For me, the answers to life's big questions start with "why?"
Why does this piece of music move me so? Why do I feel frustration around that area? Why do I resist X or embrace Y?
A number of years back, I applied "why" to my consumption of most media-based information. Finding no satisfying answer, I turned it off.
To this day, save for an occasional "big check in," I watch very little television, read no magazines and glance at the news headlines only when in line at Starbucks.
Before you shout heresy, try taking yourself out of the media game for a while and see upon your return if you've actually missed anything.
Weeks, months, and -- as I've found -- even years later, people are by and large still talking about the same things. The names and details may have changed, but in all of it -- politics, world events, Hollywood -- the themes remain the same.
Why then bother filling up your head -- and time -- with information that's not really moving forward?
More importantly, unless you're a journalist or paparazzi, it's likely not moving you forward either.
There are a limited number of hours in a day. If you're spending four of them taking in information that's not directly impacting your results, you're wasting your time.
To say nothing of the effects of consumption; stress, overwhelm and a sense of powerlessness are both a reflection and result of the majority of today's content, draining additional productivity.
So why do we do it?
Certainly the cultural idea that we should be paying attention plays a role. But there's something more personal -- and personally debilitating -- going on.
We've been conditioned to believe that knowledge is the key to progress and success. The more we have of it, the better we are. And this is true. But knowledge and information are two very different things.
Information is what makes us sound better at dinner parties. Knowledge is information -- and inspiration -- that is actionable.
For those of us afraid of the latter, information becomes an attractive alternative. We're busy. We're gathering data. We hide behind the excuse of information, claiming that we need more of it to be better equipped to act.
And then, when we're better equipped to act, we need more information to confirm our intentions.
It's a vicious cycle that can only be broken by looking critically at the "why" of your own consumption.
The next time you're browsing the news sites and business blogs, ask whether you're doing so to inspire and empower yourself to achieve your goals or to avoid doing what you've said you'd do.
Is it to support you in stepping into your own power, or to resist it?
Is it because you have a real need for the content, or simply because a new message is staring back at you from your inbox?
Acknowledging that we -- rather than a lack of information -- are generally the largest obstacle to action is the first step in becoming clear on exactly what and how much information we really do need.
Remember: ideas in = ideas out. Unless you're planning to literally become the next so and so, you need to get your own. And that only comes by turning it all off... letting it get good and silent so that you can hear the voice -- the knowledge and inspiration -- from within.
Follow Jennifer Hamady on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jenniferhamady