I subscribe to the notion that “what you think about” – on a very meta level – determines how you make decisions. This is obvious to most people, but still nuanced. Controlling what you think about, effectively training and reinforcing your “monkey mind,” is a learned behavior that can be taught and practice. It is natural, I think for humans, to let their minds wander. Wandering is good. But so is control.

And what I seek is control, some times.

Though with control, you get a trade-off. By focusing your mind on certain types of things, you inherently miss out on others. By narrowing your scope, you miss the wide view. By wearing polarized lenses, you miss out on certain colors.

The same is true for how you think about thinking. It sounds abstract, because it largely is, but controlling your filter – effectively what types of ideas you let come into your head is immensely powerful.

Being in control of your head, however wild and obvious that sounds, is hard. Really hard. Maybe it sounds easy…we are our own decision makers? But actually being able to separate influence from your choices. Being able to separate external forces from how you think. Being able to actually become aware of which forces and biases are informing your decisions. That is hard. That is something most people, many people that I have talked to, have never even thought about. I am not saying that everyone should think about these things, do whatever you want, I am just saying that really assessing which forces are influencing your life is one way to gain back control.

So why care about control?

Control is valuable because it allows you to make choices based off things you care about.

This again sounds obvious. But it is not. And I would bet that most people – myself included – have far less control than we would want to believe.

Without control, we are not purposeful. I do not want to confuse being purposeful with knowing the future. Purposeful is different than planning.

Purposeful just means you make decisions with intent, in the moment, using the information you have.

Future planning is analyzing what if scenarios about possible cases for how your decision will end up and choosing the best one. That works for some people. And perhaps slightly for me.

But what I far prefer is actually just living. And living with purpose. And actually just being interested in things I am curious about. By doing that, I find myself thinking in a natural means. I think about what I want to think about, and I am aware of why I want to think about these things.

That, in itself, is weird. I am sure anyone – could – do this. But why would you care to?

Control is a valuable resource. You control your attention. Or so you think.

You lose control by signing up for Facebook, subscribing newsletters, and reading this blog. You lose control by having friends, working somewhere, etc.

But lose is the wrong word.

You TRADE control for things. You trade your attention span for entertainment. For money. For consumption.

It is a trade-off.

One that many of us make uninformed and without recognition of the transaction.

If we cannot see that we just spent our most precious resource on a thing, time, etc.

Also published on Medium.