Silencing the Background Noise of Life


There are only really three things you do in any given day:

  1. Things you enjoy
  2. Things that improve your life
  3. Everything else

My guess is, like most people, the majority of your time is spent on the third, “everything else” category. But should it be?

Fun, Growth and the Background Noise in Life

The main two reasons I see for doing anything are either the activity is intrinsically enjoyable or fulfilling, or the activity leads to some improvement in my life or the world which will eventually make my life more enjoyable or fulfilling.

Of course, I’m ignoring selfless acts of altruism, but I’d say normally when we help someone else out, the activity makes us either feel fulfilled or the activity fosters some sort of self-improvement. I rarely see anyone deliberately making a selfless time investment if they feel no added fulfillment or growth as a result.

The question is: why, then, do people spend so much time on everything else?

One reason is that they have to. I have to clean regularly, or I’ll end up living in my own filth. That doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoy cleaning. Ditto for vacuuming providing a massive wave of self-improvement.

Another reason is that they’re committed to doing them. A few years ago I ran a Toastmasters club, which I had to sustain even after I stopped enjoying the meetings or noticing improvement in my life.

These things form the background noise in life; all the activity that needs to be done, which provides neither enjoyment nor any eventual escape. It’s my belief that truly successful people understand how to silence as much of this noise as possible.

Silencing the Noise

The ideal life would have as little background noise as possible. Every task would be thoroughly enjoyed, it would productively contribute to a better future, or both.

Perfection’s impossible, and I’m guessing most of the readers here are still somewhere along the road to complete silence. But that doesn’t mean figuring out where the background noise is coming from and silencing as much as possible wouldn’t have positive side effects.

You could:

  • Learn to enjoy. Learning to cook can turn it from a necessity to a source of enjoyment, for example.
  • Unsubscribe from ongoing commitments.
  • Outsource.
  • Replace with a more enjoyable task (or a more productive one).
  • Automate the process.
  • Tweak the activity to make it more engaging.

Living in Noise is Often a Choice

Ultimately, a lot of the background noise in life has nothing to do with tasks you’re committed to or must complete to sustain your existence. Instead they’re ways to create busyness.

We invent rules, obligations and commitments because it’s easier than actually committing to what we care about most. Generating noise because the silence is uncomfortable.

Image by jfpickard

  • Thank-you for this article. I also feel much of daily life is pointless noise. I’ll be applying these 3 questions to decipher the important from the mayhem. Fabulous blog also.