Does this at all sound familiar?
You wake up, do a quick email/message scan, then head to the kitchen and turn on the morning news while preparing breakfast and getting ready for the day.
This was my typical morning routine until I found out how negatively it was impacting my work and personal lives. Looking back now, it’s scary to even think about going back.
With the endless barrage of Trump’s daily nonsense, I decided to take a 1-week vacation from all things news-related; an information diet if you will. Almost a year later here I am, without a single regret in sight.
Since eliminating this morning bombardment of What Trump said on Twitter, I uncovered something I had yet to fully discover in life – my true creative potential.
Sure, up until this point I felt like a fairly creative person, but little did I know this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Diving in, it wasn't simply my creativity which surged, I saw major improvements in all aspects of life, including professional, personal, health and wellness.
Did I miss my morning news roundup?
It was weird at first but quickly became a distant, irrelevant memory.
Was I worried about missing something important?
I quickly realized everyone else around me would fill me in on anything major I needed to know, acting as news filters, weeding-out the unimportant and providing only the essentials.
Did I feel less smart because I didn’t know everything that was going on in the world?
Surprisingly the exact opposite – I felt smarter, more empowered, less stressed, more mentality focused, healthier, performed better at the office, began enjoying life more, my personal relationships improved, and most of all, I felt far more in control of my life.
For the first time in my life, I realized the incredible importance of nourishing and protecting the creative process. I now think, “Why would anyone want to wake up and immediately look at their phone, email, or TV?”
Our Most Unique Time of the Day – The Calm Before the Storm
When we first wake up, those first few minutes, however long they may be, are wonderfully unique.
If only for 5 minutes, this is the only time of the day we are completely free from the digital barrage of email, social media, and headlines.
For these first few moments, there are no distractions, with our minds being well rested and fresh. Our phone is likely not ringing and we have the complete and utmost freedom to think about and create whatever we want. Our mind is in a state of reactive purity, meaning it’s primed and ready to focus outward (i.e. creative output), rather than reacting to incoming stimuli.
The issue, unfortunately, is we don’t realize our output potential until we begin experimenting with this sacred moment first thing in the day. Most of us are living an entirely reactive lifestyle, never allowing ourselves the undistracted opportunity to create, think, discover, or develop.
As Maria Popova, author of BrainPicking.org explains:
"Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken."
Feed your creative potential, science says so
What was formally my morning news update has since been replaced with creative time, of which I’ve become so incredibly protective. These first few moments are a time where I can think without distraction, create freely, problem solve, and produce results which lead to success in both my personal and professional lives.
For me, this took the form of a morning journal, sometimes a mere 5 minutes, where I can think clearly and write down whatever comes to mind.
It’s incredibly therapeutic – something I never imagined myself doing. Yet the benefits have been astounding, allowing my subconscious mind to release everything it’s been working on overnight, before being bombarded with external inputs and distractions.
In a recent study from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers Jonathan Smallwood and Johnathan Schooler found that mind wandering has several key benefits, including an increased ability to anticipate and plan for future events, as well as increased creativity with regards to problem-solving:
"A beneficial outcome from mind wandering is the capacity to generate novel, creative thoughts. A positive relationship was found between mind wandering and the tendency to generate solution steps in social problem–solving tasks. Thus, one outcome of mind wandering could be the self-generation of pathways to problem solutions."
One of the best things I ever did was replace my morning news update with this creative time.
Having not felt I was missing out on important information (i.e. FOMO – fear of missing out), I soon came to realize the news is mostly useless noise anyways – 90% nonsense which has zero weighting on the quality of our lives.
As Tim Ferriss writes in his book The 4-Hour Workweek,
"Most information is time consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence. I challenge you to look at whatever you read or watched today and tell me that it wasn't at least two of the four."
Is news even newsworthy anymore? They are robbing us blind
I recalled that news outlets are businesses first, news providers second. This means they aren’t in the business of providing news, but rather, the business of selling ads.
Providing news is simply the medium by which they can deliver advertisements and generate revenue – a means to an end.
Here’s where the conflict of interest comes in. There isn’t enough important, actual news available to maintain a consistent level of viewership, so, to maximize ad sales and keep shareholders happy, news outlets sprinkle "entertaining" stories among real stories to retain viewership and hold ground among competing outlets.
Hurricane Maria and the need for disaster relief in Puerto Rico is a legitimate news story, but following it with a fluff piece about Trump coining the word “fake” will make anyone question what is newsworthy?
In recent years especially, the bulk of mainstream journalism has moved predominantly towards entertainment as society becomes increasingly fixated on the unimportant.
CNN and Fox News, for example, have essentially become TV drama’s, focusing primarily on arousing and captivating audiences’ based on human emotion rather than intellectual interest.
As a result, mainstream news outlets have dramatically lost credibility, yet continue to draw audiences, albeit for the wrong reasons, by maintaining this shift away from newsworthy journalism.
How can we protect and nourish our creative process?
It doesn’t have to be a morning journal, we can disconnect in a variety of effective ways:
- leave your phone in another room while you’re sleeping;
- take scheduled mental breaks throughout the day and go for a walk, leaving your phone at your desk;
- read an interesting book instead of Instagram for those final 30 minutes before bed;
- download the free Headspace app and start meditating for 5-minute each day;
- start a video or audio journal if you’re not a fan of writing.
There’s no right or wrong answer. The key is to escape the noise and give your brain some downtime by performing less intellectually demanding tasks.
Good knowledge vs. pretend knowledge
We all have the same 24 hours in the day.
The people who own the news outlets are doing it right – making boatloads of cash while spending more time with family, friends, and traveling the world on their private yachts. Yet most of us completely fail to realize the forces which are at play against us: the many corporations vying for our attention.
Every hour spent away from distraction is one hour closer to achieving our goals.
The news itself is not knowledge, but rather, mostly noise meant to occupy time. True knowledge is the development of skills acquired through experience or education.
Knowledge is obtained by reading things of actual substance, i.e. books, academic papers, or research studies, and then contributing to the knowledge pool via creative thinking and problem solving so as to help advance humankind. This leads us to better solve problems, process information, make decisions, and create new ideas.
For the rare 10% of newsworthy stories, watching the news may, in fact, make us smarter, but believing the more we consume, the smarter we will become, is simply false.
By over-consuming all we're doing is robbing ourselves of the most important asset we have – time; time to create, discover, learn and grow.
Key takeaways: To live is to grow, but if we're constantly consumed and distracted by mindless nonsense we’ll merely stay at the same plateau and never advance to the next level.
This biggest mistake we can make is to not give ourselves the opportunity to explore our creative potential. We so easily assume we’re not the creative type and leave it at that. Everyone is creative; it’s a grotesque assumption to think otherwise.
We must give ourselves more credit, and more time to discover our talents. This entire post, for example, started as a quick morning journal entry and now here we are over 1,500 words later! Even if no one ever reads it, or thinks it’s complete trash, it’s more about the process and opening up the mental pathways which can then be applied to improve all other aspects of life.
We must all establish an environment which fosters and encourages our creativity; it’ll only make us stronger, smarter, and will lead each of us to a better, more fulfilling life.