Yes indeed, managing the gloom and doom requires navigating. And as every good navigator knows, the first task is to look at where you want to go and then determine the best route to take.
A good life-navigator also knows that the choices one makes will affect the kind of person one wants to be. The problem with the news cycle is that we’re being sent along paths of thought that aren’t conducive to bringing out the best in us, and won’t help us become who we want to be. This is because most (but thankfully not all) of the content of those cycles ignore and/or swallow up everything that’s good about life and the world.
Suppose for a minute that you didn’t read, watch, or listen to the news. Really think about it. Would you feel better about the world, and life in general if you didn’t? Would you, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, actually be better informed than the person who read newspapers?
What if you read books instead, and informed pieces in magazines, or listened to smart people talking knowledgeably about their areas of expertise? (We’ve included some great resources in the TIP for this issue of the Newsletter, and have copied them below as well.) And, what if you let your interactions with your colleagues and friends and neighbours help form your opinions about the world and life instead of what the people on the news told you was important?
For isn’t it true that your everyday personal experience is miles away from the media’s depiction of the current state of the world?
To be clear, we’re not recommending that you stick your head in the sand. Nor are we recommending that you should live in a ‘good news’ bubble or feel Pollyanna-ish about things. We’re talking about the ability to put all the gloom and doom in context. We’re asking that you curate the news. And we’re suggesting that you manage your intake, such that you are informed, but not inundated.
In other words, if you must read, hear, and watch it everyday, we’re suggesting that you balance it with what The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected newspapers, calls ‘constructive journalism’. (To that end, they created The Upside section which they say is: ‘Journalism that seeks out answers, solutions, movements, and initiatives to address the biggest problems besetting the world’.)
Aren’t they – The Guardian – really saying we need to balance the news cycle’s negativity? That it’s important to have hope, to be motivated, to know that individual actions fuel changes in political will and social circumstances?
What we’re advocating for doesn’t mean that your life or the world doesn’t need to change. Nor does it mean you get to walk away from what has to be done because you think others will do it, or that enough is already being done. It just means that if you stay engaged, keep your perspective balanced, and focus on getting in there and getting your hands dirty, you can make a positive difference.
Take, for example, Justine Haupt, a firm anti-smartphone user and astronomy instrumentation engineer, who took the rotary mechanism from an old Trimline telephone, paired it with a microcontroller and a cell transceiver, put it into 3D-printed casing, and created A Rotary Cell Phone. Because she disliked texting, she focused on what she did want and then on how to get there. In other words, she navigated her way through the process to reach an end goal.
In my Negotiation and Conflict Management consultancy, I tend to put the attention on what is already working and on what could work. It’s more important than focusing on what isn’t working and what you don’t want.
For example, think about what happens to your attention when your car starts to skid out of control. If you look at the ditch where you’re headed, you will almost certainly end up there. But if you look at where you want to go, you’ll automatically steer in that direction, and will most likely end up back on the road. It’s a question of energy and focus, which affects the ultimate outcome.
Yes, we need to know what the problems are and we need to understand them – including root cause – but we need to put more of our energy on where we want to end up and who we want to end up being.
So where do you want to navigate to?
Where are you going to put your attention and energy?
Here are some of our favourite sites/podcasts that will help keep things in balance.
99% Invisible (this is CBC Host Matt Galloway’s favourite podcast)
The Upside (from The Guardian Newspaper)
Mental Floss (for fun)
TED Talks (short, informative talks on many subjects)
Farnam Street (marvelous for the mind)