Why We Need Time to Think and Reflect

While visiting Sacramento, CA, this week (where I was inducted into California’s Hall of Fame), I had the opportunity to speak with two great public servants. One Democrat. One Republican. Both men who I deeply admire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and George Shultz (former U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Labor… I mean, wow), are two men who have seen a lot and done even more. They are gracious and generous in sharing words of wisdom.

We had a wonderful conversation about politics (yes, we did). We spoke about our country, our new president-elect, about the value of experience, about the power of words and about the danger of empty threats.

But what struck most during our conversation, and what I wanted to share, was that both of these men spoke to me separately about how important it has been throughout their careers and lives to allocate uninterrupted time in their busy days. Uninterrupted time to think, to be, and to reflect. Both of them went on to explain how difficult it is to safeguard that time, but also how critical it has been to their thinking and their ability to create and lead.

I loved that simple, but profound advice. No matter how busy you are, carve out time in your day to think. To be calm. To reflect. To be present.

I’m grateful that they both mentioned that advice to me right before I went to the Hall of Fame ceremony because it helped me stay present. It helped me stay in the moment. It allowed me to take in what was actually happening in my life at that moment.

As I sat on the stage looking out, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude to my parents, gratitude to my family, and gratitude to all who have helped me in my life. There are so many people who have helped me, and who continue to help me in so many ways. Being present also allowed me to take in the love that I felt was, and is, there for me in my life. I didn’t push it away like I might have done in the past. I let it in and it felt beautiful.

It was a moment in my life I will never forget because I was present for it. When I went back to my hotel that night, I made a vow to myself. I promised to create more empty space in my days. More time to think. To dream. To be calm. To just be, so that I can be more present in my own life.

I think we are at a unique moment in our fast-paced, ever-changing world. I think our world needs us all to be more present in it. To be calmer. To be more reflective. More creative.

I think all of us could take a beat before we react to every tweet, every post and every conversation. I think our national discourse and our personal discourses are in need of the same things: Breathing space. Thinking space. Presence.

If we each made an effort to carve that out in our daily lives, I have no doubt that our interactions with one another would be different. I have no doubt that we would see different things, hear different things, and realize different things. I have no doubt that we would show up in our lives in a different way, speak up in a different way and perhaps move our country forward together in the way that we all say we want to do.

So, I’m going to take the advice of two great public servants who have worked across the aisle, and who continue to work to make the world a more conscious, more collaborative, and more caring place. They are men of ideas, men of thought… and busy men who make time to not be busy.

That’s something worth thinking about.

About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Like her page on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

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