It’s 11 p.m. and you’re shutting down after a long day.
You turn on the news to catch up on current events.
Within ten minutes you learn about scary men doing scary things, who can use which bathroom when shopping at Target, and a story about so-and-so peeing on a gang of prostitutes.
This stuff is so good, you can’t make it up.
Maybe you don’t watch the news at all.
Instead, you stay informed through Facebook posts and Snap Chat clips.
However you choose to get your news, it’s the same circuis.
Do you at least drink some herbal tea with that platter of fear and doom?
I was an Addict
When I moved to the U.S.A. from Canada, I couldn't legally work for 3 months.
This left me ample time to get ‘informed’.
When I wasn’t standing in line to get a social security number or a drivers license, I was flipping between Fox News and CNN.
You know, so I get both sides of the story.
When my wife came home, I’d catch her up on all the stuff happening in the world.
Since she was too busy earning a living and creating cool stuff, she didn’t have a chance to watch a news anchor stare at the camera with a fiery gaze and explain why we should be on edge for a potential World War III.
But I did.
Even if I didn’t, it was important enough to carve out some space in my day to find out if I should pack an apocalypse kit or not.
Current events consumed my thoughts and conversations.
I commented on political Facebook posts (since I was ‘informed’), engaged in heated conversation on Twitter, and never turned out the lights without knowing what was going on.
Until I realized it was all bullshit.
You’re Not Informed, You’re Being Led
We know by now the media is a sketchy crew.
The information we get is what they want us to get, and plenty of juicy tidbits are left out.
Topics are spun like a spider web, and light is shone on them from carefully selected angles. They craft the way we see the world.
Now, consider that news stations are businesses. They’re in the business of attention. Particularly your attention.
The more eyeballs they have glued to their news casts and Facebook articles, the more money they make through advertising, and the more influence they wield.
If someone is going to watch the news instead of Game of Thrones, it better be sensational.
Bonus points if it makes the consumer feel educated and informed on current events.
But you’re not being informed. You’re being led to see things a certain way. And it’s done by capitalizing on your hard wiring.
The name of the game is fear through sensational stories.
We eat it up because it’s in our DNA.
My Tribe vs Your Tribe
We’re tribal creatures.
And 72 thousand years ago, if you spoke to someone outside your tribe, it was likely to get you killed.
Humans are amazing at adapting, and adapt we did.
We stuck with our team no matter what.
This approach worked for us. I mean, it’s taken us this far.
But what works to get you from A to B doesn’t always get you from B to C.
The other thing humans are good at is reflecting on our behavior and changing it if it no longer makes sense.
And it no longer makes sense.
Actually, it’s nothing short of ridiculous.
In modern times, we don’t have tribes, so we create them.
This is evident in sports, politics and religion.
NOTE: I have no issue with being a die hard sports fan, a democrat, liberal, or believer in any religion. This matter involves these things, but they aren’t to blame.
The media we consume capitalizes on our tribal nature, and pushes us further towards the edge of our personal views.
Every current issue we face churns out two opposing teams. There are no moderate, rational people in the middle. You’re either on one side or the other, and we’re pushing the extremes of both poles.
The stories are divisive, and they draw us in like a moth to a light.
Despite this, people are collaborative animals. We’re happiest when we’re united, working together, and pushing for progress.
When we consume the news through TV or social media, we’re led to believe this type of unity and cooperation is impossible.
Instead, we’re scared. Our backs are up, our bags are packed, and our guns are loaded.
Most important, we stay informed so we don’t lose focus on ‘the enemy.’
In fitness, energy leaks refer to a lapse in exercise form that leads to energy ‘leaking’, and therefore, not being used to lift the weight.
For example, if your shoulders aren’t held back and together during a bench press, some of your pressing strength will leak through the instability in your upper back.
If you’re doing squats and you have a weak core, some of the power you’re creating with your legs will leak through your midsection before it reaches the bar on your shoulders.
In fitness, you want to avoid energy leaks as much as possible.
The ability to take the force you create and focus it entirely on the task without any leaks means you’re performing at your peak.
News consumption is an energy leak for the rest of your life.
Think of it this way. When you focus your effort on the task at hand, you have a better chance of crushing it than if your focus was fragmented in a hundred different directions.
Focus, in and out of the gym, is powerful.
The news gives us hundreds of things to focus on.
Each of those things steals your focus from what really matters.
Your family, your career, your art, your relationships.
They all suffer when you remove your focus and spread it across all the issues you’re presented with. Most of which you have no control over.
Listen, no one has the power to influence the direction of your life the way you do.
The president, celebrities, or our current level of social progress- these things don’t compare to the level of influence you have on your own life.
But every unit of energy you place on those things is another unit that could have been focused on your passions.
If there’s one reason to give up the news, it’s this.
Most of us are wound tighter than a $2 watch. Adding a big, sloppy dose of apocalyptic fear before bed time is the last thing we need.
Our lives move fast. We have bills, responsibilities, the pressure to advance, and families to care for.
And that’s just the status quo. On top of all that, life throws curve balls at us to keep us on our toes.
Throw in the fear of our impending doom and you’ve got the perfect storm.
One of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety is to simplify. This is done through reduction.
When you’re choosing between bills, family, career, personal advancement, and the news, guess which one I recommend chopping first?
There are many things you can eliminate that will reduce anxiety. But eliminating your news consumption will have the most powerful impact on the quality of your life.
What Do You Have to Offer the World?
This is the bottom line.
Every one of us has the potential to be great, and what defines ‘great’ is up to you.
You may want to be the most loving mom or dad you can be. Or a great painter, attorney or poet.
I bet you don’t want to be great at yelling at the TV, or the best at posting subliminal Facebook statuses in response to someone else’s Facebook status.
These are all distractions from what you’re on earth to do.
Turning off the news and shifting my focus to what really matters to me was the best decision I’ve ever made.
If you want to get more out of life in the areas that matter to you, I encourage you to do the same.
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