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Forget Work-Life Balance: Achieve Work-Life Integration by Finding Purpose

The problem with work-life balance is that it traps us in a career or job-oriented mindset, working for either a paycheck or purely to climb the latter. Find purpose instead, says Dan Pontefract.

Dan Pontefract:  Famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote to be that self which one truly is, is something t first thing about when you’re trying to figure out our own personal purpose. So the three questions I want you to think about are as follows. What are you about? What are the attributes, the values, the likes, the dislikes? Get it on a piece of paper and say what am I about? What do I want to be about? The second one is who am I? Who am I trying to be? Who are those people I aspire to? Who are those things in myself that I want to change? And then the last question is how. How am I going to show up each and every day in this life of mine? Once you begin defining, deciding and developing your what, your who and your how at the end of the day that’s going to create a pathway to purpose.
Purpose really is your defined sense of self. And it starts with you. Purpose is not given to you. Purpose is not bought. Purpose is defined and decided and developed by you. Now ostensibly we all have to work somewhere. And so what you’re trying to do is to match as best possible that defined sense of self with an organization that ideally has as close a match to that defined sense of self. So you’re looking for an organization that also has defined itself how you want to view the world, how you live the world. And when there’s a balance as close to as possible as 100 percent between your defined sense of self and the organizations defined sense of purpose than in your role and reciprocally in your life you will be living and working with a sense of purpose.

So once you’ve defined your sense of personal purpose. Once ideally you’re working at an organization that has a higher purpose hopefully you have a purpose mindset. We’ll come back to that. But when things aren’t in alignment, when you’re not in a sweet spot you will actually fall into one of two other mindsets. A job mindset or a career mindset. So here’s how that looks. A job mindset will just feel like a paycheck. It’s very transactional. You just punch it in. You’re punching out. And the reasons for falling into that job mindset usually come because you’re disengaged, you’re disenfranchised, you’re disillusioned with either yourself and/or the organization that has power mongers, hierarchical bureaucracy, they’re not listening to you, fill in the blank. That’s a job mindset. Very sad. Equally sad however is the career mindset. Now don’t think of career in this case as what people would call career development. Think of this as what I call girth.

So when people are in the career mindset they’re actually trying to extend girth. And girth comes in several forms such as title. People trying to climb the ladder for a fancier title. Pay. People pushing people out of the way so that they can get more pay, more remuneration. Budget. People actually hoarding ideas so that they can look good in front of their boss so that they get a higher budget for the next year. These types of trappings that are systemically found in the organization create lots of leaders who have that career mindset. So when you have a portion of the organization in the job mindset aided and abetted by those leaders who are aspiring to the career mindset then you have a lack of purpose. But if you have an alignment between your personal purpose, for example, one of higher purpose the organizations good deeds – and you feel good about this. You’re being listened to, feel good in your life. It’s all working copacetically you’re now in the purpose mindset and you’re going above and beyond the call of duty in your role. You are a transparent individual in that role. You’re almost altruistic. It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like it’s your life. So there’s this life-work integration. Not work-life balance when you’re in the purpose mindset. And ultimately both you and the organization are then in the sweet spot.

The problem with work-life balance is that it traps us in a career or job-oriented mindset, working for either a paycheck or purely to climb the latter. Find purpose instead, says Dan Pontefract.

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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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