Be Careful What You Believe

In a world of fake news shrouded in believable rhetoric, here’s why mindful critical thinking is essential.

I’ve been reading Johann Hari’s latest book ‘Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention. I bought the book based on an Amazon recommendation on other books I’ve bought, read and reviewed.

Said another way, I allowed an algorithm to influence my decision making … judge me as you will.

That ‘Hmmmm’ … Not Sure feeling

I knew nothing about Johann Hari, but the title interested me, and mostly, the reviews (on Amazon) seemed ok. And I’ve got to be honest with you here … I got almost to the end of the book, to the point where he starts to criticise capitalism and my ‘Spiderman Tingles’ started to increase.

So, I paused and decided to do something the book strongly recommends I don’t do … move my focus and attention from what I was doing (reading) and jump on Google to learn more about Johann Hari. What I discovered was some very questionable credentials, including how he had been stripped of journalistic awards because of plagiarism.

It Ain’t Necessarily So

I will leave it to you to investigate if you wish, but here’s why fact-checking and critical thinking needs to be a part of our self-protective strategy of life in, as I wrote earlier, this world of fake news shrouded in believable rhetoric.

For those of us in Australia, especially for if you live in Sydney, Hari was writing about the Australian (NSW in particular) bush fires that were so tragic for so many communities in 2019.

Here is what he wrote:

About three weeks or so into the fires, I was on the phone to a friend in Sydney when I heard a loud shrieking sound. It was the fire alarm in his apartment. All over the city, in offices and homes, these alarms had started to sound. This was because there was so much smoke in the air travelling in from the wildfires that the smoke alarms believed each individual building was on fire. This meant that one by one, many people in Sydney turned off their smoke alarms, and they sat in the silence and the smoke. (Hari, Johann. Stolen Focus (pp. 275-276). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

If you lived in Sydney during 2019, as Lizzie and I did (and still do), I’m sure you will agree with me that this is a total fabrication … a stretch of any semblance of reality or truth … a lie.

It’s Tough Maintaining Focus and Attention on What Really Matters

Here’s the thing though. As I’ve written in previous posts, I’m sure most of us would readily agree, it isn’t easy to maintain our attention and focus – there are just so many distractions.

Again, my point in this post, as it is in all my posts here, is to hopefully remind you (as I do myself) to hold yourself accountable for striving to focus on What Really Matters in both your work and personal life.

If you’re in sales … focus on what really matters for your customers and clients and not just on what matters to you.

If you’re a leader … focus on what really matters for your individual and collective team members and not just what matters to you.

If you’re in a team … focus on what really matters for your colleagues, not just on what matters to you.

In your personal life … focus on what really matters to others in your relationships, not just on what really matters for you.

Know this:  Science validates when we focus our attention and actions on what we want FOR other people in the important relationships in our lives, it’s not only good for these other people, but it’s good for ourselves … reciprocity kicks in positively and in our own little ways, we make the world a better place.

So What Does Really Matter?

If the question is What Really Matters, the only person who can answer that is of course you.

However, again, what we do know from evidence-based research is it’s the quality of our relationships that matter across all domains of our lives, more than any other contributing element to living a ‘good life’, a meaningful, flourishing and prosperous life.

3 Ways to Increase Attention and Focus on What Really Matters

  1. Get clear on your personal values – Develop three to five core personal values that you can articulate, are inspired by, and mindfully use to make decisions during those important moments of truth and choice life presents so regularly.
  2. Get clear about your intentions for others – Think about the people you impact through your various business and personal life roles and write out Positive Applied Intention Statements – statements that clearly articulate what you want FOR others, not just what you want from them.
  3. Use both your personal values and intention statements to mindfully (and intentionally) prioritise why, what, how and where you want to place your attention, focus, decisions and actions.

Keeping focused in a world vying for your attention isn’t easy. However, once we realise just how easily we can be distracted, it gets a little easier to mindfully and intentionally redirect our attention and focus on What Really Matters.


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