July 21, 2010

Ambient Thought

Paul Graham describes the importance of what he calls your “top idea.”

I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That’s the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they’re allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it.

You can’t directly control where your thoughts drift. If you’re controlling them, they’re not drifting. But you can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into. That has been the lesson for me: be careful what you let become critical to you.

As a friend of mine once advised me, don’t get good at something you don’t want to do.

The Top Idea in Your Mind  [via]

July 09, 2010

The benefits of being without goals

In a test of creativity, a researcher discovered an unexpected advantage in subjects with willingness rather than willfulness:

Psychologist Ibrahim Senay of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign figured out an intriguing way to explore intention, motivation and goal–directed actions. Senay did this by exploring self–talk — that voice in your head that articulates what you are thinking, spelling out your options and intentions. Senay thought that self–talk might be a tool for exerting the will — or being willing.

It is the difference between “Will I do this?” and “I will do this.” [Q]uestions by their nature speak to possibility and freedom of choice. Meditating on them might enhance feelings of autonomy and intrinsic motivation, creating a mind–set that promotes success.

People with wondering minds completed significantly more anagrams than did those with willful minds. In other words, the people who kept their minds open were more goal–directed and more motivated than those who declared their objective to themselves.

Setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive.

From Scientific American  [via]

July 04, 2010

Productivity vs. Creativity

Keeping busy is not your most important activity:

My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These “wasted” moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.

They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They're the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.

Getting things done and knowing what to do are different problems.

From the Harvard Business Review.