disheartened because my back hurt from sitting so long at the
computer, and since I was writing my book on the computer, it
seemed I had the option of either being in pain, or not working.
But I really wanted to work. That was frustrating.
But it occurred to me I also did lots of
other stuff on the computer, and if I stopped doing those, my
back might not hurt. I tried it and it worked.
I came up with this insight, and most of
the good ones Ive ever come up with, by thinking. Before
you dismiss that as too obvious to even mention, please hear
If you have a problem or difficulty, or
you feel confused, or you just feel like youve been working-working-working
without a break, take some time and do nothing.
Let yourself think about whatever comes
into your mind. Dont just give yourself ten minutes for
this. Go a half hour at least, and preferably longer, because
it takes the mind a little while to settle down. Go for a leisurely
walk through a quiet area, or sit still in a quiet place and
just sit there.
I call it this T5 (for take
the time to think). The following suggestions will make your
1. Take enough time. Imagine you want to tell me something and youre
not sure how to say it, and I repeatedly interrupt you to say,
Come on, come on, I dont have all day! Imagine
what that would be like and you'll realize its hard to
be creative or even intelligible under circumstances like that.
The mind functions better when its not under pressure.
This is just as true with thinking as it is with talking. So
give yourself time to T5. I usually set a timer and make myself
sit there until the timer goes off. That way I dont hurry
myself through it. I know I have plenty of time, and I dont
try to hurry up and think so I can get up sooner.
2. Have paper and pen handy. You will get ideas. Youll think of things
you want to take care of. Write these down so you dont
have to use part of your mind trying to remember something. Youll
often spend almost all of your thinking time writing, and thats
perfectly okay. Writing is an excellent way to think. Thats
why people benefit from journaling. Writing down
your thoughts and feelings is a form of T5 and it is very therapeutic.
But in this case, youre not trying to write a lot (but
youre not preventing yourself from writing a lot). The
purpose of having paper and pen handy is to keep your mind unencumbered
by things you are trying to remember. So if you think, Oh,
I need to pay rent tomorrow, write it down so you free
up your mind. You dont want to use up part of your attention
trying to remember that. Youll also probably get insights
youll want to remember later. Write those down too.
3. T5 in an undistracting environment.
Dont try to think when you
can hear or watch a television or music. If you go for a walk,
walk in the least distracting place you can, preferably through
the woods or across an empty desert or through a quiet neighborhood
where youre not going run into someone you know.
4. Keep it uninterrupted. You know how hard it would be to carry on a conversation
with someone bursting through the door every five minutes to
interrupt? You would keep losing your train of thought. Same
with T5. As the minutes tick by, your mind settles down and begins
to think. Every time youre interrupted, your mind has to
settle down afterward again, sometimes never again finding that
train of thought.
The best way is to sit down in a quiet
place alone. Set your timer for one hour, and just sit there.
Ive done this hundreds of times and it calms me every time.
Stress melts away. It clarifies what Im up to. I solve
problems that have been bothering me in the back of my mind.
Im often surprised that my mind seems
to have a backlog of things to think about. Because I go from
one activity to another and most of them use my mind, I don't
have any time to think about things, so the unthought
things are somehow stashed away for thinking about later. I dont
purposely do this. It just seems to happen by itself.
As soon as I sit down, my mind goes to
work, almost like the maintenance program on my computer. My
computer is set so if it is inactive for 30 minutes, the computer
automatically starts an antivirus scan. The computer has been
waiting for an idle period to clean things up.
The mind seems to be like that too. As
soon as your mind starts to settle down, as soon as it realizes
you're not involved in anything, it starts to clear things up.
Little questions that have been nagging you come to the foreground
and get worked out. It sounds so boring to just sit still for
an hour, but it is very calming to sort things out, figure things
out, think things out. Youll feel wonderfully clearheaded
when youre done.
You might be thinking only the contemplative
type of person would find this enjoyable. Maybe you think only
introspective people can do it. But I'm not an introspective
person at all. Im normally energetic and dislike sitting
still. I have to make myself sit still, but when I do, and when
my mind starts to get past the boredom, good things start happening.
Try it a few times before you make up your mind about it.
BESIEGING A PROBLEM
One way to T5 is just to let your mind
think, without trying to think about anything in particular.
You will find your mind thinking about things you need to think
about, and that works great.
But another good way is to deliberately
concentrate on a specific problem. Often a problem will yield
to sustained and concentrated thinking. More often than not.
of this kind of T5 as a Mongol siege. When Genghis
Khan (no relation) wanted to attack and defeat a walled city,
he would choose a particular section of the city wall and begin
the siege. One third of his army would attack that spot for eight
hours, to be immediately replaced by another third of the army
attacking that same spot for another eight hours, etc. The siege
went on, twenty-four hours a day until the city fell.
And it always fell.
The sheer relentlessness of the Mongol
siege, wrote Brian Tracy, was so devastating that
no city ever withstood it.
If you have a problem or challenge, and
you thought about it and concentrated on it, and you didnt
give up, can you see you would probably find a solution every
And in case you want to accuse me of overstating
my case, let me be clear Im not saying every person can
solve every problem that ever existed. Im not talking about
cold fusion here or ending world hunger. Im talking about
specific problems you have problems that are stumping
you or demoralizing you problems you ran into on the way
to your goal.
If you concentrate your mind on your problem
or challenge, and dont either give up in despair or jump
wildly onto the first idea that pops into your head, but instead
give it some serious, sustained thought, either on a walk or
sitting quietly for an hour or two at a time, can you see you
would probably overcome every obstacle either solving
the problem outright, or finding a way to skirt around it?
Think of this kind of T5 as a Mongol siege.
Be relentless. Keep thinking about it, even after you have already
come up with some good ideas. See if you can think up an even
Heres how to generate ideas to solve
a problem or accomplish a purpose: Make a list on paper. Set
a goal ahead of time for how many ideas youll come up with,
and dont stop until you hit that target. This will prevent
you from stopping with the first good idea. Always try to think
of something better.
Try alternatives in your head to see how
theyd work. A hard-thinking session that didnt produce
a single good idea was still worthwhile. It planted the question
deep in your mind. Coming up with ideas primarily consists of
asking a question over and over no matter how many good answers
youve already gotten.
This is a lot like meditation: Your mind
drifts away and you keep coming back to the question. One of
the most practical, universally applicable principles Ive
ever used is: accumulate quantity and then sort.
First, clarify a problem. Take time on
this first step. Try to define a problem clearly and be very
specific and as accurate as you can. Then generate a list of
possible solutions. Strain your brain on this one. Dont
settle for the few obvious answers that come to mind easily.
Dig. Then pick the best solution. Keep in mind that creativity
and selection are two different functions and need to be separated.
Another directed way to T5 is thinking
about a specific question. If you ever feel stumped when youre
thinking, or you feel that your thinking has become stagnant,
look at the following list of questions and find one youd
like to ponder, or come up with one of your own.
THE PRINCIPLE IS SIMPLE
Take the time to think. Let your mind sort
things out. If you feel upset by something, you can find your
inner peace by taking the time to think. You can just keep thinking
and writing and walking in all your spare time until you are
no longer upset until you either feel fine or feel so
motivated you want to get up and get busy on some of these ideas
youve thought up.
Do you think you dont have time for
this? How much time do you spend watching TV and movies? Can
you take some time from that? A movie usually takes two hours.
That's a big chunk of uninterrupted time.
One of the odd facts about T5 is that it
cant be done lying down. You have to sit up or walk. When
you lie down, your mind switches to a dreaming mode where keeping
your attention on anything in particular becomes difficult, and
you will tend to fall asleep.
I've read a lot about meditation. And one
surprising fact is held in common by all of them Japanese
Zen meditation, Hindu Yoga meditation, American Silva Mind Control
meditation, etc. all of them spend an inordinate amount
of time talking about what seems a very mundane and nit-picky
topic: your posture while meditating. Youre supposed to
keep your back straight, your hands just so, head at such-and-such
an angle. The different kinds of meditation may have different
postures, but they all tell their practitioners very clearly
how to sit. And no matter how different they all seem, they all
aim for an upright, stable posture.
And I've found thats also best for
T5. A slumping, kicking-back posture will make it almost impossible
to remain alert.
TIME-PRESSURE IS UNNATURAL
Time with nothing to do is natural and
necessary for good mental health. Ponder this for a moment: Do
you have a lot of great childhood memories? Does it seem like
you had a lot of fun back then? Have you ever wondered what you
had then that you dont have now?
Think about it. What do you think you had
then that you dont have now that would contribute to having
You know what I think it is? You had time
with nothing to do. And you know what? You didnt want it
or like it, even though it contributed to your happiness.
Just as we have more carbohydrates available to us than
is natural, constantly tempting us with foods we arent
adapted to, our visual and auditory world constantly tempts us
with more stimulation that we have evolved to handle.
Quiet time with nothing happening is the
remedy. Whenever I have spent an hour or more doing this, I have
always ended feeling profoundly calm and relaxed. My mind feels
uncluttered and at peace.
It takes a little while to settle down.
For fifteen minutes, sometimes twenty, your mind will be restless.
You will feel bored. You'll have a craving to do something. But
then your mind will start to relax and sort things out, all by
If you find that after a half hour you
are simply obsessing about a worry and getting nowhere, you can
switch to besieging the problem, concentrating on solving a single
problem (the one that's bothering you the most).
Ive sometimes felt as if Ive
found what everyone is searching for a path to peace of
mind. In the aftermath of my newfound clarity and peace, I want
to tell everyone about this great invention of mine. But of course,
it isnt my invention. It is probably the oldest self-help
method there is.
Take the time to think. Theres nothing
to it. Your mind will naturally do it. The only hard part is
making yourself take the time. And you do have to make yourself.
You always have some work to do, or something you feel you ought
to be doing, or some TV program you want to watch, or any of
a hundred other interesting, appealing things you want to do
besides just sitting there.
Just as we are naturally drawn to eating
sweets, we are naturally drawn to filling our attention with
stimulation. But it is calming to restrain that impulse occasionally.
You know how difficult it is to get anywhere
in a conversation when you are constantly interrupted. The same
is true for dialog with yourself. There are some things you need
to think through, but you are so continuously distracted, youre
accumulating unresolved issues in the back of your mind. I think
this leads to extra stress hormones. Thats probably why
T5 is so calming.
believed that the feeling of being grounded and unfrantic and
deeply peaceful could only come from a religious experience.
But T5 produces it very reliably.
Gandhi, Lincoln, Emerson and many
other (maybe all) great (and wise and accomplished) leaders spent
an unusual amount of time doing nothing but thinking.
Decide ahead of time how long you will
think, and stick to it. I suggest an hour. Do nothing. Dont
knit or whittle or floss your teeth. Make brief notes, and nothing
When should you T5? Whenever you feel unmotivated
about your goal. When you dont know what to do next. When
you feel confused, anxious, depressed, frustrated, or unclear.
T5 can bring you peace of mind, but what
does that have to do with motivation? When you solve a problem,
you increase your motivation. The problem was an obstacle on
your way to your goal, and you solved it. When things are nagging
you in the back of your mind, things you need to think through,
it brings you down. When you clear them up, you feel better,
and that helps you feel more motivated.T5 is really a core activity,
the key, the secret. Purposefulness is clarified by thinking.
Optimism is attained in thought. You can have what you want in
life (peace of mind, successful accomplishment, great relationships)
if you take time to think often enough.
Do you want peace of mind? Clarity? A feeling
of being grounded and centered? A feeling of certainty about
what youre doing? A clear sense of direction? All you have
to do is take the time to think.
This is the sixth of seven principles of