In Leadership and Life
This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon the power of silence; and, maybe more importantly how in that absence of sound and other stimuli there lives a very powerful reservoir. One that, as many of you know, I was not in touch with for many years.
In my reflection this past week, I’ve also been pondering how in today’s fast-paced, go, go, go, culture, I do have the United States in mind here, accessing silence is even more important. The paradox? It’s harder to access. Though not for the reason you may be thinking.
It’s harder to access, not because there is less silence available in the US. In fact, accessing silence has nothing to do with spaces and places. The reason that it is harder in the US to access silence is actually rather simple. It’s not valued, nor taught. In fact, one could argue that the opposite is valued.
Fast-paced, loud, go, go, go. Right? These may be horrible generalizations, yet take a look around any metropolitan city in this country, and what do you see? People moving fast, cars driving fast, animals moving fast. Habituation to a lifestyle that proceeds all of us, yet we also help to continue to perpetuate this lifestyle. Interesting.
In this post, I want to create a space to discuss some practices that anyone, no matter where you live, can take up to secure themselves a little silence each day. These practices are common sense. No great mysteries here. Yet, it’s the planning and doing and repeating that matter most in this conversation. (Re)habituation.
Well, I’ve not defined a word in a while in a post, so let’s do that, shall we? Good. Here we go.
noun /həˌbɪtʃuˈeɪʃn/ /həˌbɪtʃuˈeɪʃn/[uncountable] (formal)
- habituation (of somebody/something) (to something) the action or condition of becoming used to something
There we go.
So, what then is (re)habituation? It simply means the process of habituating ourselves to a different set of stimuli, actions or conditions, while letting go of the ones we are currently habituated to. Simple. Yet, when we are habituated to an action or a particular set of conditions, it can be difficult to (re)habituate ourselves to something new.
I’ve written on this topic before, and think, especially right now, it is important for everyone to consider how they can get at least a few moments of silence in their lives each day.
Just a short 4 years ago, I never created silence for myself. In fact, I thought reading and watching television was, in their own way, silent time. And, when you don’t know how to access silence, and, in fact, are quite afraid of it, then watching TV or reading a book can seem like silent time.
Yet, accessing real silence takes practice. And, guess what? Once you’ve created a new habit to access silence, and you’ve done so for some time, you begin to realize that silence is always available. Even when you are busy. A paradox? Yes, and no.
Here are a couple things you can do on a regular basis to begin to access silence.
- Stop – when you are super busy. Stop. Stop, and set an alarm on your phone for 2 minutes and just sit there and focus on your breath. The way the air is inhaled into your lungs and the way it is exhaled out. Just 2 minutes. Do that periodically throughout your day. You will find that in just 2 minutes of silence, you can quiet your mind a little, and gain more focus. As you practice this 2-minute silence break, increase it after a couple of weeks to 3 minutes, then 5 minutes. It is amazing how much focus and mental equilibrium can be created out of just a few minutes of real silence.
- Walk – calendar yourself for regular walks. You can start with a 5-minute walk. If you’re at work, maybe it’s just around the area you work, inside or out, it matters not. What matters is to focus on your breath as you walk. As you take a step, inhale in, and as you take another step, exhale out. You can even count the steps as you take them. I still do this today without even thinking about it. Habituation.
- Listen – when you are super busy, stop what you are doing, and listen to your mind and body. How do they feel? Are you tense? Is your mind super active? If so, stop and breathe for a few minutes, or take a walk, as described above.
- Repeat – the most important thing about creating a new habit, or (re)habituating ourselves out of our current habits and into new ones is repetition. Daily is best. Yet, it is also important to set a schedule you can work with and that will feel good. So, if that’s every other day, so be it. Getting started is key, and then continuing as you are able will create more workability for you inside of creating a new habit.
Alright, there are a couple of things you can do to habituate yourself into a new habit, which will help you gain access to silent time everyday. Remember, if you forget, which will happen, or feel you don’t have time so choose not to access silent time one day, it’s okay.
There are no demerits here. It’s about creating more workability by increasing your focus, attention, and mental wellness, something everyone needs, and leaders must have.
Leadership and Silence
I’ve found accessing silence one of the most powerful concepts and practices of my entire life; and, remember, the person writing this post did know how to access even one minute of real silence until about 4 years ago. True.
Yet, when we create the time to be silent, to quiet our minds, to listen to our bodies, and to just be, what we get back is so much more. We get more focus, attention, and mental wellness, and we also get more insights. Insights into our own humanity. A sacred and beautiful experience.
Here are five few ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership.
- Mental Flexibility – when we are mentally flexible, we are open and willing to listen and learn.
- Calmness – remaining calm under great pressure and stress is key to keeping yourself and your team on track and in alignment.
- Clarity – developing clarity means that your communications will be more clear and understandable. Communication is one of the most important functions in leadership, so being clear, concise, and understandable is key.
- Patience – the ability to demonstrate patience shows your team that even under extreme pressure, you will remain open and flexible. Demonstrating patience will give your team more confidence in you as a leader.
- Deeper Understanding – to lead, you must understand yourself well; and, you must be able to relate to all people, staff, peers, customers, clients, everyone. Developing a deeper understanding of your own humanity, means that you develop a deeper understanding of all humanity, which makes you more relatable, empathetic, and compassionate.
There are many more ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership, yet these are important for all of us, and for leaders they are critical. The ability to be mentally flexible, remain calm, have clarity, demonstrate patience, and create a deeper understanding of yourself are skills that every leader needs.
Remember, then, the next time you feel overwhelmed at work or in life, create silent time for yourself. It can even be 1 minute to start. What matters most is getting started.
It’s about accessing the silence that is always within you; and, watching that grow over time, as you continue to practice the act of creating silent time for yourself.