Gone are the days when I just believed something because my teacher told me so. Gone are the days I didn’t question any information provided to me. Gone are the days I just accepted what I was told to be true. No doubt, those were ignorant, but easier days.
With the overwhelming amount of information that we get today, it can be hard to know what to believe anymore. There’s a vast jungle of topics out there, making it easy to get caught in the vines. With so much conflicting opinions and research being exposed, it can feel challenging, even impossible to confidently come to your own conclusions. Anything from nutritional advice, health care advice, budgeting advice, to government conspiracies, corruption of institutions, monetary scamming, suppressed medical cures, lethal vaccinations, and animal cruelty. From science verses spirituality, facts verses fads, it’s a seemingly never ending supply.
Sure, there is many helpful and convenient ways to utilise information available, but it can also kick start a mash-up in your brain, making it difficult to not only distinguish your belief system, but be at peace with it. So how can we sift through this information overload to come to our own conclusions and avoid becoming lost, confused or jaded?
While this is a question I’ll continue to explore, these 6 tips have proven helpful to me:
1. Find legitimate resources.
We can’t all be experts in everything, it’s impossible. When doing your own research, trust in sources with experience who have specialised in particular areas. If they have the title “Dr,” it’s probable (though not guaranteed) that they have a good understanding on the matter. Avoid cluttering your mind with fluffy online sources and media spam. One option of getting around this is by using Google Scholar, a place you can find books, journal articles and academic papers without all the ads. Or, there’s always the reliable, good old fashioned Library.
2. Listen to peoples personal experiences.
Sometimes all it takes to find comfort and sound advice is to talk to someone about their own experiences. While it can be a little uncomfortable to discuss personal matters, an open conversation could be the solution to your problem or internal debate. There’s little room for BS when we get up close and personal with each other. Like William James wrote, “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
3. Feel what resonates with you.
We all have it, that certain something inside us that tells us when something feels right. Call it what you want, intuition, gut feelings, or higher self – it’s there. This feeling is a powerful way to distinguish your beliefs. Regardless of what information is presented to you, if something feels wrong, it probably is.
4. Accept some mysteries will remain mysteries.
It can be difficult to accept the mysteries of life when we’re looking for answers. As Hugh Mackay suggests, humans tend to crave certainty of things that are unknowable. What happens when we die? What was before the Big Bang? Is there other human life out there? Does God exist? Why are we here? etc. While we can explore different theories and choose to believe what suits us, there is still no certainty. Like Einstein wrote, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead.”
5. Expect opposing beliefs and be OK with it.
“Different strokes for different folks” is a pretty accurate statement. Humans like to attach themselves to different things, particularly people, possessions, and beliefs. It’s understandable considering these are the things that we tend to identify with. However, this attachment can lead to our own demise. It’s important to accept that there will always be conflicting beliefs, even with people you really care about. Stay confident in your own truth without taking offence from those who disagree.
6. Keep your faith in humanity.
News and media outlets flood our minds with horrific events across the Globe about wars, bombings, gang violence, sexual harassment, beatings, and missing children – enough tragedies to make you feel sick. Yes, humans have been known to do terrible things out of anger and self-interest. It’s true, people have the ability to lie, cheat, manipulate and even kill to get what they want. However, there are still countless others who are generous, helpful, caring, kind, supportive, trustworthy and compassionate. There are others who would give you their coat, half of their lunch, keep your secret, wash your clothes, prepare your bed, drive you home, or walk your dog. There are others who would listen to you all night, defend you at all costs, and pick you up off the ground. Have faith in the goodness of humanity.
Ultimately, it’s up to us to come to our own conclusions. How we get there is the tricky part. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by information, remember who’s in the driver’s seat. While we may not have control over what information goes out, we do have control over what information goes in. In the words of Mark Ehrmann from prose Desiderata, “Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.”
Thanks for reading!