Focus

Lao Babauta – USA

A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part seven

Let go of the need to stay updated

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Many of us are slaves to the news, to the need to keep updated with what’s happening in the world, in our business niche, with our friends.

We are information junkies in some way: we watch TV news all the time, or entertainment news, or keep up with lots of blogs, or our RSS feed reader, or Twitter, or Digg or Delicious, or email, or one of the many news aggregator sites.

The need to keep up consumes much of our day, and creates a kind of anxiety our minds barely register.

What is this need based on? Why can’t we get free of it? Actually, we can get free. I’ve done it in my life, to a large extent. Let’s examine the two questions.

What is this need based on?

In short: fear

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If we really think about it, we’re not gaining much by keeping up with all this information. How is it adding to our lives? How is it helping us to create, to live happy lives, to do what’s most important to us, to spend time with our loved ones? If anything, it takes away from these things.

Let me repeat that point: this obsession with keeping up with information takes away from the things that are most important to us.

But we try to keep up because we’re afraid:

  • we might miss something important, and seem ignorant

  • we might miss out on an opportunity

  • we might not see something bad that we need to respond to

  • something bad might happen to us if we aren’t informed

These fears seem reasonable, until we test them. Then we can see that they’re not really grounded in anything other than societal norms, and a “need” created by media corporations and similar companies.

How to break free

Two ways: 1) examine each fear individually, and 2) test them.

When we shine a light on our fears, they lose power. When we test them to see their validity, they will usually fail, and we can overcome them. Let’s shine a brief light:

1. We might seem ignorant. Really? How often do people quiz you on current events, or laugh at you for not knowing? Maybe some times, but even if it does happen, so what? Let others be fueled by this need, and let yourself focus on things you care about, not what others think is important.

2. We might miss out on an opportunity. Possibly. There are always going to be opportunities we miss. But more likely are the opportunities we’re missing because we’re letting our days be consumed by trying to stay up to date. When we do this, we lose time we could be using to pursue exciting, real opportunities.

To be continued 

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