2017 UPDATE: This was the first post ever I ever wrote for this blog (all the way back in March 2011). It marked the beginning of a journey of deep thinking about what I truly wanted in life, which ultimately brought me complete financial and location freedom and a dream career as an author. In late 2013, I wrote and published my first book, Mini Habits, which is now in 17 languages! My other books, How to Be an Imperfectionist and Mini Habits for Weight Loss are constant bestsellers. My books have changed thousands of readers’ lives! If not for this blog and this post, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but it wouldn’t be as satisfying as my career now. Maybe this post will read differently now that you know what deep thinking did for me.
Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
We all think, but not all of us think deeply, which is thinking beyond what your mind defaults to. This is a problem. Can you guess why?
Deep thinking is how we increase our number of valuable and useful thoughts. Your quantity of valuable thoughts has a direct effect on your quantity of valuable actions. And great lives are made by taking valuable action.
But the number one reason that people don’t think hard is because it is hard.
Deep Thinking is Work
It’s not just because the infinite number of possible thoughts and ideas can overload your processor (i.e. brain). I have heard it said that the typical human will lose focus every 10 seconds. If you decide to think about a single topic, you will need to refocus continually to do it successfully.
This is what makes thinking difficult – you must consciously decide at each 10 second interval whether or not to continue thinking about the topic. If you don’t make a decision, the default decision is to lose your focus. Yes, I literally just had to refocus. If you’re not alert, you will move on to something else.
A great thinking exercise to try: find a peaceful area with no distractions and choose an important topic that you’d like to think about. Bring a time-keeping device and think about that topic for 10 minutes, uninterrupted.
Success will depend on each person, as attention spans are greatly varied. So start out with 10 minutes, see if you can do it, and take it from there. If you fall into the average statistic of losing focus every 10 seconds, you will have successfully refocused 60 times!
You might be surprised at the ideas you come up with and just how difficult it is to focus constantly.
Written in 2009
I can hear the smooth purr of the air conditioner in the silence of my room. I like silence because it is conducive to thinking, and I’m in love with thinking. My thoughts take me to new possibilities. Goals, dreams, and amazing ideas can be formed in a single moment just by deep, focused thinking. Thinking is also how we make these dreams reality.
In August 2008, I left the USA for the first time. I went to Ireland by myself and stayed for 4 days. It was a defining experience for me and the beginning of a dream to travel the world. It was so special because until that point I could only muse passively on the glories of international travel. I was able to visit Ireland because I thought about what I wanted to do and how to do it (research, work, save, etc. all the way up to purchasing a plane ticket and reserving a hostel in Dublin). The dream continued the next year when I spent a month in Germany with two of my closest cousins. It would have been EASY not to think about how it could be done and just assume that I’d go these places someday. Someday is how dreams stay dreams.
A New Way of Life
What if we thought about who we wanted to be and how to get there? What if we thought of possibilities before we’re hit with the consequences? What if we calculated the outcomes of different lifestyles and compared them to our desired outcomes? What if we did it all with great persistence?
Too often we drift towards a pre-determined mold laid out for us by society. Society says if you’re in this situation, do this. Deep thinking allows us to choose what situation we’re in in the first place, and then helps us to decide what is truly best for us once we’re there.
As a child, I was put into a school system that did not teach me how to think freely and deeply, but rather to memorize these dates and follow these steps. We are so much more capable than that!
I’m not advocating detailed plans that map out an entire lifetime, for these plans will be shattered once “life happens.” General values, direction, specific goals, well-thought-out lifestyles and diets, and other important things are what I’m speaking of. The more you think about your life, the fewer unpleasant surprises you’ll experience.
Deep thought compels us to be accountable to our values (by uprooting inconsistencies) and propels us towards our dreams. Do not do what the world expects you to do. Do the things that thinking, planning, research, and your own judgment tell you to do. Cut out the distractions for a little while and think about (deep) thinking to see if it is something worth investing your time into.
You already know what I think.