while information overload can’t be beaten by turning the clock back, our ancestors can teach us a thing or two about decision making in the face of it.
Enter: the indigenous peoples of Oceania. Fifteen hundred years ago the peoples of Oceania used listening to become master navigators. No, really — listening.
They’d lay on the bottom of their canoes to read the current, touch the temperature of the water to decipher how close they were to land, and feel for which way the wind swept their hair. Without the aid of compasses or maps, these acts of deep listening helped them travel thousands of miles in canoes with the same design and technology used in the Stone Age. The lesson here: the more you use all of your senses to acutely listen to your own inner and outer environment, the more you can read patterns and ultimately see around the corners of your life to make the decisions you need to make. Some call this intuition. I call it listening turned up a notch.
“Our ancestors can teach us a thing or two about decision making.”
So, start today. Start now. Look up from this screen and take in the environment around you for five seconds.
Now close your eyes. With your eyes still closed, recall what you observed. This exercise and many like it from my book, The Charisma Code: Communicating in a Language Beyond Words, can increase your auditory and visual “listening” skills, helping you navigate through today’s rough seas of information.