Letter No 23 - 3 types of thinking

Hi friend,

Making goals is great. Yet, something about goals is fishy. I don't know about you but enough of the goals I have set in my life have not exactly worked out. Not that I don't believe in setting goals. I do. Enough goals have worked out. Many that didn't, ended up creating something else and that is unintended but beautiful in my life.

But goals make me nervous. I need to wait to be mentally and emotionally ready to set them. I need to be in a state of 'high energy' in order to really set goals that matter - and then to follow up on them. And that's a paradox, because it is when my energy is low or medium that I actually need the energy of goals.

A few days ago, three of us were sitting together and making a painting. My friend Ankita, my son Dhyann and I sat together with a blank sheet of paper. I had a photograph I had clicked of a bunch of greenery growing by the side of the road on the way to my house. I love greens - both the visible and the edible variety. When I see a group of trees, leaves or flowers I like, I click a pic and keep it for a later painting session.

The three of us are of widely different age groups - 10, 28 and 45. All of us love drawing and painting, and all our styles are very different. I admit that for a moment I did doubt how we were going to do this. But I'm blessed with a high level of 'serendipity' when it comes to creative endeavours. I pushed aside the tiny shred of doubt that appeared in my head and pulled out my art medium of choice for the occasion - dry pastels.

One of us made a rough outline of the intended sketch. I asked us to choose the shades that we were going to work with and we got drawing. It was a very interesting sight. We began a little tentatively. We set no rules or expectations of each other, except for the very very rough outline, and the shades we had chosen.

Very soon we were all going at it and thoroughly enjoying it. We were tapping and dabbing away at different corners of the paper. Our hands criss crossed as we attempted to reach different section of the drawing. It was an amazing vibe. None of us felt any level of pressure about how the painting would turn out. At one point I remember even just dabbing away freely with my pastel, without even looking at the paper!

Haha, that was only for a few moments though. The point I want to make is that we had an intent, we had some colours, and we felt carefree and were having so much fun!

Too much thought ruins any project.


But how much is too much?

How do you decide how much thought, how much planning, how much precision is just right?

Thought is like salt - without it food is tasteless, and too much of it makes the food inedible.

No thought at all and we may end up directionless and floating randomly, and too much of it takes away the joy of life.

Use your powers of thought sparingly - at the right time and in the right amount - and you will create magic.

How sparingly?

I'm sure you will find your own answers if you give the matter some attention. But, here are some thoughts to get you started.

Think enough to have a rough direction.
Don't think so much that you don't get started.
Think at least enough that you know some things you don't want.
Don't allow not knowing exactly what you want to hold you back.
Think about how far you've come and how you feel about it.
Don't think too much about exactly where you will land up.
Think about what can make your efforts more meaningful.
Don't think too much about what others are thinking about you.
Think about what is important to you.
But, don't allow what is missing to make you feel less or unworthy.


After the first 5 to 7 minutes, we were all going at it like crazy. We were lost in the process.

At one point, I stopped everyone and announced that it was time to spray a coat of varnish on our work. Dry pastels are like chalk powder. You apply them in layers. At the point there are many loose layers and applying a coast of varnish fixes them firmly to the paper so that you can start applying more layers.

So I shook the spray can and applied a coat.

The bright green highlights of the leaves suddenly dulled away. Even the bright pink flowers which we were all so excited about almost vanish. The varnish coasts darken the colors and makes them a little sparse.

'Ohhhhhhhhh noooooo...' was the sound that came from everyone's lips. Dissappointment.

The energy in the room had suddenly dropped.

But then, somene said 'it's ok, lets just re-work it', and we were back at it dabbing away again. The energy was back!


Yeah, so we had dabbed away thoughtlessly and had a merry time. It was energising.

Yet, let me tell you this, my friend - the painting turned out pretty awesome.

We think so, anyway! Have a look and see for yourself.


Not bad, huh?!


Ok, it's not as simple as thoughtless dabbing away, I admit. There is some amount of skill and experience that went into the mix. Yet, had we set a sharp goal and then worked on it, it would have felt like work, not fun. Also, it would have been a lot of pressure. And I'm sure if we would have completed it in one sitting!



How much and what kind of thinking to apply when you are working on a project, a goal, or even a fun activity that you are doing either alone or with a group of people?

I propose that there are three different types of thought. And each type of thought is required at different stages of an activity or project. And mind you, these stages will come again and again, and sometimes will overlap. I have expressed them in the context of a painting activity, but it could apply to any other activity or project in the same way. Here they are:

Direction thought
What kind of painting? - abstract, landscape, a photo, just let whatever comes come, etc
What art medium - pastels, acrylics, pencils?
How much time are we painting for?
What shades do we want to use, if any?
Any outline or plan for the page, any theme, or just whatever we feel like as we go?

Action thought
Encouraging each other when we get stuck
Smiling, laughing, singing and dabbing away
Appreciating self and others - oooh i like that, ahhh thats so interesting, etc
Giving ideas to each other - lets add some dark green here, this part can use some more
Taking a break, getting a lemonade, recharging and getting back to action

Refining thought
Stopping, taking a step back, and seeing what we have
Looking back at the original direction we set and seeing what we missed
Making corrections and erasing some parts
Adding highlights, shadows and some details here and there
Using a different medium to add that extra pop
Getting feedback from someone

Experiment with these these thinking styles as you work on any activity or project. Mix and match them and explore for yourself which styles is more appropriate as which stage of your project.


Don't be disappointed that you can't be the best version of yourself always. If you think this, you are terribly naive. No one can do everything well, all the time.

Stop seeing struggling as something negative. Struggle is beautiful as long as you can stay relaxed through it. Most of life's opportunities come out of struggle.

Ask others who are strong in some areas where you are weak to help you out. This is a trait shared by all successful people.

Think properly - apply the right type of thinking at the right time and place. Mix and match the thinking styles well.

Have as much fun as possible. This is very important🙂


I've been through so many different types of phases in my life - light, heavy, creative, social, sad, angry - I've realised they all come and go. As I write this, I feel I'm coming out of a heavy-ish phase and entering a wonderfully creative phase. Being able to apply the right kind of thinking has always helped me cope smartly, and enjoy the process no matter what. Wish me luck, and write back to me with some thoughts of yours whenever you feel like.

Wishing you a great week ahead, and lots of fun thinking and doing cool stuff!

In friendship and with gratitude,