“Being alone with their own thoughts for more than 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”
Apparently, many people would choose to shock themselves just to avoid the trouble of significant introspection. The above is a quote from a joint study conducted by Harvard University and the University of Virginia investigating the ability to sit alone and think.
Researchers asked participants to spend approximately 15 minutes doing nothing but thinking, both in a room at the lab and in their own homes.
About 50% of the participants said they did not enjoy the time, many reported a difficulty concentrating, and about 1/3 of those at home reported checking their phones or computers.
To investigate this aversion to introspection further, investigators asked participants if they would pay to avoid an electric shock. Most said that they would, but, after being put in a quiet room for 15 minutes, two-thirds of the male participants and one quarter of the female participants self-administered the electric shock, presumably out of boredom. Apparently, a lack of other external stimuli forced them to result to electricity.
Is the “Sharing Economy” Making Introspection More Difficult?
We live in an extroverted world, and our brains are now accustomed to- an even crave- a slew of stimuli- the buzzing of our smartphones, the images on our computer screen, the ding of our emails, the GIFs, the glow of the television, the music, the hum of conversation, the constant feedback of social media… you get the picture.
All of this sharing can be very helpful, of course. There is a danger, though, of relying too much on external, social stimulation and ignoring the value of our own internal dialogue, or even forgetting how to hold such a dialogue. Introspection is not flashy.
It is not a team activity or a group project. It’s not something that you broadcast or share. And, in today’s extroverted “sharing economy,” the sort of isolation required for introspection can feel more than a little bit alien.
The Importance of Introspection in the MBA Admissions Process
As meaningful as social sharing can be, it is our introspections that can and should give the most meaning to our external world. Introspection is the foundation of what I do as an MBA admissions consultant.
EXPARTUS’s signature personal branding process is based on the articulation of applicants’ innermost values, influences and aspirations. Often, you must peel back several layers to discover those truths.
We have all grown up with many other voices telling us how we ought to live, from the voices of law and government, to the teachings of a particular religion, to the beloved voices of our family and friends, to the clamor of social media, movies, television and the Internet.
Some of these voices are constructive; others can be destructive. All of this external noise, though, can too quickly distract us from our own internal voice- a guiding voice that is both essential and easily lost. When I ask my clients to do some introspection, all I am asking them to do is listen to this internal voice.
Take some time (after reading this blog!) to turn away from external voices. Close your computer. Put away your phone- I promise those texts will still be there when you get back. Turn off the music and the television. Take a walk, or write in a journal, or simply sit quietly. Please don’t shock yourself. Instead, ask yourself these crucial questions.
- What drives you?
- What matters to you?
- What makes you unique?
- What do you love?
- What is important to you?
- What is unimportant?
- What has driven your decisions?
- What are your dreams?
- What are your talents?
And then, listen. Listen to your own internal voice. The most effective MBA applicants are self-aware enough to answer these questions in a precise and articulate manner. In fact, I would argue that such self-awareness is the mark of effective adults in general.
Taking introspection seriously will give you the best possible foundation for your MBA admissions strategy, and for future success.
If you are clearly attuned to your own internal voice, you can communicate your uniqueness to others. You can be guided by the voices of the world without being overwhelmed by them.
You can listen and learn and grow- and share to your heart’s content- while being secure in your own identity. This security can be a life raft, especially in a digital world where identities are easily projected, easily changed, and often in flux.