Maybe, just maybe, if we choose to ignore social media for one day, including the news, we will be able to regulate our minds with perspective and meaning. Tough? Yes, it is. And quite possible. How do we know this? Well, there is a process, created by behavioural scientist, BJ Fogg, that introduces ‘Tiny Little Habits’. Let’s save that for another day.

So, why start the article with a rant? Let’s begin to unpack.

The focus for September is ‘The Deadly Sin of Phenomenalism’. Phenomenalism means that we only know, what we know, and what we know, is largely dependent on news channels, social media, and the people that we regularly interact with. So why is this a topic? Well, when last did you read a news headline that said, ‘Today is a good day’? Phenomenalism is human beings accepting what they are presented with. It doesn’t mean we have our heads in the sand – we just get quick access to what is going on around us. Information and data are everywhere – from airports to office buildings. When this happens, when we are constantly bombarded with news that seems worthy, we:

1. Don’t stop to get perspective
2. Don’t question the source
3. Don’t believe we can expose the truth
4. Would rather sit and be an armchair critic because that is more fun (and easier) to judge instead of question with curiosity
5. Sadly, get sucked in…because we are phenomenalists…we like the drama…

As written in a previous article, we aren’t supposed to be a gadfly – one who constantly challenges. As human beings, we should own our power and seek the truth.

So, how do we know that phenomenalism is evident? Well, it takes place at different levels, depending on where you want to see it – from family gossip to country politics. Hands up to those who have interacted at this level? I guarantee you the entire population.

Enter Rutger Bregman. This researcher uncovered the truth about many things. He revealed that some news stories, dating back to World War II, were false. He discovered that some ‘truths’ were actually myths, and that tales have been reverberated for decades and centuries and become so inculcated in our culture that it has created, and driven, animosity and rivalry. And he did this because he refused to believe that human beings are unkind.

Pause.

At this point, you may begin to think that this man is insane – how do you explain World Wars, terrorism, hate, cruelty and certain ‘Presidents’ of this world…This article does not do his research the justice that it deserves. The intent of this article is to show that we have a choice as to whether we want to jump on the bandwagon and focus on phenomenalism or take time to reflect on what is presented to us and challenge the truth. This doesn’t have to be at magnitude, it could be as scoped as reassuring your children that humanity does prevail because, despite what your children see, people make mistakes because they make negative choices. These negative choices result in negative consequences. These choices and consequences stem from a background that we don’t understand therefore, we shouldn’t worry about it unless we want to rescue the situation…a caution…we don’t rescue. Again, another topic for another day.

So, how do we do this? How do we ‘switch off’? Well, here are two examples…or challenges…to take:

1. Wherever your body is, place your mind. If you are in the kitchen, put on music and focus on cooking. If you are in the television room, choose a credible news channel to watch and watch only that source – without checking hecklers on social media. If you are in the office, prioritise your work and challenge yourself to get it done. Where your body is, your mind must be.

2. Truly living in the moment. How? Simple. Get a cheap disposable camera. Get your family and/or friends together and go out for the day (dare I say without a mobile phone…). Take pictures of your moments. You can’t share them on social media as this is clearly a different medium. Build up the anticipation of seeing these photos and get them developed in a dark room – the good old-fashioned way. Before you view them, sit around a dinner table, with a meal, and go through the pictures. Fun is guaranteed! Why? Because you aren’t sending to engage in arbitrary and meaningless conversations – you are truly connected to those around you and remind yourself that life can be digi-less.

We can’t control everything that happens in this world. This is bitter-sweet. Yes, there is cruelty. Yes, there is negativity. Yes, there are people with horrific backstories that make their choices horrific. Yes, there are some people who won’t change. Yes – we have an a-hole boss who just doesn’t seem to get ‘caught’. We can’t do anything about that unless we are in a position to, and unless we have the means to…and of course, if we have the courage to. We can however do this – we can choose not to believe everything that we see because the truth, no matter what approach you take or do not take, always leaks, and when it does, boy does it set us free!

Have a day of antiquated fun where conversations turn into learning. Have the courage to do what you can to dispute phenomenalism. Be the truth. We have too many cynics.

Dedicated to those journalists on the frontline who fight for the truth. Dedicated to those Leaders who physically break the concept of phenomenalism in their organisations.

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