Great Savings 53 – Cut Back On Life’s Noise


A gorgeous Mexican sunset over the marina in Cabo.

What matters most in your life? Are you going after it? Are you letting things get in the way?

Every day we are bombarded with messages. We touched on all the messages aimed to get us to buy in our Great Savings Tip #22 – Tune Out To Tune In. This time around we’ll focus on other types of messages that hit us just as hard. These messages come at us from all directions, pull us this way and that, and ultimately leave us with underlying stress. We like to call these messages life’s noise. Get sucked in and swallowed by life’s noise and the risk is to end up so out of sync with your real priorities you never seem to get anything accomplished.


Do you spend a certain part of your day watching or reading the news? If so, you probably do that on TV or the internet. Add in all the messages you get on Facebook or Twitter. Now, add in all the conversations you have with others aimed to get you to think a certain way or buy into a certain political or religious viewpoint. After awhile, it’s all just so much noise. So what’s the real harm in it?


It's like we're all on a meter that measures out how much energy we can expend.

There’s only so much time and energy we can consume during the day. Are you using yours wisely?

Let’s face it: After we sleep, eat, and handle our personal responsibilities there only a few real productive hours leftover in any day. Fill them with  junk and that’s less time we can spend the way we really want, not to mention build the future we desire. Yet the true damage to life’s excessive noise goes deeper.


Here's a classic car, one like Grandpa used to drive.

Everything was simpler back in the day. This old car didn’t have any computer chips or electronics.

It may be hard for young people to imagine the world of their parents. Depending on how old they were growing up, their parent’s early years may not have included color TV, cable TV, personal computers, laptops, iPads, internet, cell phones, or Facebook. And as to the news, it didn’t come 24/7 like it does today. Instead, it came once and lasted a scant half hour or so.


Now, contrast that long ago life of your parents with the one you lead today. You can quickly see our world is jam packed with people, devices and technologies all demanding our attention—all things that weren’t part of the equation just a few decades past.


The problem we face as a species is we don’t yet have sufficient training or experience to handle such a diversity of attention sucking activities. For thousands of years humans were hunter/gatherers and very little about day-to-day life changed. When the sun came up, people got up and spent their days taking care of basics like food and shelter. When the sun went down they went to bed. In our times things are much different. Basics are commonly available to buy (at least if you can afford them). At the same time it seems there is very little that hasn’t changed in our lives and no matter how hard we try we just can’t adapt fast enough.



Life’s Noise – Different Strokes


Life’s noise can look like a lot of different things to different people:


JB does yoga in the park.

JB’s meditation is interrupted by a bee. In a way, aren’t email, text, Facebook or Twitter messages a lot like JB’s bee?

Imagine “JB” meditating in an attempt to clear his head and relax. He dressed down for the occasion in loose fitting clothing, but his old baggy underwear keeps creeping up where it’s not supposed to. JB also picked out what was supposed to be a nice quiet spot in the park to meditate. Now, there’s a baseball game gearing up nearby. Without warning, a bee lands on JB’s nose. He is allergic to bees and can’t risk getting stung.


Rick wants to know what's for dinner.

Hubby wants to know what’s for dinner? How can Betty possibly deal with that if she plans to get her project finished on schedule?

Or imagine Betty trying to finish up her project at work on time in hopes to get a promotion. It’s due at the end of the day—just two hours away. Suddenly, Mary pops in her cube to dish on some great gossip she just heard. While she’s still blathering on, Kevin, her boss, zaps her with an email. He wants an updated status report immediately. Betty’s cell phone goes off before she can type him a reply. Her husband, Rick, wants to know what she’s planning to cook for dinner.


Or consider Jessica. She loves keeping current on Facebook with friends, but several of them have developed a habit of reposting every political article they find. Now, she gets hit sixty times an hour with a ping from her smart phone. Jessica’s trouble is she considers herself pretty mainstream and most of the articles her friends are sending her have either an extremely liberal or conservative slant. Either way, it’s too much to keep track of and she doesn’t really care.


This is Great Savings 53 - Cut Back On Life's NoiseReggie likes keeping up on the news—to the point it’s an addiction. He’s got a dozen sites on the web he checks every ten minutes or so and several apps for his phone to alert him of any breaking story. Plus, he often turns on the 24 hour news channel when he gets home from work. Lately, Reggie’s noticed that just about every alert he gets is already old news, meaning it’s for something that happened an hour or two ago. He’s also noticed that even though the titles of the stories are often different or in a different order, every news site he checks has the same basic stories. He wonders why a dozen different news sites can’t come up with one or two original articles. Isn’t anything new? He’d better check again.


In each of the cases above, people are in situations where repetitious or unwanted “noise” has intruded on their lives to the point of distraction. In the process, it’s robbing them of time that could be spent building a better, happier, more satisfying, and more productive future. They may not even be aware to what degree the noise is limiting their options. The thing is they could eliminate some or even all this noise, but only if they wake up and take action.


A family bbq featuring barbecued chicken.

Maybe it’s time to figure out and focus on the things that matter in your life, like family and friends, real food, and shared experiences.

If JB wants to relax he could buy new underwear and pick a quiet indoor spot to mediate. If Betty wants to finish her project and eventually get promoted, she’d best send Mary away and tell her husband to handle dinner. If Jessica adjusted her phone and Facebook settings she could significantly reduce the nagging interruptions in her life. If Reggie took a moment to examine how much of his life is wasted by his addiction to the news, he might discover an entire world of opportunity just waiting.


There’s yet another side to life’s noise: Sometimes too much noise is harmful to our inner sense of self. Once again, imagine life for your parents or perhaps your grandparents. They grew up listening to the news once a day so it was quite limited in scope. Meanwhile, we are continually bombarded by the horrid and tragic and it eventually wears on the soul. Our grandparents might have missed out on news, say, on the war in Afghanistan in their day because it was so far away and not as relevant as a story on the local economy.


Time to soak up some rays.

We need to make the space in our lives to figure out what’s important and what’s not. The only way to do that is turn off life’s noise and create the space for it.

Meanwhile, we get hit by the war in Afghanistan, the war in Syria, the strife in Africa, pollution in China, the suffering in Somalia, the rebellion in Egypt, the local economic news, and so on. In other words, if we assign relevance to all these things and allow them into our lives they suck up our attention and keep us from focusing on the things that matter most—the real people in our lives, our families, our jobs, our educations, our finances, etc.


Think about it: If you sit around surfing the internet or watching six hours of TV a day, what time do you really have time to look for a better job, or to sign up for a class to get that Master’s degree you want?


Or, say you re-post every political article you find intriguing, believing every one of your friends should feel the same way you do. Is your action really going to change anything? Chances are good that most of your friends care less or at least far less about the issues you do. Meanwhile, you get sucked into the notion the world is falling apart and it’s worse than ever before. The irony is it’s probably no worse than it was in the 1600’s, the 1200’s, the 1800’s, or any other period in our history. In every instance, we can find war, pestilence, disease, political shenanigans, gangs, violence, drugs, and so on. The point?


When we focus on the negative we end up getting depressed over things that we have no control over. When we get depressed we have neither the energy nor inclination to accomplish anything. Thus, the way we spend our time matters if we want to achieve our goals.


A cute family of ducklings.

This mama knows what’s important and she’s focused on it. Still, it’s one thing to be a duck and another to be human.

Don’t let the noise in your life dictate the terms of your surrender. Fight back. Stop checking the news 20 times a day. Stop carrying a phone wherever you go or turn it off at certain times a day (like at night so you can get good rest). Get up from your computer and go take a walk. Turn off the TV and read a book or sign up for a class. Change your settings in Facebook so you aren’t spammed by your friends over political and religious beliefs. In other words, so you don’t have to be told the position you hold is right or wrong. Meanwhile, find ways to tune technological distraction out and real people, real experience and the beauty of nature in.


Action Item: Commit to at least one way you can reduce the noise in your life. For example, if you know you would feel better by not checking for new email every 5 minutes, make it happen. You might start by only checking every hour. Then move to six hours and then only once a day. See how much it really matters and who is most affected. Sure, you may have to adjust for certain people, but you can create a special alert for them or convince them of the beauty in your plan. Now, take some of the time you save and put it towards something you’ve always wanted to do. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to brighter future.


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