About 15 years ago, I noticed that I had a choice for what I paid attention to, and that it made a fundamental difference.
Here’s a recent example: In connection with the recent election in the US, we were all overloaded with a huge amount of signals. I’m not talking just about pro-Republican and pro-Democrat, which would be quite predictable. In addition, I was overwhelmed with:
- A much larger number of ANTI messages than PRO messages
- Deep discussions around particular issues such as religious freedom and the economy
- Local issues such as legalization of marijuana and civil unions
It was one thing to watch all this happening on commercial TV (I understand that $7 billion was spent on the presidential campaigns this year), but we were wearing out the mute button on the remote control. So it was tolerable.
Worse, for me, was the traffic that sprung up in my email and Facebook. Those forums are driven much more by emotion, and have no restrictions on being factually correct. As a result, I could get quite depressed about the nature of these discussions.
Over the years, I find that there’s certain groups and people which tend to drag me in the wrong direction. I would like to think that I’m optimistic, intelligent, and family-oriented. But after I talk to certain people, read certain newsletters, or listen to certain podcasts, I turn into someone I don’t like.
As a result, I’ve had to limit this kind of contact. I have to consciously NOT pay attention to certain information, because of the effect it has on me.
Here’s the fascinating question, and I’d love to hear your feedback on this: What’s the difference between limiting information because it’s not good for me, versus limiting information just because it’s unpleasant and I might disagree with it?
For me, it comes down to whether that information helps me to make intelligent choices, and to grow toward the person I’d like to become. That means I need to be open to different ideas and points of view, but not necessarily internalize it until I’ve had a chance to think more deeply.
How do you figure out what YOU pay attention to?