“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.” — James Allen in As A Man Thinketh.
I’m a ravenous consumer of content. I bet you are, too. If we are what we eat, for better or worse, the content we consume becomes our reality. It becomes the story we tell ourselves, the principles we believe in, and it may even determine our health. Some content is detrimental and some is beneficial. Because we’re bombarded with information from every direction, it’s never been more important to carefully curate what we consume.
Practically everything we observe and experience now seems to be “content.” From music, movies, books, news, politics, gossip, work, friend feeds and texts, even to our immediate surroundings like how our homes are decorated. Sometimes the noise and choices can get overwhelming. This overload is like decision fatigue.
Often we’re tempted by the emotional clickbait headlines without considering the consequences on our psyche. There are some things we cannot unsee or unhear. Words and images affect us. They mold our reality. We have to ask ourselves if we really want to manufacture more rage in our lives. Rarely do we stop to deliberately protect ourselves from the content we consume.
But like the James Allen quote above says, the mind will grow harmful weeds if not deliberately cultivated. These weeds can be damaging. They seem to manifest as stress or anxiety which can lead to a host of mental and physical ailments. And much like decision fatigue, we seem to lose room for critical thought and productive ideas to blossom.
For me the flood of content I was consuming caused me anxiety. I was in my mad-as-hell stage of awakening and I was rabidly rage-clicking on endless reels of content that confirmed my rage. I thought being awake meant “if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.” But I was wrong.
Then I had a simple epiphany: the best way to better the world around me is to better myself. I was responsible for the content I consumed and how it made me feel. I realized that I was planting the wrong seeds in my mind and they were producing choking weeds. The rage I felt toward the machine dramatically subsided.
Upon focusing my thoughts to more fruitful purposes, my life started getting better. Suddenly it made sense that this strategy, individually, would be far more effective activism than merely raging against the machine.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s healthy to be angry at the right things. But when we’re experiencing information overload, it’s all too easy to become angry over trivial differences in tribalism, for example.
So the next time you catch yourself tempted to click on “rage clickbait,” ask yourself if that’s the type of garden you want to cultivate in your mind. Does rage make your life better? What will?