The kind of static I’m talking about is the kind you get when the signal of a radio station is too far away and there is noise that blocks out the music. When it happens, it is a ‘fingernails on the chalkboard’ situation for me and it has to stop! Similarly we have so much noise and distraction throughout the course of our day, it is blocking out the signal of our own thoughts and ability to concentrate. If we actually notice it, we have to make it stop. The problem is we have become so accustomed to it, we are less and less aware of how loud our lives are. We are so used to it that we may not even realize how much it is affecting the quality of our lives. Our attention spans are shorter than ever, shorter than that of a goldfish according to studies. We pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task and thrive amidst the chaos. By the way multi-tasking is a myth. For more information about multi-tasking, see my previous post: Activity Does Not Equal Productivity.
Here are some noise-makers drowning out life and actual human-to-human relationships. I have to admit that I am guilty of some or all of these.
- Keeping phones on the table or visible during conversations or meetings
- Checking/responding to messages during conversations or meetings
- Phones in the room where we sleep (esp. if not in sleep mode)
- Constant streaming of news or podcasts
- Scrolling social media feeds for hours on end
Some of us don’t even remember the days before we had the internet in our pocket. Instant messaging did not exist yet. Phone calls were something that happened at home, at the office or in a phone booth. Waiting for a phone call meant you actually stayed home within ear shot of the attached-to-the-wall phone. The horror! The speed of information was much slower and frankly so was the pace of life. Now, we just accept the constant chaos of 24/7 connectedness and an expectation of always on. Do you realize we are never really alone with our thoughts? We have smart phones, smart cars, smart homes that are always reaching for us and even talking to us. We are tethered to our devices, fearful of being anywhere without a signal lest we miss something important or even mundane.
All of this rolled together has led to a state where most of us are struggle to or are incapable of sitting still and processing our own feelings even if we really try. See if this sounds familiar… You set a timer. Focus on your breathing. And then after about 30 seconds, you start to squirm. 2-3 minutes later you get really restless and … reach for your phone. That was a nice idea. Oh well, maybe you’ll try again tomorrow. Or maybe that’s just me? But I don’t think so.
We want to go deeper in our lives and in our thoughts, to go beneath our surface-level living and focus on our priorities. Going deep requires letting go of the unimportant distractions, mental clutter and noise in our lives and focusing on what really matters to us. To go all in, 100% on what we choose rather than what other people choose for us. Yes, we all have commitments, jobs, responsibilities but it is up to you to set the boundary lines on start and finish times and your yes’s and your no’s. Just by paying more attention you will begin to reel in the never-ending list of tasks and to-do’s.
Take action: Make it part of each day to turn off the noise and just sit with your thoughts. Then think through your daily commitments and goals. This daily practice will begin to align your priorities and your time.
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