Robert Poynton
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Social intellectual physical reflective

December 6, 2011 – 2 min read


Imagine you divide your day into four kinds of activity:

–      intellectual or cognitive (like thinking or writing)

–      physical (working out or digging the vegetables)

–      social (not socialising per se but interacting with others – e.g. meetings)

–      reflective (meditation, yoga, prayer, walking the dog)

How would your day divide up?

My idea is that a balance is important, not just over time (though I am sure that matters too) but within each day. When I watch myself, I realise that I do better thinking when I haven’t been thinking all day. Physical activity calms the mind and helps me help me think (and sleep) better.

Some activities, perhaps the best ones, combine several or all of these categories at once. I don’t play golf myself but I find it easy to imagine that golf has all of these elements. Which is maybe why it is so popular. At the moment we are harvesting the olives here – which is physical, social and reflective (not much intellect involved) and lovely for it.

Most people leading an office bound city life spend most of their time in social activity of some kind, predominantly meetings! The aptly named ‘social’ media, put ever more pressure on time to think (intellectual) and physical activity gets relegated to (twice weekly?) visits to the gym or sport at the weekend. Reflective rarely gets a look in, since it doesn’t count as ‘do-ing’ anything. This imbalance can’t be healthy, for individuals or for society. The leaders I work with often seem to regard reflection as a delightful luxury, yet if they are making significant decisions, surely it ought to be a daily necessity?

I first drew up this idea (as a four box grid, of course) about a decade ago and still find it a useful compass. It reminds me of the need for a daily variety of activity and of how easily I get locked into one mode.

One of the things I adore about living in a rural area is that the reflective is much more to hand (all you have to do is look up at the mountains or the stars). And physical activity is woven into things – so much needs mending or tending, harvesting or feeding. I wonder if there is some way to weave the physical (and for that matter the reflective) into city life, so that it doesn’t become yet another thing on the to do list….. (take all the escalators out of the tube perhaps?).


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