Controlling the Noise of Life

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. – Theodore H. White

Controlling the Noise of Life

Dr. Peggy MarshallI was at a program last week that my company sponsors for top performers. One of my roles was to connect the book “Before Happiness” by Shawn Achor  to increasing personal performance. If you read my blog last month, you know I am a big fan of Shawn’s. I am going to focus on one specific skill from the book-noise cancellation. Our goal as successful people is to be able to filter out noise that comes from others and sometimes from within in order to be able to listen to true and reliable information Achor calls signals.

Achor believes that noise is any information that is negative, false, unnecessary or prevents us from being able to reach our full potential. He places noise in four categories; unusable, untimely, hypothetical, or distracting. This is similar to the belief help by Napoleon Hill  who began his writings in 1937. At that time, he advised that we should engage in accurate thought which requires two fundamentals. We have to be able to separate fact from fiction and then determine if the fact is relevant or irrelevant. Based upon what these two authors have related, a skill for everyone to build is the ability to filter through all of the information we receive on a daily basis to determine what is factual, usable, timely and relevant. How often do you evaluate the external noise in your life based upon these criteria. Achor contends that if we just reduce the noise by 5% we can be considerably more successful with the endeavors we are engaged in.

The next area of noise that impacts us constantly is thoughts. Do your thoughts lead to positive thinking or negative thinking? Wayne Dyer in “You’ll See It When You Will Believe It”  proposes that many highly respected thinkers from an array of different disciplines subscribe to the belief that thought determines how our lives will go. Our thoughts determine our emotional states. To borrow from Jim Loehr’s writings in “The Power of Story”  our thoughts lead us into our emotional states which are opportunity based or fear based. When I am coaching clients, one of the most difficult concepts to understand is the idea that we choose our own thoughts-they don’t just happen to us. A major improvement in your life can happen when you are able to recognize the choice you have about your thoughts-particularly the negative ones.

Negative Thinking

Achor believes that negative thinking is the most dangerous type of noise. Tony Robbins in “Awakening the Giant Within” contends that when our self-talk results in limiting beliefs, we are sabotaging any efforts we could direct towards success. While we are not always able to reduce the noise coming from outside of us, a bright spot is the capacity for taking control of our internal noise-better known as self-talk.

Self-talk is a term that refers to the voices that chatter away in our heads. For example, when you wake up each morning and look into the mirror, what are you saying to yourself? Is this going to be the best day ever or are there numerous changes you have to make to your appearance, other people or just life in general in order to be happy?

Self-talk can be positive as well as negative.   When self-talk is positive, it can uplift you when things aren’t going your way, bolster your self-confidence to try new activities and deepen relationships. But negative self-talk, on the other hand, can interfere with performance, damage relationships, erode self-esteem and leave you drained of energy.

Ways to change self-talk

1) Notice throughout the day what you are saying to yourself. Are the thoughts positive and uplifting or are you focused on what’s wrong and not working. It’s even more effective if you write down common thoughts you have throughout the day. You might be surprised by what you are actually thinking!

2) Next, look at your list. What messages are noise from other people? Which messages are coming from your own experiences? If your self-talk is predominantly negative, determine any judgments you are making. Then challenge any negative judgments. Are they really true? More importantly how do these judgments make your feel? Typically, negative judgments create a spiral downward into negative emotional states. Ask yourself-do I really want to feel this way?

3. Use words of encouragement and possibilities to challenge your self-talk. Instead of “I’ll never get all this done”, say “I am in the process of completing all my tasks.” Think about how much progress you have made instead of how far you have to go.

4. Finally, when you are feeling drained of energy, consider a couple of options for raising energy. Go for a brisk walk around the block. Practice deep breathing-just a minute or two of breathing in and out to the count of 8 can change your energy. Don’t forget about random acts of kindness which also build our energy-just smiling at someone when walking into a building or entering an elevator can lift your spirits.

This month pay attention to the noise in your life-both external and internal. Since you really have the most control over self-talk, practice listening to your self-talk. Change the easiest messages first letting the stronger ones go for now-you can come back to them later. And don’t forget to keep your energy up!

To Your Success! Dr. Peggy