A few years ago, I was on vacation in Santa Monica, CA. If you’re like me, it takes you a few days to relax (and then, of course, it’s time to go home, but I digress …). I was sitting by the pool a few days in feeling VERY relaxed. “Why am I feeling so good?” I thought … the vacation was terrific, but it wasn’t just the relaxation of the area and being away from work. It was something else. But what?
I realized, after noticing someone with a newspaper, that I had not read a single headline or watched a minute of news on TV. It was an unintentional news fast, and it was glorious.
When I got home, I canceled my newspaper. Why? Because I realized that before I left the house, I was flooding my mind with negativity — stabbings, murders, assaults, violence around the world, complaints, hazards, failure and more. Our society doses itself regularly with negativity. No wonder so many people are in a bad mood before they open the door.
I reflected on the fact that in my own neighborhood, not much happens, and that if something really BIG happened in the world, I’d learn about it soon enough. I am not suggesting that you stop learning. I am not suggesting that you make yourself ignorant to the world. I AM suggesting that you try, for just one day, not to read headlines, watch the news, peruse CNN online or peek at someone’s newspaper when you pick up your morning coffee.
Not too long ago, I read something by health expert Dr. Andrew Weil that recommended the same kind of news fast I happened onto with no plan. He’s exactly right. It works.
As business leaders, we all need to be attuned to the world around us. But consuming too much news can lead us to focus on what is negative and uncontrollable, instead of what is easily within our control and influence. And as Stephen Covey so astutely observed in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, when you spend more time focusing on those things within your “Circle of Influence,” you feel more control, agency and happiness in your life.
Think about it. Try it. Focus on what you need to achieve as a leader in your own sphere. Continue to work outside of your career on things that help other people. Contribute to great causes and support whatever you can. And feel the goodness that comes with relief from the daily dose of negativity.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen as political leaders continue to get it wrong, day after day. But I assume when something good happens eventually, I’ll hear all about it.