This year I am attempting to learn, create, and achieve more than I’ve done in previous years. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning about optimal performance is the importance of eliminating inefficiencies. Asking myself “what can I do without?” has been a very useful question for me. Every day I’m discovering new ways to save minutes or hours simply by challenging myself to think critically about the relationship between my priorities and what I’m doing in the present moment.
Typically, when I think about increasing personal productivity, I focus on minimizing tangible or measurable activities like the number of times I allow myself to check Facebook or how much time I allow for television. But today, after spending some time doing my morning meditation, I’ve discovered the possibility of giving something up that I believe will radically change my life: the need to have an opinion. What I mean by that, is the need to spend time, energy, or words making judgments about how other people structure their lives when I’m not in a position to do anything practical about it. In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to attention as “psychic energy.” I love this phrase because it helps me think about the quality of my thoughts in a more concrete way. I’m very conscious of how I use space and time, but how much of my psychic energy do I waste on silly things like judging the way another person uses twitter, or worrying about the amount of time another person spends playing video games, or fretting over who’s judging me? How much more focused, self-aware, educated, and productive can I be if I choose to become more protective of my psychic energy, if I choose to reserve my “thought-forces,” so to speak, for creating rather than criticizing?
There seems to be an endless supply of people and practices that make us want to swoop down from the heavens and save the world with our righteous opinions about how wrong this or that is. Most of those moments don’t even matter. Most of them are just a trick, an illusion, a distraction that dilutes our focus and hinders our ability to do the kinds of things that produce real change. It’s easy to feel like a person of intelligence or integrity when you’re attacking or questioning someone else’s intelligence or integrity. And while there may be a time and place for such things, I think I’m going to spend the bulk of my time in places where I can do other things. I’ve decided that the realization of my potential is a necessity. Hence, I’m compelled to regard the practice of having an opinion about everything as a luxury item I simply cannot afford.