I do almost all of my writing for this blog in the morning. For whatever reason, thinking clearly in the evening (at least clear enough for writing) feels impossible for me. Once I have gone through an entire day, once I have spent my mental capital at work, listened to podcasts, and had dozens of conversations with colleagues, friends, and family, my brain can’t quite focus and think about what it wants to say about a given topic in a coherent way. At a certain point at night, I am completely unable to string together clear and coherent thoughts. It is certainly not a time where I am going to have great insights, and probably not a great time for me to make big decisions.
Many, though certainly not all of us, share this type of pattern. There is something about sleeping and unplugging for several hours that allows us to return to our thoughts and ideas from the day or night before with more clarity. I have noticed many times that jumbled, cloudy thoughts seem more organized in the mornings, the connections between disparate pieces coming out more profoundly in the morning than at night. Decisions, and my resolve to commit to decisions, are much more clear in the mornings as well. What seemed like only binary choices become full of possibilities I had not recognized nor considered before, and making a choice to stick to is simpler when my brain has had less stuff to manage for a day.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Lord of the Rings, King Theoden’s brain apparently works the same as mine. while traveling and preparing for a battle, Theoden reached a point where he recognized his weariness and need to rest before making a decision and planning for future clashes. He said, “In the morning counsels are best, and night changes many thoughts.” Sleeping and getting some rest helped him to think differently about what choices he had to make and about the things he had observed. The night helped him develop new perspectives and become more considerate and insightful.
The quote from The Lord of the Rings makes me think about all the times I have made decisions while camping or traveling late at night. The decisions are never good and I usually get tired of making nuanced decisions and just decide for the future to do whatever feels easiest in the moment. We should postpone decisions while camping or traveling when our minds are exhausted at the end of the day. Sometimes the best we can do is say, “we need to sleep now and we can make a final decision on this thing in the morning.” For me, that would have certainly saved myself and the people I was traveling with a lot of headaches and given us back a bit more time for sleep. We should be like King Theoden and recognize that we won’t be able to process nuances at night, so rather than endlessly stating challenges and obstacles to decisions that need to be made, we should do nothing, and sleep before we make a hasty decision.