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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

You’re not a machine: how to stay human (and sane) in a tech world

I started noticing the seasons.

After a couple of years of working for myself I was noticing the seasons more. When I worked full time in an office or hospital, all I’d notice was whether it was light or day when I was entering or leaving the building.

For most of our human evolution, we’ve worked seasonally. Since the industrial revolution, electricity and factory lines meant we could work around the clock.

Now with computers, phones and mobile gadgets (company iPad anyone?) you can be connected to something constantly…

It never sleeps…

Information never sleeps.

It’s a constant stream. And it’s free…

Over the industrial revolution we’ve transitioned from exploiting human physical labour to human cognitive labour. Instead of mining ores, we mine data.

But solving complex 21st century problems requires that we drop unrealistic expectations of machine-like productivity and enable the rhythms of genius-like creativity.

Machines can process continuously given the power supply.

Humans need time and space to think their best thoughts. It’s usually during rest, play or time in nature that the genius idea comes through, not while you’re hyper-focused on information.

Genius is nurtured in cycles

Change is messy. Genius is messy. And it happens in cycles. (Your brainwaves change when you have a flash of insight).

You can get stuck by misidentifying which part of the cycle you’re in.

Toxic work cultures not only blur the distinction between phases of natural cycles of human activity but also ignore these cycles altogether – to the detriment of healthy human functioning.

Toxic work cultures create a sense of having to be constantly switched on and ready to deliver. No time for rest or play while at work.

One part of the cycle I often guide my clients to work with is the last part: receiving. It gets skipped so often in order to jump straight into a new project. But it deprives you of true gold.

[Read on or watch the video]

Learning to receive

Receiving as an activity was an important part of our social rituals in the past. Celebrations around the summer harvest were all about that.

The end of a project or job is a time to receive.

Here are a few activities you can practise in the receiving stage of a work cycle:

  • Being patient: it can take time for action to bear fruit after you’ve completed something. Don’t jump straight into the next thing. The ability to sit in the unknown while sensing for the next possibility is a forgotten art. It takes time and it’s key to genius.

  • Celebrating: it’s important to feel joy and gratitude for what has already been accomplished and how far you’ve come, no matter where you’ve arrived.

  • Letting go/grieving: whenever a cycle is complete, some things will be gone - resources used, opportunities, relationships that formed for the duration of the project, hopes that weren’t fulfilled. It’s OK. Give the process space.

  • Integrating lessons learned: whatever happened, you’ll have learned something and gained new insights from any mistakes and successes. That’s gold. In the end, it’s not really technology or even the constant availability of information that’s at fault. You just have to remember to work with natural human rhythms to enable your spark of genius and boost productivity without the burnout. I believe that’s why transformational (rather than goal-focused) coaching works so well.

It treats you like a human being.

Have a great week,


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Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi is an international Executive Coach. If you're a deep thinking professional or leader and would like help growing your influence, affluence and leadership impact on your own terms and in your own time, let's have a conversation. I offer one-to-one coaching, group coaching and transformational workshops in person and online. To discuss your unique situation and vision email to receive an assessment questionnaire and book a time to speak. For more information visit We look forward to hearing from you.

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