In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with information and interruptions.  Between television and internet advertisements, robo/spam-calls, and countless news articles, there is much out there to keep us distracted from the things that are truly important to us.  Not only do these things take up our time and mental energy, but many of these distractions often prey upon negative emotions and fears, creating a cycle where you spend even more time and energy thinking about them.  This can ultimately lead to more pessimistic thoughts and outlooks towards your daily actions and goals.

This is why many psychologists and leadership coaches espouse the idea of being selective about what you choose to give attention to.  In other words, learn to filter incoming information.  As leadership expert Darren Hardy often discusses, humans naturally gravitate towards, and therefor ultimately find, more of what they already focus on.  This means that if you are already paying attention to distractions, including specifically negative ones, then you will soon find even more coming your way.  But the opposite is also true.  If you choose to filter out negative distractions, your outlook and focus will improve for the better.  Many successful entrepreneurs, including X-Prize Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis, support such action, claiming that your vision for your future will be clearer and more optimistic if it isn’t marred down by negative politics, controversies, and an unhealthy focus on tragedies, all of which can result from not properly tuning your filter to protect your thoughts.

It is to be noted that you may not even realize the impact that distractions are having on your life.  To demonstrate the influence that an abundance of news in particular can play in our lives, a Success Magazine writer recently spent thirty days avoiding news sources.  While he did experience times where he felt “unhinged” from society for not being in touch with current events, he found that not having the news to talk about with others actually opened the door to having deeper, more meaningful conversations with those around him.  Whereas news may be good for small talk, removing it from conversation led to more positive and constructive discussions.  He also found that an absence of mind-filling news opened his mind to greater creative thought and time for personal reflection (if you haven’t already, read our previous article on how turning off your cell phone can be a liberating experience).

Depending on your line of work or the activities you engage in, it may not be possible for you to simply drop all news sources for thirty days, but you can still choose to be selective about what information you allow to enter your thoughts.  If the radio discussions you’re hearing on your drive to work are all “doom and gloom”, turn off the radio or find an uplifting podcast to listen to.  Rather than hop into meaningless clickbait articles when you’re bored, read a chapter of a professional development book or go for a walk.  And the next time you start speaking with a new face at a business, networking, or social event, choose to bring up meaningful topics for discussion rather than the latest gossip or fears that are trending in the news and on the web.  You’ll be surprised to see where your actions and thoughts can lead when your filter is working to your advantage.


Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.