Whatever you water grows.
Whatever you pay attention to and focus on gets bigger.
Attend to what you want, not what you fear or despise.
– Dr. Henry Cloud
“Gosh Dad, is everything bad? Are we going to be okay?”
These were the questions my son, Patrick, asked last week as we watched the evening news. The entire coverage was on COVID-19. For weeks now, story after story features the infection spread, the death totals, the carnage caused and the projected devastation looming.
Although it’s impossible to underestimate how tragic this pandemic is, a little context in understanding our media is also important.
Harvard Business Review reported that more than 94% of stories shared by the media are negative – that’s a stunningly high 19 of every 20 stories. And that stat is from 2017 – when markets were at all-time highs, unemployment at historic lows, and the notion of a global pandemic unimaginable for most of us.
Because what we choose to focus on expands within our consciousness, it’s highly likely that reading all those negative articles, watching your cable news and becoming a stay-at-home, self-taught epidemiology expert will trigger growing depression for today and hopelessness for tomorrow.
My friends, the negative bias promoted by media and echoed in social media feeds is far from an accurate barometer of the world in which we reside.
The media highlights exponential virus spread, growing death totals and expanding joblessness. They focus all of their attention – and ours – on the missteps of local leaders and the mishandling by national politicians. They stoke the embers of fear and despair.
There are few stories celebrating the global rise in recovered cases, the expanding capabilities around testing and treating, the dramatic increases in the production of masks and respirators, or the generosity of sovereign countries and less devastated states deploying their resources to hotbed areas. They overlook the countless stories of first responders, health care professionals, custodians, grocery store workers, truck drivers and ordinary heroes showing up daily to keep our nations advancing forward. And there’s rarely a mention of the prodigious effort undertaken by our amazing teachers to radically reorganize lesson plans to guide their students (and their overwhelmed parents!) through the crisis.
Even during simpler times, the need to notice the good was too often overlooked by so many searching for the bad. To counteract the negativity being broadcast in 1986, the legendary Mr. Fred Rogers wrote an op-ed. Included were these words:
I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels.
For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.”
I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.
In the midst of a global pandemic, perhaps we should consider not only tracking all the figures around mortality and contagion, but also the recovery rate and the vast majority of individuals are choosing to surrender their personal needs and desires while practicing social distancing in order to benefit others.
We know that whatever we choose to water, grows. We realize that whatever we pay attention to and focus on gets bigger. And we choose today to attend to what we want, not to what we fear or despise.
We can choose to not only can flatten the curve but create a movement that reminds the world: In spite of today’s adversity, there are helpers showing up, there’s reason for hope and there remains certainty that the best is yet to come. [Click to tweet.]
This is your day. Live Inspired.
P.S. In the midst of a 24-hour negative news cycle blaring how lousy the world is, we want to counter with messages of individuals, families and entire communities choosing to Live Inspired Together. And I need your help!
Please send me examples of individuals in your community taking positive action to make things better. It could be your spouse cutting the grass for an elderly neighbor or your cousin beginning a food drive for those in need. It could be a story you read about a billionaire donating a 737 packed with supplies heading for NY or a video you watched of a child donating their allowance. From families singing on their decks to individuals cheering for health care workers – forward your favorite stories over to firstname.lastname@example.org! We’ll be showcasing some of them on a video very soon.