to disconnect or not disconnect…or do we even have a choice?

While I was working in San Francisco last week, I looked up from my own smart phone to see a everyone around me was hunched over too. Their faces were lit by the glow of their own device.  Lost in distant conversations, music, blogs or whatever proposal or memo was mission critical at 7 pm that night, I almost wondered out loud…when do we just turn it all off.

As many of my American friends were talking about looking forward to really unplugging during the  Thanksgiving break the scene around me gave me serious pause. If an alien walked in, they could almost assume we were in a strictly run factory toiling away on our devices. In actual fact we were business people, speeding along in a comfortable rail and far removed from that reality. in the end I’m not sure if they were playing the latest game or working on an important email coordinating for a pending meeting. It was obvious is that their minds were working. And working overtime.

I am not debating here the value of gaming to our cognitive process or the importance of being able to catch up on work out of the office. Nor am I calling for us to “smash the machines.” New tech allows me to have meetings from anywhere. It’s amazing.

What this scenario did do is make me reflect. Specifically reflect on my own choice of always being connected. I use “choice” lightly as I feel the urgency to respond to all queries, the social pressure to be a part of my communities all day. However, it does pose the question; how does one clear one’s mind if we keep on slamming more into it?

As I personally struggle with the challenge of starting a new company, raising a young family, finding time with my lovely wife and all the other social and economic pressures around me; I too get caught up in the battle to stay a head. But at what cost? A train car full of people could have meant a new friend.

Stephen Covey writes “Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

I took a page from his writing and chose to take time for myself. I shut down my devices. The train ride was a break. It was chance to clear my mind to focus and connect with my own thoughts. In the end it was a good thirty minute cerebral cleansing. I felt refreshed and ready for more meetings. What about change and technological evolution? Well as they say Rome wasn’t  built in a day…that remains a work in progress.

So I go back to my title” To disconnect or not disconnect…or do we even have a choice?”. The problem just may have been we never even contemplated the  question.

I hope that everyone in the US enjoyed a happy and perhaps unplugged during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Originally published on Linkedin.