“Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.” – Jim Rohn.
How do you feel about the way you’re living your life right now?
Are you responsible?
Do you put effort into getting things done?
Do you pay attention to the daily tasks required of you?
I’m sure you can confidently say yes to all three. Unfortunately, you can be extremely responsible and be extremely out of touch with what you really want.
As always try to do in my writing, I’m posing questions, not passing judgment.
Are you majoring in minor things?
Could your life benefit from a bird’s eye view perspective?
A team at Harvard conducted an experiment unearthing the idea of selective attention:
Selective attention is the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time. Attention is a limited resource, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what really matters.
They showed participants a video in which six people-three in white shirts and three in black shirts-pass basketballs around. The researchers told the participants to keep a silent count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts.
After participants carefully watched the video, they were asked a question.
Did you see the gorilla?
In the same video, a man in a gorilla suit casually walked through the game, looked at the camera, and beat his chest.
Half of the participants didn’t notice the gorilla at all.
They were so focused on the minute task they didn’t see something as glaring and obvious as a man in a gorilla suit.
This experiment provides a metaphor for life.
What’s your gorilla? What are you not paying attention to because of what you constantly focus on?
Major and minor things are all relative depending on your situation.
Do you focus on your work so much you’re deteriorating your marriage?
Are you finding yourself in survival mode with your finances career when you could pay attention to changing careers?
Do the daily tasks you spend so much energy on need as much attention as you give them?
We can all succumb to ‘running on the hamster wheel.’
We run as fast as we can. The wheel spins and spins.
All the while, there is no cage surrounding the wheel, just open land of opportunity. But we don’t see these opportunities because we must run and earn our little pellets — things we don’t need, job position titles we don’t care about, Jones’s we hate yet want to keep up with.
It’s time to zoom out and look at the big picture.
The philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, “All of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit alone in a room and think.”
Have you ever sat alone without distractions and truly thought about how you’re living?
You can find great answers sitting alone in deep thought, but before you get there, you’ll have to sit with the discomfort of the truth.
…the truth you may have been wasting time on minor things for years.
…the truth you’ve been trying to muffle your desire’s voice with toys.
…or the truth that if you don’t do something soon, you’ll never do anything.
We avoid our uncomfortable realities by focusing on (relatively) insignificant things because we can control them.
You fully control whether or not you buy the 2 for 1 cereal, save 10 percent of your income for your IRA, wash your deck, get to work on time or choose the right internet service provider. And, of course, you have to do those things to live.
But ask yourself, do you zoom in on your day to day because it’s easier than stepping out of it to consider the larger implications of your actions?
I can’t answer that question for you. Nor do I want to.
I want you to think. I want you to think for yourself.
What are those big picture items for you? Do you need to switch careers? Do you need to become a better spouse? Must you get healthier to add years back to your life? Do you need to see the world?
Only you can decide.
If you want to major in major things, it helps if you develop a strategy to think and act on them when you’re at the peak of your decision-making capabilities.
You start your day with your ‘decision tank’ on full. Each decision you make exerts energy and reduces the amount left in your tank.
The lower your decision tank, the poorer quality decisions you’ll make.
Grocery stores put candy at the register for this reason.
After you’ve spent an hour weighing the pros and cons of each item, calculating the price per ounce, and sifting through your coupon reserve, you’ve depleted your decision making energy, causing you to give in and buy the Hershey bar.
I do my most important work right away in the morning because my tank is full. With a full decision tank, I can prioritize which major tasks need to be done during the day.
I get my writing done, write down 10 ideas for my life or business, and create a simple to do list with 2-3 important tasks to complete.
I spend time focusing on smaller day to day items in the afternoon.
That’s my process. You don’t need a morning routine to be successful. You can create your own process and time-block.
Maybe that’s after a healthy lunch, or while you’re running, or during an hour of quiet time before bed.
Just remember to be mindful of your ‘decision tank’ and spend your resources wisely.
I have the opposite problem of majoring in minor things. I major in (what I consider) major things (it’s all relative) to the detriment of my day to day responsibilities. You could call me a bit of an ‘absent-minded professor’ type of person.
I’m focused on the bigger picture, but I still have to get things done in the present moment.
I have a wife and daughter who not only need me to be major in my love and affection toward them but also need me to be useful and helpful around the home and with errands.
You might be telling yourself you don’t have time to have your head in the clouds all day.
The world doesn’t stop spinning because you have a dream you want to accomplish. But let’s improve the ratio. Let’s not spend 100 percent on the minor or the major. Let’s find a balance we can use to move forward.
You can adjust the ratio to your life. You might be in a situation where you really only have a half hour per day to focus on tasks outside your day to day routine. That’s fine.
If you’re in a situation where you have more time, use it.
“Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.”