Monday, January 10, 2011

Opportunity Cost of a Thought

A reflection from meditation:

Nowadays we are commonly encouraged to 'think outside the box'. But how do you actually do that? The mind is not a file cabinet. It's a distributed system, the original cloud computer. Discovering a solution to a problem, coming up with a fresh idea, even recalling a memory, consist of traversing a series of thoughts produced from firing synapse combinations across the brain. Often we get subconsciously attached to a certain thought-path. No matter how hard you bang your head on the wall, you cannot consider other possibilities. You can't make a breakthrough, and the old thought becomes a round peg for a square hole. Getting nowhere, the thought becomes stale. This is the opportunity cost of a thought.

In order to approach things from a new angle, you must necessarily let go of the old thought-path to make room. You have to purify, cleanse the mind, start from a clean slate. You have to first untangle the knot of yarn to start knitting a new sweater. And this requires practice.

Understanding the opportunity cost of our old thought-patterns is relevant for cultivating a service mindset. The other day I went to a party alone, and I didn't know anyone there but the hosts. In the same scenario with an old thought-pattern, I would have concluded that being there was a waste of time, sulked into a corner of the room, and been bored. But in this case I realized I could do something. I helped put away some dirty plates, and discreetly picked up some trash. Then I went around the party snapping pictures, planning on putting together a small report on the event for a friend who couldn't be there but really wanted to. So in that way I made something out of nothing.

The first step to moving forward in a new direction is retreating from the old.


  1. Reading your blog really enjoyable.. it's like going through spring cleaning for the soul.. :)