Friday 8 October 2021

Adrenaline or peace?...

A few conversations this week have got me asking myself questions about the role of adrenaline in our lives, and our response to it.

One was a discussion about the component of ease in a Thinking Environment.  A colleague said that adrenaline is always detrimental to good thinking. 

I nodded along: that seemed sensible to me. I have experienced many times the powerful effect of a Thinking Environment, not least that component of ease, in helping me to think deeply and (of course) wisely about difficult or complex issues.

But on reflection I am not so sure. It's that word always that bothers me.  I tend to be wary of absolute statements, as I actually believe in absolutes...  

So I am wondering about the role of adrenaline in the context of physical emergencies or crises. I think firefighters, soldiers etc may well need the advantages that adrenaline offers as they go into action, and wonder if it is true that the price they pay for that is cognitive impairment.

Other conversations included issues like needing to be busy to feel as though you are accomplishing anything, or to keep the demons of rumination at bay. 

Here I reflect on the Eisenhower (Urgency/Importance) grid, and how many people spend a lot of time dealing with urgent issues (almost regardless of importance) at the expense of important issues that are not (or not yet) urgent.  In my thinking (and indeed experience) dealing with Important issues before they are urgent, by deliberate planning and choice, is a route to peace.  

Which raises the interesting question, are some people uneasy with peace? Is it too boring? Whereas adrenaline-stimulating crises are certainly interesting.  Which reminds me of something I wrote some years ago: working to a tight deadline triggers a release of adrenaline, (the fight or flight response), followed shortly afterwards by cortisol (which focuses us on the immediate crisis and therefore inhibits serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine). That results in us feeling lack-lustre, so we need more adrenaline to feel alive again.

I will continue to reflect on this (though not, I trust, ruminate) as I think I still have unanswered questions.  Fortunately, my job as coach doesn't require me to have the answers, just some great questions to get people thinking.


With thanks to Fabian Jones for sharing this photo on Unsplash

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