100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 27. Learn To Ignore

I think they should be teaching this one in schools. We’re focused on so many topics and think we have to do so much stuff, that our life is literally clogged with things. It’s good to do stuff, but learning to ignore it, at least every once in a while, it’s better.

Learning to ignore is the first step in growing your focus power. Not to mention that allowing yourself to ignore things you don’t want is a form of self-respect. Nobody can force you to do anything if you don’t want to.

If you put your focus on things you don’t want, you will take valuable energy from the things you do want to happen. Your energy flow is constant, it’s your choice to direct it to something relevant. So, learning to ignore should be a compulsory life skill.

Start right now: ignore this blog post and get up doing something really important for you. 

The Clogged Pipe Of Reality

Well, not so fast. Let’s make a small experiment first.

Imagine you don’t have any of your 5 senses. Imagine for a second that all you have right now for perceiving the world is a pipe. A thin, long pipe through which reality pours its existence to you.

As long as you can consume whatever that pours through the pipe, you will have a correct understanding of reality. But suppose reality gets richer at some point and the debit increases. There’s more reality coming through right now. But the pipe has the same size, of course.

What would you do? How would you separate what’s meaningful from what’s not?

If the image popping into your mind right now is the famous “drinking water from the hose”, you’re right. It’s the same thing. If the debit is manageable, it would be ok, you will drink and you will feel ok. But if the debit increases, you will start to have a distorted perspective about reality, because you won’t have enough processing power.

Although I simplified drastically, this is exactly how we perceive current reality, especially if we live in a technologically enriched area of this planet. The “pipe” through which we understand the surroundings is clogged with information. Sensory overload is the new norm. We live in a world which pours its existence into us ten times faster and deeper than  it used to do it a century ago. It’s insane.

Like, literally, it’s not healthy anymore to experience EVERYTHING we are exposed to. In order to function properly, we need to adjust. We need to create some sort of algorithm which will separate useful and relevant information from noise.

And we do this by learning to ignore.

How To Learn To Ignore

The fundamental question when it comes to ignoring is: should I just reject a thing, or just acknowledge it but not engage in it? What’s ignoring, after all? How many levels of ignorance exists?

This is a very subtle distinction. Don’t mistake ignoring things with avoiding reality. Many people decide to avoid unpleasant stuff, to shut their eyes, to close their perceptions, literally, towards things they don’t like. Ignoring – or at least intelligent ignoring – is not about that. Besides, you can’t avoid reality. You can’t force yourself out from the pipe, because that pipe is your interface to the world, this is how you experience life. If you cut out, you will die.

But you can choose what to do in regard with what pours through that pipe.

Ignoring means intelligently deciding which path should you choose. Yes, some of the stuff that pours through the pipe may be sometimes brown and with a very bad smell. Ups. That’s it. It’s pouring through that pipe, so it’s real, nothing to do about that. What we can do about the situation is to decide how to engage with it. In this case, engaging means everything from complaining about it, up to pretending it’s not shit, for instance, but cupcakes. Well, that pretending part is not gonna work. Believe me, I tried it. Shit is shit, a cupcake is a cupcake. Complaining won’t make it disappear also.

What will work, though, is accepting that this is actually shit, process it, and understand from where it came. The moment you understand from where it came, you can start to take the right actions that will prevent any future pipe clogging. What you actually ignore is your reflex reaction to it. Your auto-pilot behavior. So, by just accepting that you’re dealing with something unpleasant, and not complaining about it and not pretending it’s something else, you’re creating the foundation for a future cleaner pipe.

You learn to ignore by doing what’s right for you and avoid the bad stuff. That’s intelligent ignorance.

further reading

Learning To Ignore

The Power And Price Of Illusions

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