Find your purpose. Ignore everything else.
It’s true that many people don’t care. Many don’t pay attention. I’ve never been that way. In fact, I’ve always had some driving purpose in my life, even when I’ve been off track.
I never considered myself apathetic. Daily, I used to read forty to fifty articles on news, politics, and economics.
Recently, something changed that.
It started in 2012. “It” was the election.
I got so sick of news during the 2012 election cycle I dropped it completely for three months to finish my first book. It was a fantasy novel I’d been fooling around with for a couple years. I had 30 pages to date, and I refocused my energy on completing it. Sixty days later, I published my first novel.
Shortly after that, I fell back into my news addiction. I use the term addiction lightly, but it did have several elements of a classic addiction.
It interfered with my personal and professional life. I was so consumed by the latest news article, I read every article on every major news site. I would hit refresh constantly. When I woke in the middle of the night, I checked them again. I would never get back to sleep.
I read them at work, at home, on the go, and on vacation. The insatiable appetite for news made me less productive and overlook important areas of my life, like health and family.
After a series of self-inflicted wounds, I realized over-consumption of news contributed to my current state. I decided to cut back drastically and refocus my life. News consumption wasn’t my biggest problem, but it was a contributing factor to an unfulfilled life.
Fast forward four years later, and a similar cycle began to emerge. The action plan I developed a couple years earlier created a more solid foundation. I didn’t spiral out of control like most news junkies, but I did finally decide it was time to make permanent changes.
Here’s what being a news junkie did to me
I have frequent arguments with people in my mind. I still do, just less than I did before. It sounds crazy, but for most of my life, I would daydream and argue with people in my mind. I’d strike up imaginary conversations on various topics. I would argue with them on the merits point by point until I won.
This behavior spread to non-news related behavior. I reflected on memories of people who’d harmed me in some way, family members, teachers, and friends. I’d imagine myself going back in time and arguing with them. I’d imagine arguments with current colleagues and associates.
This destructive behavior sapped tons of my mental energy and focus.
If you find yourself having arguments with people, stop! It’s unhealthy behavior. Arguing with people in your head creates unneeded stress, anxiety, and other unproductive emotions.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it also sapped mental effort I could’ve focused elsewhere. That was the real killer for me. When I was in my head, I wasn’t getting anything done. I wasn’t being productive. I wasn’t improving my health. I wasn’t doing anything other than stroke my ego with imaginary conversations and increase my blood pressure.
What to do when you want to break the habit
After the most recent election, similar feelings of disgust emerged. This time I saw more clearly what news did to people, how it turned family against family, friend against friend, company and against company.
I now have the expectation that any news I read will try to elicit a specific response or emotion. I know these feelings will be counterproductive to my primary purpose.
Crowd out the negative with the positive
If you focus on what you can’t have, you’ll want more. I found positive affirmations and self-talk is a good start in the morning. You may want to rephrase your self-talk in the form of a question. Some evidence shows forming as a question forces your mind to find reasons to support your statement.
During my commute, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts on topics that support my current goals. Over time, this replaced everything else I listened to in the car.
Create your ideal routine
This is really what did it for me. I analyzed my daily habits and decided to anchor positive behaviors around things I had to do. When I came home, I decided to meditate for five minutes followed by a twenty-minute nap. This replaced turning on the television.
I also added other behaviors. Instead of reading everything, I read only three things. I decided to a science article, an article on how to improve my writing, and an article on improving some other area of my life.
After that, I created mini habits that I stacked and added one at a time.
I’m a teacher, so after work, my brain sometimes feels like mush. I decided to wake up earlier to be productive with my time.
I pushed back my wake-up time one minute a day and went to bed one minute earlier every day for two months.
What I did with the extra time was add a short fifteen to twenty minute routine of essentials followed by a 40-minute power session on my primary task, usually writing. It could be fiction, nonfiction, or editing.
Later, I pushed back my wakeup time another hour. I added another power session. This way, every day, I would complete two power sessions regardless of how hectic or mentally drained I felt after work.
The simple art of …
Not caring can be very effective at helping you achieve your goals.
The key is taking power away from others to decide what’s important for you and making that decision for yourself.
The best way to overcome stress and anxiety is to accept the idea that the only problems that exist are the ones you create in your own mind.
The only thing that matters is what you decide matters.
Release things outside your control, and instead focus on making a difference in your life with what’s important to you.