The BBC announcer approached the microphone that reached the world. Millions awaited the evening report on this Good Friday, April 18, 1930. Instead, through the crackling of the radio he announced, “There is no news today.” Silence. And then a subtle rendition of classic piano filled the waves for another twenty minutes.
Today, this story feels far-fetched. Even comedic. Why? Because every day we cope with a steady stream of endless information. And our response to this ubiquity has had severe consequences. Despite the easy access to information, rarely do we dive deep enough to make the information personally worthwhile.
There is a vast amount of wisdom waiting at our fingertips. We watch TED talks. We listen to podcasts. We attend seminars. We subscribe to twitter feeds. We try new diets. All with the hope that we can change behavior and make ourselves happier humans. It’s not working. High schoolers are twice as likely to see mental health professional than thirty years ago. Suicide rates have doubled among adults. And obesity has nearly tripled in North America. Not to mention, amidst all the social media’s artificial connections, loneliness among adults in America has risen from 11% to nearly 48%.
Information as a Commodity
Have you ever wondered why a diamond is more expensive than water? Yet, water is immensely more useful, even essential, for life. Why then do we treat our most valuable resources so lightly? This classic economic paradox can teach us a lot about our modern approach to information. We have become ungrateful consumers and consider information as a mere commodity. This Information Commodity Complex™treats information like any other product in the market. (e.g. There’s a decrease in personal value, a loss of differentiation, and a disregard for the source of information we digest.) It means we care far more about the dissemination of information rather than seriously weighing its value for our personal growth.
It would be easy to assess these conditions and decry the bane of overload. But focusing on the negative effects misplaces our energy. To do so means we feel defeated. We’ve thrown in the towel in the informational octagon. This mentality magnifies a self-inflicted helplessness. It dismisses our own responsibility in what should assuredly be an awesome journey.
There is hope when we rely on what separates our humanity from technology—the ability to filter the information we truly need, find meaning, and improve our behaviors. The very practices that create habits—habits that researchers say make up half of our daily activity.
In the past fifteen years, fascinating psychology has shown that our habits need hacking. We now know that instead of complete behavioral adjustments, habits can only change in gradual degrees. We’re trying to turn a cruise ship, not a mini-Cooper. The shifts are subtle, not seismic. They focus on the situations we’re in as much as the behaviors themselves. These deliberate actions are designed to safeguard us from our lesser selves—the automatic, unthinking, undisciplined nature that is our most predominant way of life. And they’re called micro-behaviors.
Micro-behaviors are situational cues that trigger inspired actions. As researchers have learned, these small wins build Micro Momentum™—a secret sauce that jumpstarts us on the behavior change pathway.
But to access this behavioral science you have to pass through the doorway of a lost art: Deliberate Reflection. This means asking the question: “What have I learned?” It sounds simple. We all assume we’re asking it, but rarely do we give it a space and place to make an impact. Modern research in neuroplasticity demonstrate that asking The Question™ is anything but aimless daydreaming, but rather intentional, effortful, purpose-oriented mental approach to changing our behaviors. To ignore this historical practice is to dismiss the essential step in building the micro-behaviors that build relationships, create fulfillment, and engage the best version of ourselves.
Response and Responsibility.
The true impact of the information age must be a learning responsibility that creates a behavioral response. We are endowed in our day with both the opportunity and obligation to become better because of what we now know. Of all generations, it is our inherited right and responsibility to grow.