This just in: The world is a dumpster fire. 🔥
When we left for a recent trip to Hawaii, I made the decision to unplug. I’d monitor my business email every other day or so, but detach completely from following the news and my social media feeds.
It was awesome. I felt present. My heartbeat slowed and my anxiety melted. It was so glorious, that I maintained the distance even after returning home.
Oh, I’ve snuck a peek, but it’s like opening an unmarked door to reveal a gigantic infinity room filled with fires, explosions, kung fu fights, screaming chimps throwing poop at evil clowns, and rows and rows and rows of dumpsters, all literally on fire.
You don’t need an invite to close that door as fast as you can.
I don’t need to plug in order to “stay informed” that the world is a dumpster fire. Just this week, we’ve got war, natural disasters, scary economic news, the death of a celebrity, and at least one senseless act of violence we will fight over the correct solution to.
The thing is, that true sentence I just wrote was true ten years ago in the same way it was true two thousand years ago and will be true two decades from now. (Or until the world actually ends, whichever comes first.)
I read a newsletter this weekend in which the author opened by hinting at his anxious state of mind. It’s not the first time he’s expressed his distress over the current status of world events. Knowing a little bit about him due to the fact that I’ve been reading him for years, I wanted to scream, “Quit watching the news!”
We need to understand that regularly following “the news” is like injecting pure poison into our veins. Whether it’s broadcast news, your favorite newspaper, or your carefully curated feed of trusted sources, it’s a rerun of the same show over and over again. The quickest way to clicks, ratings, and revenue is by feeding on your fear and fury (while making it seem like they’re doing you a service).
War. Natural Disasters. Scary economic news. The death of a celebrity. Senseless acts of violence. Outrage!
So let me begin by agreeing with Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks, who wrote, “What you pay attention to will define, for you, what your reality is.”
I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in Hawaiian sand. What I’m suggesting is that you pay more attention to what you’re paying attention to.
If you are always paying attention to the news, the world is a sad, scary, corrupt, dangerous, unredeemable place. Of course, in many ways, it is.
But when I was in Hawaii, I paid attention to the powerful blue waves and the warm sun on my skin. The patient and daring surfers. The pink and purple flowers. The lush green mountains. The delicious fresh pineapple and smoky kalua pork. The happy smiles of my children. And the aspirational conversations I had with my wife.
Yet, somehow, I was not oblivious to the fact that there were wars raging, natural disasters, scary economic news, the death of a celebrity, and senseless acts of outrage. Spend any significant time “unplugged” and you’ll see for yourself: The real news finds you.
So the first step is not to be alarmed that the world is a dumpster fire, but to understand that the world has always been a dumpster fire, a grand battle of good versus evil. Recency bias would have us believe it’s never been this bad, but trust anyone who’s a hundred years old, it’s been worse.
The second step is to acknowledge that although it is, in fact, your job to do SOMETHING about it, it’s not your job to do EVERYTHING. And the only way to have a chance of doing ANYTHING worthwhile is to filter out the negative and pay attention to the good.
That will give you a good attitude, a clear mind, and a deep well of hope and energy from which to draw as you do your small part to extinguish the dumpster fire in your corner of the world.
Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.
🤔 I wonder…what is something you’re inspired to pay more attention to?