Since you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming that you have a list of major life goals that you want to accomplish. You do right? Wonderful.
While that’s a great start, what about the flip side of that coin? Have you considered learning to avoid the things that are not important? You know, the worthless distractions that drain your energy and sidetrack your success?
You see, success is partly a negative art. The level of your performance comes not just from what you include but also from what you exclude.
We all have a limited attention span, and there’s a lot happening out there in the world. It’s easy to drown in a sea of information. So the important thing is “What are you paying attention to?”
We live In an “attention economy”, where people are rewarded for extremism. They are rewarded for indulging their worst biases and stoking other people’s worst fears:
“The dollar is weakening!”
“The market has suffered the largest one-day loss in nine months.”
“Earnings growth is slowing down.”
“Economists fear a double-dip recession.”
“These billionaires are getting out of stocks, should you?”
The problem is that the people making these types of statements are rewarded for portraying the world as a place that is burning to the ground, whether it’s because of Brexit, declining oil prices, or low interest rates. The internet has generated a platform where apocalyptic beliefs are celebrated and spread, and moderation and reason is something that becomes too arduous and boring to stand.
TV programs and news websites need to sensationalize things nowadays just to get our attention. When all information is freely available at the click of a mouse, our attention naturally nosedives to the normal and the mundane. And the most sensationalized story finds its way to the top of the nation’s consciousness, dominating our attention and the news cycle, dividing and recruiting us into ever more polarized camps.
That is, unless you choose to ignore it… which is what I do. Yes, the best way to beat the attention economy is to simply opt out of it.
Now, before anyone sends me hate mail I’m not talking about unplugging from the world and living in a one bedroom shack devoid of any outside information. What I am talking about is having a high degree of discernment when it comes to news about the economy and stock market.
I believe that tossing out the worthless things that steal your attention and prevent you from being able to focus is an excellent way to free up your energy so you can stay motivated. “Junk” news has a tendency to bog a person down and get them distracted, and the vast majority of it is speculative anyway, so you won’t miss much.
Remember just a few months ago, when the Brexit vote was supposed to end the world as we know it? The press used phrases such as the vote “topples” the British government, “crushes” the pound and “wipes away” billions in stock market wealth.
And what happened after all that manufactured dust settled? The market went right back to its business making all-time highs, businesses carried on as usual and talk of the event doesn’t even make the first 5 pages of any national newspaper now.
How about the big stock market swoon in December of this year. Remember how the press was in a tizzy due to the fact that the Dow finished down by nearly 370 points one Friday, to close out an historic week in which the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in nearly 10 years? Surely the end of the world was near, correct? Nope. The market, the economy and people in general went right back to business as usual. Yawn.
OK, one more…
In mid-July of last year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was over 18,000. By the end of August 2015, it had collapsed down to 15,000 and change. Investors fretted over things like a possible Chinese slowdown, a crash in commodity markets, whether or not the Federal Reserve would hike interest rates, and a plunge in oil prices – all stoked by the press. And then what happened? All that manufactured fear was cast aside and everyone, again, went back to business as usual.
Look, the point I’m making is that it is extremely important to recognize any area where you needlessly expend your time and energy. The physical time and energy wasters are fairly simple to pinpoint, but the issues that creep into our thoughts and feelings can be much more insidious. By the way, the word insidious comes from a Latin word meaning “ambush,” and refers to that which is slowly and subtly harmful.
Earl Nightingale, American motivational speaker and author, once said, “We become what we think about.” Perhaps truer words have never been spoken. The human mind is an incredible thing, and having the right attitude and mindset is a pivotal key to success. And a mind for success not only has to be cultivated, it must be protected.
With that said, here are 2 things to protect your mind against:
- TV programs that are full of negativity and speculation. It’s easy to go home from work, switch on the TV and keep watching for rest of the evening. No matter if there is something useful on or not, it’s easy to keep checking for the exciting stuff. Our natural bias is that we like to hear about other people (and especially negative or sensationalized information about other people). My advice is to turn the TV off. If you can’t do that, set a limit and then leave it to do something creative or educational. Life keeps going, and time will never come back. Use it, rather than just passing it.
- People that are full of pessimism. Yes, it may be difficult to stay away from people who are always around you like family, but it’s important to protect your mind. And if that means disassociating with toxic people (even toxic family members), so be it. Negative people are energy vampires who love to talk about how they are victims and the many bad things that are happening in the world. My advice? Stop caring about those who don’t deserve your care. Leave them to themselves. Instead, keep yourself busy with something positive. Instead of wasting your time with mediocre people, read a book that stretches you. In that way, not only you are using that time to grow yourself, but you are also guarding your mind from the negativity around you.
In closing, my suggestion is to fill your mind and emotional system with positive input from healthy people, proven facts about how our economy works and books that improve your life, not hyped-up half truths that are designed to get your attention. Know that sensational headlines can have a big influence and emotions are contagious. Also, negativity can be like a self-feeding loop. One negative thought leads to three more. It can drain a lot of your energy whilst trapping you in paralysis by analysis. And you probably won’t become that wiser in the process.
Remember this – information, like people, are either vitamins or poison. The best bring out the best in you. The worst want you at your worst. Cut out the poison and fill your mind with vitamins.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out these articles from the blog archives below: