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Predictably Irrational Behavior

How. How do you actually get people to calm down?

What is something ACTIONABLE people can do. Give me the tactics, Margo, the answers!! Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.

Since my article came out last week, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about tactics.

  • How to reduce anxiety.
  • How to make your parents listen.
  • How to read the news quickly and still get what you need.
  • What outlets do I recommend that will “vet” the news for you.
  • Can I recommend media that doesn’t use sensationalism.
  • Can I get Janet to stop panic-forwarding you emails.

Yes, of course, I have the answers. I’m a stranger on the internet that’s what I’m here for.

You also know I don’t think you have a “lack of actionable solutions” problem. If you’re a human being with access to the internet, you know how to reduce anxiety. In fact, if you click here the Calm App will retarget you around the internet for the next few days with suggestions, you’re welcome.

It’s not for lack of tactics. The better question is:

Why aren’t you doing what you know will help you feel better?

(Or rather: Why aren’t your friends and parents?)

Here’s the tea: We are not rational. We have the capacity to be. But we aren’t.

Humans suck at making decisions in our own best interest. (Suck it Adam Smith #TeamKahneman)(If you don’t get that reference, please enjoy this rabbit hole). You do almost everything on autopilot in reaction to forces that control you (like FEAR or ANXIETY or DESIRE or INCENTIVES). That’s the bad news. The good news is your irrational behavior is predictable. The better news is you can override this default behavior if you begin to become aware of it.

Hence my earlier recommendation re: meditation and therapy. They help you foster productive self-awareness (also called “mindfulness”) so you can separate who you are from what you think. And be chill about it. Which matters if you care about being rational.

Because when it comes to why you’re paying attention to the news, what rules the roost is not your rational brain, but your beliefs.

[Read: Why We Buy Things We Don’t Need ]

We’re dealing with beliefs.

And if you know anything about beliefs, you know they’re terrifyingly powerful little fu*#@%$ responsible for the gap between what we know and how we behave.

That’s right ladies and gents: 

There’s a giant gap between what we know and how we behave.

And inside that gap live beliefs.

So, when I hear a rational question like, “What outlets do you recommend that will vet the news for me without all this sensationalism?” I hear someone who is still ascribing to the belief that (a) they need the news to be informed (b) there is an objective orderly version of the news (and the world) that isn’t completely manufactured by human beings with ulterior motives.

I hear someone who is desperately searching for certainty in a world that is uncertain.

That’s why rational answers and rational questions don’t work.

I know your brain is tired, mine is too. I’m writing this hiding in the bedroom while my kid is screaming “MAMA!!” and pounding on the door. But there is no shortcut for using your brain.

You can’t Tim Ferriss this.

This feeling that you need to “keep up” so you don’t “miss something!!” is a fake feeling. It’s made up.

And when you slow down, you start to see the trick.

Urgency is an illusion invented by people like to me override your lizard brain. It can be a GREAT tool for encouraging new or healthy behaviors (like you would literally NEVER go to the dentist without urgency). And it can be a dangerous tool if you’re a morally bankrupt asshat profiting off other people’s outrage.

If you want to consume better consume slower.

[Something I’ve written more about here].

That’s how you get your calm back. You get still. You opt-out.

Please hear me carefully: opting out of outrage culture doesn’t mean being ignorant.

It means going deeper.

Because when you slow down and go deeper, you start to see. Which is my personal ulterior motive. 

Look, here’s what I see:

The reason your mom is texting you nonstop hand-washing-tips is because she’s afraid. The reason your dad won’t stop visiting his mother and spreading coronavirus is because he’s afraid. The reason your friend Janet is forwarding you 50,000 articles a day and blowing up your phone is because she’s afraid.

This is predictably irrational behavior.

And when you don’t slow down, you can’t see it.

If you want to help your friends, your family, and yourself: take care of your own mental health. Start going inward.

That’s where we’ll find the tools to fix this mess: Compassion, empathy, creativity, innovation, calm, rational thinking.

Fear is contagious and if you want to stop the spread: You must take care of your own mental health.

That’s where you’ll find your “actionable solutions.” Inside your mind, where you’re currently ignoring them.

– Margo “Slow Down, Deep Breaths, Get Off Twitter” Aaron