Among the most important truths I’ve come to believe over time is the need to be selective in life. Selective with relationships. Selective with experiences. Selective with purchases. Selective with information. Selective with messages (whether they come from outside sources or, on occasion, my own head). Like it or not, we have limited time and energy in a day – and in a life. While some people respond to this fact with frantic scurrying or a miserly parsing out of minutes, I’ve found the best approach for me is to winnow what I want or need to give attention to what’s most important. It’s part spirit of simplicity and part defense of sanity, particularly when you consider the deluge of bad news and marketing distraction that would snatch up every waking moment. Yet, it’s also more than that – Primally speaking. To maintain and enjoy my Primal lifestyle, I appreciate being able to live it with as much peace, space and clarity as I can. The more I can reduce the static – those extraneous and contradictory messages – regarding health matters, the more effortlessly and clearly I can tune into the programming I want to embrace in life. But what does that process look like, and how do I apply it? To be fair, what’s the difference between a selective and discerning perspective and just a closed mind? Let’s take this apart.
The fact is, pursuing a life of genuine health and well-being requires a steady mind – especially in the world of 24-hour news programming and the talking head culture that it’s spawned. Not only do we fend off the chicken littles that make a monumental crisis out of every molehill, but we can get quickly swept off course with every contradictory headline, sidetracked by questions or findings that are founded in nothing but a punched-up talking point. Even aside from the media circus, there’s the everyday path of casual conversation and inevitable observations as I navigate the regular world. The potentially diverting influences are there, too – everything from the well-meaning warning about bacon fat shared by some random acquaintance to the blogosphere discussions about the latest diet book in which everyone is sharing their opinion, from the latest critique of paleo to the restaurant menus or conference buffets that could seal me off in a corner of eccentric limitation if I let them. I could devote mental bandwidth to these events, but why?
Harvard researcher and writer Shawn Achor picks up on the selective imperative in his book Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness and Sustaining Positive Change. Among his suggested five skills is “noise canceling,” the premise being that we we’re bombarded by stimuli and messages that not only absorb our time and mental energy but that hamper our attunement to the inputs that can further our goals. In essence, we want free space for clear reception rather than the draining intake of busy static.
Achor specifically defines four criteria to use for identifying the unimportance of much information we encounter in a day: unusable for behavior change, untimely for choices you’re going to make in the short-term, hypothetical in nature and distracting from your personal goals.
Let that sink in for a minute. Think about how long you’ve been living Primally and what it took to get here. If you’re still “in process,” think about what these criteria mean for you right now. Assess what you’re exposed to in a given day – what you choose to read, notice, hear, discuss. How much do those criteria apply to the health, diet, recipe, exercise, well-being, stress or lifestyle information that you pick up on in any part of a given day? How has that answer changed for you in the last year? Would you like to see it shift further? Where do you feel extraneous input still taking up space? What sources does it come from?
Pulling back from external influences, what goes on in your own mind that distracts you from the change you want to make? Have you made peace with embracing an approach that requires different choices around certain conventional activities, or does that conflict or small trail of daily frustrations impose its own emotional noise?
Finally, while we can certainly choose to be selective about our media exposure (e.g. what magazines we subscribe to, what sources we read online, what we keep in our Facebook feed) and in the “live” world choose to not join every argument we’re invited to, I think there’s something else that is especially pertinent to health and living outside the noise – something I hear a lot about from people who write me. So often we get get caught up in amassing information about a particular health path. Sure, some people are rabid collectors of information. Their obsession for accumulating knowledge and strategies and resources often hampers their genuine action. Aside from this more extreme display, however, I think many of us at times loiter comfortably in the sidelines of learning and reading more. While I’m all for becoming informed, I believe we can easily miss the central point if we can’t rein in our informational and even conversational intake. Sometimes the “noise” we need to cut out is our own thinking that we don’t know enough yet, that we’re not ready to begin yet, that something is still missing.
If we think of the opposite of “noise” as space, we can see that the space is ours to fill – with self-experimentation, with self-study, with play – playing at being Primal in this way or that. Do we allow ourselves that amount of attention – and freedom? We can earnestly attempt to set up the perfect circumstances, cover all our bases, subtract out other distractions, but the most potent and radical thing we can do to cancel out the extraneous is to make no emotional or logistical room for it – to start living – and keep expanding. The best answer for tuning out the “noise” may be to be boisterous enough living as Primally as we can today.
Thanks for reading, everyone. What do you think of the “noise” concept? Has going Primal made you read or live more selectively – or boisterously, for that matter? Have a great end to your week.
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