ARTICLE: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Silence
Last year, as the world went into lockdown, burnout and its long-lasting impact on our health increased, blurring the lines between work and play. Even as some regions slowly reopen, the pall of uncertainty reigns, especially for the youngest generations.
Vijay Eswaran writes on hbr.org about his work with many young people as a part of his personal mission to guide the next generation of leaders, and shares how over the last year, many of his colleagues and mentees have expressed feelings of frustration and angst.
His advice to them? Reassurance. Though many of us think we are alone in our feelings, they are not unusual or uncommon. To get through a difficult phase over which we have no control, we can focus on something over which we do have control—how we approach each day with goal-setting, a focus on learning and growth, and mindfulness. One way to do this? The Sphere of Silence.
Eswaran recounts how his grandfather would wake up at the crack of dawn each day and sit in complete stillness and silence for an hour, a ritual of meditative silence long practiced in Indian Hindu tradition that brings inner peace. Traveling to different parts of the world, initially for education and then later for work, Eswaran later discovered that a ritual practice of silence is not unique to any religion or culture. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all advocated the practice of silence in one form or another.
When we practice silence, we have to find other ways to communicate and declutter our thought processes. Being silent allows us to channel our energies and gives us the clarity we need to calmly face challenges and uncertainty. The daily hour of silence can be a time for collecting our thoughts, training our minds, and deciding how we want to enter into the day.
The Routine at a Glance
The Sphere of Silence is broken into 3 segments: 30, 20, and 10 minutes. You can start with a shortened version by slicing time off each of the segments, working your way up to the complete 60 minutes for optimal benefits. Try to complete a 21-day cycle without any breaks. The ground rule is to keep complete silence with no distractions, so switch off all devices and find a quiet spot away from others. Have a journal and pen ready, as well as a book you’ve been meaning to read for a while. Although it can be any time during the day, practicing the Sphere of Silence in the mornings helps boost productivity and brings a calm that combats the stresses of the day.
The First 30 Minutes: Goal Setting
Spend the first 10 minutes in your journal writing your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Then dedicate the next 10 minutes to assessing your progress on the goals you set the previous day. Ask questions about your progress and recalibrate your plans if needed. This will motivate you to focus on moving forward and completing the tasks necessary for achieving whatever success looks like to you. Use the final 10 minutes to note any unmet goals and assess the reasons you have not achieved them. The events of tomorrow develop from what you do today, so understanding yesterday is the key to shaping tomorrow.
The Next 20 Minutes: Learning and Growth
Pick up that book you bought many moons ago but never got around to reading. Choose a book that teaches you new things and enriches your mind. Spend the first 10 minutes reading a chapter of your book. Use the remaining 10 minutes to write down (by hand) a summary of what you just read. By the time you finish the book, you will have engaged in an extra layer of processing, allowing for deeper retention and analysis, and strengthening your short-term memory.
The Final 10 Minutes: Mindfulness
Use these last 10 minutes for self-reflection and, if you believe in a higher power, for communicating with God, the Universe, your spirituality, or whatever you prefer. Be present and pay attention to your feelings. The added benefit of silence is it acts as a natural filter to your thoughts. It gives you time to think about what you are feeling and what those feelings mean to you.
When you practice the Sphere of Silence without a break for 21 days, you will likely notice immediate changes in how you perceive the world around you, begin to acquire an intense insight into everything you do, and find a greater sense of balance. Many of us have forgotten (or even fear) quiet—we live in a world full of noise and chatter that inundates our daily routines with distractions. This practice is an investment in yourself. It is a way to take control of the remaining 23 hours of your day. When you see your vision come to life, you gain confidence and a deeper understanding of who you are, and learn to trust yourself and feel more secure amid the noise and uncertainties around you.
Read the full article on Harvard Business Review.