Modern life in the 21st century is rich with many possible experiences but it is also very demanding. There is so much to do, so much to take care of and so much to achieve. Almost all of us feel exhausted most of the time.
There is a Russian proverb that goes like “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
You have to focus on one thing at a time.
There can be only one thing that occupies your mind at any given point in time. Especially when you have free time. Paul Graham calls it, the top idea in your mind. What you think about most of the time will have more solutions and results in real life – because you are thinking about it all the time.
You might think you know what is the top idea in your mind, but it could be something else. The best way to find out the top idea in your mind is to check where your thoughts are gravitating towards when you are in the shower.
If you think you should be investing all your time, energy, and money in the growth and success of your career at this point in your life, but if you observe that your thoughts are drifting towards some other things in your life, then you have to do something about it.
You cannot control directly what’s on the top of your mind, but you can control it indirectly. If you eliminate all the unimportant things that are at the top of your mind, the most important thing will automatically raise up.
If you are a startup entrepreneur, your startup should be the top idea in your mind, until you get to a stage where your startup can move on its own wheels. If something else is taking up most of your mind-space, either realize what’s your true priority or focus on what you think should be at the top of your mind.
When you succeed and once your startup has gained some momentum, you can focus on other things in your life. You will have the luxury to put something else at the top of your mind, like personal relationships.
Health need not be a thing at the top of your mind if you have installed good habits into your routine. As long as you keep yourself healthy, your health should never be at the top of your mind. It should be the enabler running in the background.
Health, relationships, and money are the three big areas of your life. Focus on only two at a time, one of which is going to be health, because it is non-negotiable. It is the foundation on which your relationships and wealth can be built.
Weed out things in your life that take mind space but will not yield anything useful. If you have unresolved disputes in your life with people, many times, it takes most of your mind space. Some people have regrets about the choices they’ve made in the past. Some people put too much energy into feeding their fears that might be impractical.
There are many useless thoughts that can accidentally, without your conscious awareness, become the top idea in your mind. You will not be able to identify it unless you spend a lot of time with yourself and observe your thoughts. If you discover that you have something at the top of your mind that is not leading to anything useful in the future, then make a strong decision to close that loop.
A broken heart, someone who cheated you, someone, who did the wrong thing and landed you in trouble. You can be forgiving, not because you want to forgive, but because you are selfish. You are choosy about what thoughts you want to let inside your mind. Only ideas that can change your future are worth having at the top of your mind.
There is an opportunity cost when you are putting your mind to something. Always think about that before you hesitate to weed out things from your mind that you think shouldn’t be there. You are not going to change the past by thinking about it.
You should also be careful about what you are signing up for which might change the top idea in your mind. For example, if your startup’s success is the top idea in your mind and you change your city of residence, get into a new relationship or become a parent, then you are going to risk dropping one of the balls.
Multiple things in your life will fight to become the top idea in your mind, and that can tear you apart. It is unhealthy and unproductive to keep switching the top idea in your mind. None of the ideas will get enough attention to get tangible results. Most of the growth in my startup has come from deep thought and keeping one idea as the top idea in my mind.
I have launched 12 training courses so far in the past 2 years and more than 40% of its revenue has come from a single course – the 100-day blogging course. The idea for this course came to me when I was in the shower.
I was able to come up with a new course idea that worked because the top idea in my mind was – “How do I come up with my next course idea that can create great value in the marketing place and help my business grow?”
Pure, unadulterated focus on one problem at a time. Your career needs intensity at continuous intervals. Intensity needs focus. Focus means, you can see only one thing at a time.
So next time you are in the shower, observe where your thoughts are drifting towards. And you will know what is the top idea in your mind. If the top idea in your mind doesn’t help you achieve your dreams, then try to close the loops on other ideas occupying your mind-space.
There is no way to fail with your career if your career becomes the top idea in your mind.
Where attention goes, energy flows. Where energy flows, change happens.