Are you overloaded with useless information? Unless you live in a cave, you probably are, and it's causing needless stress and distraction.
I grew up a political junkie. I blame my dad. On Sunday mornings when other kids were going to church or watching cartoons, I was watching "This Week with David Brinkley." I couldn't name a single Transformer, but I knew who Sam Donelson and George Will were. Needless to say, I didn't have a lot of friends on the playground.
The other thing I can blame my dad for is my love of argument. He'd pick an argument with you, then after convincing you, would switch sides and start all over again. He would have been a great lawyer.
As a result, I've spent most of my life slurping down news, forming strong opinions, and arguing about them to anyone within earshot. I'd hate to think how much time I've wasted on the internet doing just that.
I eventually realized that I was wasting time and stealing brain power away from things that matter. I'm not usually a New Years resolution guy, but I made one in 2011 that changed my life.
I vowed to try my hardest to:
- Ignore information that doesn't affect me.
- Forget things that I have no influence over.
- Avoid fruitless debates.
It hasn't been perfect, but it's paid off. My new philosophy has given me a new sense of focus, focus to identify problems in my own life and find solutions for them.
I'm much happier, more peaceful, and I think more clearly.
Are You a News Junkie?
If you often find yourself upset by things you read, do yourself a favor and try my approach out for yourself. When you find yourself getting angry over current events, do the following.
- Ask, "Does this affect me or my loved ones?"
If not, don't worry about it; it's not your problem. Think instead about the problems in your life and what you can do to solve them.
Why are you worrying about the deficit when you're $40,000 in debt? Why worry about who wants to marry whom when your own marriage is on the rocks?
Focus on who you love and who you can influence. That's what matters. Keeping up with the Kardashians won't help pay off your kar.
If you struggle with this, you could try author Tim Ferriss's approach. In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, he suggests trying an information diet, where you cut yourself of from all media, except music, for one week.
- Ask, "Can I change this?"
Can you take meaningful action? Signing an online petition or buying a chicken sandwich doesn't count. I mean real action. And don't confuse worry for action. Worrying about starving children in the developing world won't fill their bellies, but a donation to a good charity might.
If it doesn't affect you or your loved ones, and you can't or won't take action, then why are you letting it raise your blood pressure and thin your hair? That's slow suicide, and suicide solves nothing.
- Pick your battles
Don't waste time arguing with a brick wall. You're about as likely to sell your grandma on the merits of death metal as you are of convincing a rabbi that circumcision is immoral.
Likewise, don't waste energy persuading people who have zero impact. That's not to knock authentic grass-roots efforts, but even if Uncle Larry puts the bong down for an afternoon, he probably won't be much help.
Speaking of Uncle Larry, don't cause a scene at the family reunion trying to get him to vote for your candidate of choice when he's polling at 10%.
If you really must argue a political point, focus your efforts where they have the most impact. The Pareto principle states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.
If you want to champion a cause, save your energy for the 20% that will make a difference.
- Ask, "How can I make the best of this?"
If you can't change the way the wind's blowing, then you might as well fly a kite.
For instance, are you upset about Obamacare? Like it or not, it's probably not going away. Your best bet is to figure out how it works and how you can take advantage of it.
See the world as it is, not how you want it to be, and you'll be a happier, more effective human being.
Do you struggle with information addiction? Can't pass up a good argument? Have you overcome either and improved your life? I'd love to hear about it.