Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Living better with less information. Depressing television programmes confirm the views of those who believe that man cannot improve his lot. How can we protect our serenity against the negative bias of daily news?

Adults living in industrialized countries spend more than 300 hours per year watching news on television, listening to commentators on the radio, and reading newspapers. That time exceeds what they devote to reading books or acquiring knowledge in any other way.

The greatest part of the information that is absorbed during those hours consists of catastrophes, disruptions, violence, poverty, divorce, vengeance, dishonesty, criminality, incompetence, hostility, complaints, abuse, and decay.

In view of the messages that fill the airwaves and newspapers, it is no wonder that many people suffer from anxiety or depression. If a man is convinced that the overall situation is deteriorating and that he is doomed, he won't be motivated to improve his life.

Should reporters be blamed for the negative bias given to daily news? Is it not true that those are the sort of reports that people want to read? If television news focus on negative events, are they not responding to their audience? If debates on talk radio are conducted in a harsh tone, it is not because this is what listeners want?

The media deliver negative news to those who are thirsty for them. Depressing television programmes confirm the views of those who believe that man cannot improve his lot. Bitter discussions on talk-radio reinforce the listeners' conviction that life consists primarily of conflict.

Dispiriting messages attain their targets with the precision of a laser. No discouraging word is wasted and no gloomy prediction remains ignored. The machine that destroys hope and inspiration works with outstanding efficiency.

Those who love dire forecasts expect to find them in the media. Those who want to hear about poverty and dereliction want television stations to cover those subjects. Those who believe that the next crisis is going to destroy the world expect their favourite talk-radio host to share that view.

Nevertheless, despite the massive barrage of depressing messages, other individuals remain unaffected by anxiety and depression. Instead of seeking out alarming news, these persons read newspapers sparingly. Instead of watching calamities on television, they prefer to devote their energies to improving their own lives.

How did this minority arrive at their independent thinking? What is the key behind their psychological stability? How can we protect our serenity against the negative bias of daily news? The following ideas can help you preserve your peace of mind:

[1] Transform risks into numbers: Most reported threats refer to events that, most likely, will never happen. For instance, every few years, newspapers discuss anew the possibility of an asteroid hitting the earth and killing millions of people.

Such calamity would be terrible, but you should not allow vague menaces to disrupt your tranquillity. Instead of losing sleep over risks, you should transform them into numbers or percentages. What are the actual chances of an asteroid hitting the town where you live? If the result of the calculation is one in a million, how much are you willing to worry?

[2] Set a limit on damages: Companies operating in consumer markets inevitably incur risks of civil liability. If you deliver products to millions of people, an accident will occur sooner or later, for example due to the failure of an electrical component.

No one is exempt from occasional mistakes and this is why liability insurance exists. Entrepreneurs who wish to limit their risks can purchase insurance coverage so that, if the worst happens, their financial losses will be limited.

Similarly, if you live in an area with a high risk of floods, you should insure yourself against damages caused by water. The rational approach to dealing with potential catastrophes is to reduce risks. By setting a limit to damages, you can protect your peace of mind against gloomy forecasts aired by the media.

When commentators predict a stock market crash, you can protect yourself by converting part of your investments to cash or by purchasing other assets, such as gold or real estate, whose performance is not correlated to the price of shares. In general, if you set a cap on potential losses, you will be able to stop worrying about catastrophes.

[3] Face problems by taking action: Uncertainty, more than any other factor, is what causes anxiety and fear. The feeling of not knowing what to do can render you insecure and lead you to make mistakes. Indecision causes physical tiredness and disrupts sleep at night. The solution is not to ignore risks, but to face them by taking action.

If your neighbourhood is becoming increasingly dangerous, you can choose between taking action or worrying yourself to death. Assess the problem and see what alternatives you have. Should you install an alarm system at home? Does the situation justify that you move to another part of town?

As soon as you make a decision, your preoccupation levels will diminish. People who lead serene lives tend to be incredibly proactive and organized. Those persons are always the first to adopt measures to prevent problems.

[4] Use only quality information: This is a key factor for maintaining your peace of mind. Why would you want to read gloomy articles in newspapers and magazines? What's the point of devoting your time to watching depressing reports on television?

Negative information is highly addictive and, without a strong will, the habit is difficult to break. You have to make a firm decision and stop paying attention to distorted news. You have to make the effort to filter out the noise and focus on quality information.

In most cases, you can keep yourself well informed by spending a few minutes a day on a few selected websites. If you make yourself deaf to nonsense and discouragement, you will have more time for pursuing your primary objectives.

Protect your peace of mind against negative news by transforming risks into numbers, setting limits to damages, facing problems with action, and using only quality information. Every minute of anxiety that you eliminate from your life will add positively to your well-being.


For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book about how to be rational  "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by mape_s under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Do not be discouraged by your limited resources. Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage. Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation. You have more options than you think

Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian

In a world where philosophy is often reduced to catch-phrases and empty theories, this is a passionate defence of logic and consistency as the keys to happiness. Personal effectiveness, the basis of well-being and success, results from rational goals, workable plans and relentless action. 

In the areas of career, health, relationships and investments, this essay shows how to let go of wasteful propositions, pursue compatible goals, cultivate perseverance and resilience, minimize problems and maximize opportunities. Inspired by the teachings of Aristotle, Maimonides, Erasmus, Montaigne, Epictetus and Spinoza, the book encourages readers to embrace rationality and adopt a self-reliant, entrepreneurial attitude.


Table of Contents

1. The untold key to success and happiness
Ten positive trends rarely reported by the media
The way to independent thinking
Trust only your own statistics
Achieving happiness through rationality
Wake up to a sharp vision of reality
Important lessons from history
In search of principles that make sense


2. Fundamental skills that everybody should master
Relentless initiative creates opportunities
An active mind looks for alternatives
Cultivate perseverance and resilience
Avoid waste and embrace frugality
Shun overcommitment and worry


3. The easy way to prosperity
Select a career where you can make a good living
Principles of accelerated learning
Using Ancient Mongol tactics to find employment
Discard the myth of career planning
Growth sectors in the 21st century
Those who can sell are always received well


4. Philosophical ideas to make the best of your life
Take the perspective of a lifetime
Focus on practical solutions
Self-confidence arises from preparedness
Pursue compatible goals
Concentrate your resources on essential tasks


5. Get out of losing situations
Immobility is the enemy of achievement
Train yourself to face nonsense calmly
Throw away unworkable plans
Read the writing on the wall
Take simple measures to protect yourself
You have more options than you think


6. Avoiding major mistakes
Preserve your independent thinking
Don't make the same mistake as Confucius
Entrepreneurship is the opposite of resignation
Abandon perfectionism right now
Waiting for the world to change is a waste of time


7. How to find love without making a mess of sex
Rational values are the basis of great relationships
Overcoming the main obstacle to meeting new people
The high cost of short-term romantic involvement
The entrepreneurial factor in love and friendship
What is the crucial success element in dating?
Break free from artificial social constraints


8. Saving and investing to secure your future
Take control of your financial life
Principles of rational investment
Techniques for reducing risk
How to develop self-confidence as an investor
Saving regularly brings peace of mind
The advantage of turbulent times


9. Principles of optimal health
The teachings of Maimonides
Living in accordance with nature
How psychology can improve your health
Modern theories about prolonging life
How some people live to become 100 years old
The low-cost approach to good nutrition
Effective methods for minimizing stress
Sleeping well by natural means


10. Seeking personal growth one day at a time
Embrace rational principles
The link between personal effectiveness and happiness
Become an entrepreneur in your everyday life
Do not be discouraged by your limited resources
Clear thinking gives you the ultimate advantage
It is on slow days when you make big breaks


11. Conclusion
The human need for logic and consistency
Achieving happiness in a chaotic world
Philosophy summarized in a single sentence
It takes a while, but it can be done


Rationality is the way to happiness
by John Vespasian