Photo above: My first read of the new year was Good Faith, a 2003 book written by the fabulous Jane Smiley. Written in first person and set in the 1980s just as the inflation and recession ended and America was poised to surge into the deregulated 80s, Good Faith tells the story of a small-town real estate agent who becomes involved with a persuasive developer with big plans for a beautiful, old farm property.
Welcome to Part II of this four-part series that explores my ideas about how to approach 2022. I hope you find this section inspiring and helpful. I love to hear your reactions, so make sure to leave a comment or question.
IN THE NEW YEAR [Part II of IV]
What We Can and Can’t Control
We can’t control all the currents in the river, but we can take an objective look at what is going on around us and seek factual information. For me, this means stepping out of my preconceived ideas, rejecting for a moment my own point of view, looking out from different eyes, and attempting to gain a wider perspective.
All the while, time keeps moving, and looking at a moving target can be dizzying. I understand that I can more easily process what’s already past, can attempt to be present in the actual moment, and can predict just vaguely what lies ahead.
We can’t control things (people, current events), but we can control our responses to them. We can be a peaceful current in a turbulent river. I think we sometimes underestimate the influence our individual choices have on our community and society at large. Our individual choices add up.
Want proof? Think about how and why social media companies (and other entities) mine our data. Our words, interactions, and memes can be analyzed, cataloged, manipulated, and sold. Our aggregate data is money in the bank for the tech companies. Our individual posts, likes, clicks, and comments are rounded up, and a “world” of data is created. Is this a real world? A delusion? A shadow world? Or a self-fulfilling prophecy?
One thing we do know: We voluntarily create the data used by marketers, retailers, politicians, thought leaders, entertainment companies, and governments who then package and sell it back to us as a product or idea or world view or political call to action–all based on our own, often fleeting or thoughtless, online behaviors.
Artificial Intelligence via social media shows us a reflection of ourselves and our world, but one that is distorted through lenses we might not be aware of. By controlling our immediate responses to things, by being aware and looking clearly and closely before acting, we create a more peaceful world–or at least not add to the general confusion and upheaval.
When something catches our attention, whether a news story, an opinion piece, a blog post, an advertisement, or a pop-up offer, the first step is to delay reaction. This can be uncomfortable. We tingle with the urge to respond. Adrenalin or dopamine floods our brain. Our fingers itch to move across the computer keys. How can we delay our response?
Some people step away from the computer and go for a walk. Others meditate. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly or counting to 100 can often break that knee-jerk urge to react.
The second step is to look clearly and consider various viewpoints and potential outcomes. Look for alternative news sources. Talk to your friends to get their take on the topic, and be sure to actual listen to what they say. Think about actions you might take, and try to predict the various outcomes that could stem from these actions. Consider the pros and cons. Make a list of these pros and cons. Come up with alternatives. Ask yourself if your response–or lack of it–jibes with your worldview, your values, your ideals. Who could be hurt? Who could be helped?
Once you’ve gone through this process, you will be able to make a more calm, considered, peaceful action.
I’m writing this for my own benefit. As someone who has often reacted too quickly in the past, I’m trying to find another way to be in this world. I’m flawed and always will be flawed. That is the human condition. But there are choices I can make. My hope is that you, my readers, connect with some of what I’m sharing here and find even just a drop of comfort and encouragement.
Visit here next week to read Part III: What to Do in 2022
What strategies are YOU using to remain calm, engaged, and uplifted these days? Comment below. I comment back! XOXO Shelley