I just unsubscribed from many mailing lists and RSS feeds. It was starting to really clatter up my mind.
There is a lot of useful information out there. Except most of them are more distracting than helpful. Even the things that are “good to know” — when I think of how often such a piece of information actually came in handy, I’d have to count them on a single hand. It’s true that there is some handy information out there that you may want to keep in mind, such as weather forecast and road closing/traffic information.
But career advices, how-tos for this and that, from getting slim to getting rich — all of those things are not as important as the one voice you need be listening to all the time.
Many times, if I’m trying to solve a problem or figure out what to do, what I’m seeking is not the right way to do it — or someone who tells me that information.
What I’m trying to figure out is how I feel about it.
Now, I must admit, it can get pretty confusing. Because I need to dig beneath the rubbles of fear, emotional baggages and so-called “common sense” to get to myself. I am carrying a lot of that at any given moment, but none of them are actually me. My true self (psych majors may call it my superego) shows up only after I purge all those extra layers that are pretending to be a portion of my essence.
And it always knows what needs to be done, at any given moment.
I’m not saying it knows the correct thing to do. But it knows what I need to do, in order to be at peace with my decisions later. It always knows.
Countless times, I figure out what my decision needs to be while telling someone about my situation or journaling my thought process on a piece of paper. When I need someone to talk, most often I don’t need someone to tell me what to do. I just need someone to bounce off what I’m telling him/her, so that I can hear it as if I’m the outsider to my own situation. This gives me a clearer picture of what I’m thinking, so that I can figure out the decision that I can believe in.
This process gets more and more convoluted and difficult, the more information I have. Too many choices, too much information always stifles my progress. Don’t get me wrong, there is such a thing as a best practice. But the best practice is not always the right choice in every situation. Sometimes the right choice is to ignore the best practice and dare to fail, so that when you try again you have much greater faith in the best practice.
You see, in life, your own voice is always the only one you need to listen to. (If you are a religious person, I would amend that statement to say that what I mean by “your own voice” may be “what you think God is telling you do”) Not your teacher, not your doctor, not your financial adviser. Why? Because what’s important is not getting the right result. What’s important is that you are at peace with your decisions.
For example, when I recorded my first album, I did almost everything, completely by myself. I didn’t let anyone listen to my work-in-progress, until near the every end, after most everything was done. That’s because I wanted to test my own instinct, to see if I could produce music that was consumable by people other than me, even if I made it only for my own taste. In producing a recording, there are myriads of decisions to be made. By seeking counsel on some of them, I felt that it would bog down the process and confuse my vision of what I wanted my music to be. When I let some trusted advisers listen to my almost-finished work, I was simply verifying that I was not missing any glaring mistakes staring at my face. They offered me a lot of great advises, most of which I didn’t follow, simply because most of the tasks were already completed, and I was unwilling to redo things that I already felt were “good enough” if not “best that they can be.”
I am happy to report that my test was a resounding success. Not only that, I am very satisfied with the process of making that album. I did everything my way, and while not everything turned out the way I wanted it, I am at peace with all my decisions.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t seek advise or counsel. On the contrary, you should, if you can’t make up your mind. If you need to make decisions and need to gather the information first to make the best decision — that’s what you need to do. Then, and only then, information can become of aid to your decision-making.
What I’m speaking against, is our current society’s tendency to spoon feed you “useful” information that you don’t need at the moment. You still pay attention to it, thinking “this piece of information may come in handy.” But the chances are, it will stay and fester in your mind, clouding up your visions on issues you do need to address at the moment.
Information will be made available to you in time of need. There is no need to preempt this need for advise by soaking up “10 best ways to lose weight” or “5 things you can do today to find your soul mate.”
Simply ask yourself. Do you know what needs to be done?
If you do, do not run away from it. Do not talk yourself out of it. It doesn’t matter what your boss/friend/parent/teacher says. Go do it. Now.
If you don’t — well, actually, you do know. You know that you don’t have enough information to make a decision that you can feel peaceful about. This is the time to do a research, seek advise, and learn everything there is to know. Don’t rush into decisions. Accumulate information until a sense of direction emerges.
But until such an occasion arrives, keep all “maybe useful in the future” information at bay. Do not let them enter your minds.
Trust me, you’ll live a much more peaceful life.