Food for Thought

Have you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of the phrase, ‘food for thought’?

Up until writing this piece, I certainly had not.

Swiping through old photos of produce grown in our old garden, the words popped into my head.

The phrase apparently originates from ‘A Tale of Paraguay’ by author Robert Southey published in the early 1800s. And means something worth thinking seriously about; anything that gives your reason to stop and ponder.

In our hyper-connected, hyper-critical world it can be a challenge to take time to reflect and think more deeply on important aspects. It can also be a temptation to think too long and too deeply about what might not really matter.

Self-awareness is at the heart of our ability to communicate, work together, build healthy relationships; to influence and engage. Because knowing yourself better means you are…

  • able to leverage what you have more effectively
  • able to spot gaps and areas for development
  • more open to learning, ideas and the voices of others
  • more empathetic and recognise that everyone is different

Yet excessive introspection, especially on areas which may not be relevant or helpful, might have the opposite effect.

Leading to you inadvetently painting negative, limiting pictures of yourself, other people and the world around you.

Take for example the work of Tasha Eurich, PhD who found that the quality of insights from, and consequent impact, of introspection can be linked to the type of questions you are asking yourself.

‘What?; versus ‘why?’

For example, changing ‘why am I feeling like this?’ to ‘what am I feeling right now?’ gives a sense of potential and curiosity rather than tempting any negative self-reinforcement.

I am an advocate of positive self-reflection because it helps you reflect on experiences, feelings, interactions and aspirations in a way which encourages you to…

  • be honest about achievements and challenges
  • see relationships and interactions with others from their perspective too
  • embrace gaps as special opportunity pockets

And incorporating ‘what’ questions can help you to adopt a more positive, proactive stance.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘why’ questions still have their place.

It might be they are not always your starting point for questioning. Especially on the subject of feelings, emotions and relationships.

‘What do I feel?’ leads to a more honest pragmatic assessment. The insights captured can then be used to help you move forward and grow.

‘Why do I feel this way?’ can lead you down a negative rabbit-hole. With little knowing or growing taking place.

In our hyper-connected, hyper-critical world, making time for positive self-reflection can mean saying goodbye to skewed self-absorption and hello to strong self-awareness.

And that is definitely food for thought.

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