With all that 2020 has given us, Covid-19, the stress of an election year, homeschooling, and working from home, we need to stop and think, Why do we consume the news? Does it improve your life and change your behavior? Or does it steal your time and make you a miserable, worried, and paranoid person? If it is the latter why not try a #NewsFast?
Maxim #1: Control vs. Awareness
One of the maxims of stoicism is to understand the difference between one’s circle of awareness and one’s circle of control. The circle of awareness is huge. It involves world hunger, global warming, political maneuvering, world & local news, interactions across all social media platforms, office politics, and that driver going 55mph in the left lane. However, our circle of control is much smaller, and only includes things that we have direct control over. Namely ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts, and our actions. Stoics believe that in order to lead a happy and fulfilled life one must focus their energy on only those things that they can actually control, and not spend time and energy worrying about what they cannot control. Take politics for example. Every four years we elect a new president and every four years ulcers are formed, friends become unfriended, and individuals spend time and money trying to influence something that is far outside their control. While I understand the mantra of “every vote counts” an intellectually honest person realizes their vote makes nearly zero difference in the scheme of things. Far better than attempting the task of controlling impossible outcomes, a stoic would focus on the more satisfying task of outcomes they can control. Namely their thoughts, actions, time, emotions, and how they treat others.
Maxim #2: Start with Why?
The second maxim comes 2500 years after the original stoics, from the modern philosopher Simon Sinek who wrote the book Start with Why? You can read my notes on the book, but the thesis of Sinek’s work is to put everything you do through the filter of Why? Take for example two men working out at the gym. Both men are using a mix of weights, cardio, HIT training, and drinking green smoothies after their workout. However, the first man’s why is to be strong and healthy so he can live a productive life and have the energy to play with his grandchildren. The second man is working out so he can break into a bank vault and walk away with 100lb of bills. Same action, different why. If there is not a good “Why” behind actions those actions should be eliminated and the time savings should be spent elsewhere.
Maxim #3: What you look at determines what you see
The third and final maxim comes from Dr. Jordan Peterson. “What you value determines what you look at, what you look at determines what you see, what you see determines what you value” It is a circular path. Being exposed to a daily dose of violence, sadness, lampooning and outrage causes you to value that content and desire more of it. Long term exposure changes your values. Spend a year consuming FOX, CNN, and the Drudge report and you will have formed one set of thoughts and values; spend the same time watching the sunsets and playing with kids and you will form a different set.
Onto the News
With these maxims in place, it is fair to ask yourself: “Why do I consume the news, and how has the consumption of the news changed my behavior over the last month??
“Unless what you consume changes your behavior for the better, then stop”
Put the latest article you read through Simon Sinek’s filter of “Start With Why?”
Grown men and women in Washington acting like children and name calling….
Celebrities not acting any better……
Rain forests getting cut down….
Misbehavior by law enforcement or military….
Fires in the Northwest….
Is simply being aware of something terrible helping you in any way? I think not, and it is time to take a break.
The Bottom Line
Are you interested in getting on board with the 2st national news fast-starting 20 November 2020? If so there are a few ways you can experiment with this idea.
- Fast through time: Start your fast on the 20th and give yourself a day, week, or month to try it out.
- Fast by platform: Eliminate one news source or channel
- Fast by topics: Can’t bear the thought of staying away from ESPN? Keep watching sports, but eliminate everything else.
- Fast by the time of day: Do you read the paper before work, listen to it driving to work, have CNN on all day in your office, and scroll through your newsfeed while in the bathroom? Eliminate just one of those.
- Fast by location: There is probably value to be gained by knowing what is going on in the town you live in; try eliminating national and world news.
- Fast through addition: Rather than expending effort to eliminate something, expend effort to add something in its place. Nutritionists do this all the time, rather than forbidding certain foods they add nutritious foods which pushes out the opportunity to consume the junk foods. A dieter will not feel hungry for ice-cream if they first fill themselves with green vegetables and protein. Commit to reading a book, going on a walk, calling your mom, or anything else during your normal news time.
Will #NewsFast become a thing?
Let me know how your news fast goes. How long did it last? What news sources did you eliminate? What did you replace that time with? What did you learn? I would love for this to become a thing and cause people to reevaluate how they consume the news.
If this has benefited you please leave comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag comments with #NewsFast.