In her books Time to Think[1] and More Time to Think [2] Nancy Kline describes the extraordinary results that arise when we create an environment in which people can think for themselves, with the quiet attentiveness and respect of those around them. She describes how, when people are respectfully supported to make their own authentic decisions, their capacity to heal, to live fully and to change the world, both as individuals and collectively, are all greatly enhanced. Working in a Thinking Environment™ creates the highest quality outcomes. Listening to each other with respect and without interruption is key to its success. In a Thinking Environment™ everyone matters.

Listening to conform

How different is this from the usual run of events? From birth onwards, we are continually defined and re-defined by those around us. We take on labels: ‘clever’, ‘naughty’, ‘quiet’, ‘attention-seeking’, ‘ugly’ which feed back to us a picture of how others decide to see us. We choose our future based on others’ sometimes biased advice, get the ‘right’ qualifications, meet our partners and take on adult roles, ‘accountant’, ‘teacher’, ‘sales executive’, ‘administrator’, ‘director’, ‘partner’, ‘parent’, all of which create expectations and lay down markers for us and others about who we apparently are.

The downside of this is our tendency to believe to a greater or lesser extent that we are the label or the role. At worst, we give over responsibility for ourselves, and our life outcomes, to experts and professionals who may be only too ready to think for us. How much better is it if we take our decisions from a combination of good factual information from the experts, combined with our own inner wisdom, in the full awareness that the responsibility for our life is ours, not theirs?[3]

Listening to hear

It sometimes takes a perceptive challenge from someone else to get us started on the journey towards taking charge of our own identity and life’s work – of ‘thinking for ourselves’. I was once asked why I had to hide behind my CV.  That question pulled me up sharp.

I had treated my career parth as evidence that I wasn’t the failure my bullying boss implied. It was only when I listened to that challenge and thought about the answer that I was able to start listening to my own promptings about what fulfilment meant for me.

Listening to understand

The answer was paradoxical and liberating. After half a career spent demonstrating to my inner critic that I was a capable, competent professional, fulfilment has come through translating that experience of being bullied into a blueprint for recovery from loss of balance.

It’s simple really: No-one should have to take years to rediscover their self-esteem. A negative self-image spills out into every encounter. Learning to listen to your own true voice, to find and use your strengths, to live according to your deepest values, these are the keys to recovering your balance. And they’re essential if you’re to fulfil your potential.

Listen to your answers to these questions:

  • Where do you find space and support to think for yourself?
  • Who listens to you and affirms you without imposing their agenda?
  • How do you block your inner wisdom?

[1] Kline, Nancy, Time to Think, Ward Lock,

[2] Kline, Nancy, More Time to Think, Fisher King Publishing, 2009

[3] See Kline, Nancy, Time to Think, Ward Lock, p 202

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