Quiet Your Mind and Your Environment for Success

We all deal with constant “noise” in today’s world. Physical sounds are certainly part of it. A guy roars down your street on his modified-exhaust motorcycle, the constant backdrop of blaring televisions at every restaurant you frequent and technology is always “on”. But I’m also talking about noise of a different kind.

It’s the commotion in your head as your mind fights to prioritize work and family-related issues and concerns. Or it’s the pressure felt by that internal “traffic cop” that helps you sift through phone calls, voicemails, and emails. Perhaps it surfaces in the form of  emotions jogged by that social media posts that makes you either nod your head or shake it—and feel the need to respond. So many demands and not enough bandwidth in our brains.

To Succeed, Quiet the Chaos

Recently, I noticed an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It deals with the need for quiet periods in our lives. We may all intuitively “know” this, but just don’t allow ourselves to take it seriously. The article, written by Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Mertz, was called ‘The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time’. It was more convincing than similar self-help articles, in that it gave solid research support for its conclusions.

Plenty of authors and bloggers (including me) have talked about the need to limit the invasive effects of social media, constant checking of email (both work and home) and other trendy travails. But here, the authors were able to document specific studies that showed the important of literal silence in helping you deliver your best daily performance in creativity and productivity.

The Survey Says…

A few different studies were cited in the article, but the results that captured my attention were these:

  • A researcher at Duke Medical School found that silence was associated with the growth of new cells in the hippocampus—the part of the brain that promotes learning and memory.
  • An Italian physician reported study results showing that two-minute periods of silence inserted between musical pieces designed to relax patients, helped stabilize their cardiovascular and respiratory systems more than the music did.
  • In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, 43,000 workers surveyed reported that the noise and distraction of their new “open office” plans, outweighed the anticipated gains of productivity from more frequent human interactions.

The article goes on to point out that innovative ideas and the most productive thinking come during deeper modes of listening and attention. So what prevents us from achieving those deeper thought modes more often? Per the authors, it is the pressure felt by the brain to know and prepare just what to say, write, or tweet next. I’d liken it to a tennis match with no time to plan strategy because the ball is always coming your way. Or maybe it’s like keeping your brain on a treadmill, where the best you can do is “keep up”.

Call For a Quiet Conversation

The article mentions several impressive people who have committed to enforcing periods of quiet each day in their lives. All of them credit this practice with helping their overall success. The list includes eminent people including author J. K. Rowling and famed psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung.

In my next post, I will cover 4 ways to improve creativity and success with quiet time, so be sure to check back in next Tuesday.

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