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I was in a conversation with a couple of dozen people attending where everyone was responding to a serious question. Everyone responded reasonably and the conversation flowed beautifully and at considerable personal depth. I was approximately the twelfth person in the round robin and when it came my time to speak I went off on a totally personal interpretation of the original question. I went to what seemed to me to be the end result of all the other ideas when they were thought through to the very end. That is … “What are you going to do now? and what are you doing right NOW!?” Quite often I do that in an open-ended situation.

From my perspective, all the conversation and thinking about the various issues and the various viewpoints and spins on the issues is reasonable and needs to be done, but the real problem is the physical result, the real world of physical action as opposed to the airy world of words. Of course, a personal change can be made from discussing an idea, but I think that unless there is some physical activity the words probably are not going to sink in. If the words are not converted to some real action within a short time, probably well within twenty-four hours maximum, they vanish into the vast vacuum of time and space of spoken words. And, as Hamlet says at the end of his famous soliloquy on suicide, “lose the name of action.

Perhaps it is possible for a person to rehearse their future actions right there, while in the conversation, but I suspect that means much more than just saying the words, like “I’m not going to be an inconsiderate person anymore.” Even less likely to change one’s future behavior is to think, “This doesn’t apply to me because I’m not mean.” When that idea flows through one’s consciousness it’s because they are considering their past actions to be a fair response to some other person’s behavior. “I’m not being mean; I’m just being fair and defending myself.”

The mental activity that might be effective even while sitting in a group is to remember some very recent event, even a current one, and to mentally rehearse it and, when you come to the place where your behavior might have been better, to, as clearly as possible, insert the better word or action. To be effective this procedure should probably be done at least three times, so the new reaction might at least start to become a habit. Between each of these mental rehearsals, there could be a deep breath and a complete rehashing of the rehearsal including the preceding prompts. This whole procedure, three times through, could be done in under a minute, but it would require disconnecting from the ongoing conversation during the mental rehearsals, and during that time you wouldn’t be present, and that isn’t being fair to your interlocutors. In a large group where the conversation no longer concerns you, it would be okay to tune out and think about other things. Another good time to think through these kinds of situations is when walking alone back to your next situation.

When you have a period of time to think about things, think about things.