The Price of Silence

It’s been exactly two weeks since I made the trip to New Zealand to work and travel for a year.  A LOT has transpired since I boarded my plane at Logan Int’l Airport – lots of good, and lots of bad. There have been loud, excessively fun nights out on the town in Auckland City. There have been sleepless nights with noisy roommates. And who could forget the giant snoring Hawaiian and crying babies in very close proximity on a packed flight. Through it all, there has been one question I’ve found myself pondering. How much am I willing to pay for what I think I need? What is the Price of Silence? 

Perhaps think of it this way. What makes you unbearably uncomfortable, and how much are you willing to pay to avoid your discomfort?

I chose to use sound as my discomfort for a few reasons.

There are a great many things that make you uncomfortable that can also be used as an opportunity to grow. I spent the last year and a half living in a giant bedroom at home with a comfortable queen-sized bed, my own sofa, a television, a writing desk, and a closet to keep my things in order. 

Now, living out of a dorm shared with anywhere between 3 and 7 other strangers, I feel as though I had been living in a lavish mansion for months on end. The change has been uncomfortable. But this particular discomfort provides the opportunity to grow. You are not your possessions, you are the thoughtsfeelings, and actions that are dictated by the wondrous organ located between your ears.

Separating yourself from all the things that make your life easy and comfortable allows you to see what you are made of. How small can I shrink the range of my personal space and still be effective performing my duties in the world? How many things can I give up to test the depth of my ingenuity and resourcefulness?

Getting through this discomfort is like a workout, and the more I practice, the better I will become.

Conquer Fear the Price of Silence
Peace and quiet can be hard to come by…

I don’t view sound (a.k.a noise pollution!) the same way. If you were right here beside me and kept yelling in my ear as I wrote this, I would probably not tell myself that I would be a better manager of distractions if I could push through and just ignore you. Instead, I would grow very angry and remove myself or remove you. Try living your life by lugging around the noisiest vacuum you can find through the activities of your daily life. See if you don’t agree with me after THAT

In short: what is the discomfort that you truly don’t believe you could handle, and how much are you willing to pay to avoid it?

Also: is it really that bad, or are you making it out to be worse than it actually is?

What is YOUR version of the Price of Silence?

(I imagine this is where a meditation master would come out of the woodwork and assure me that if I really tried I could meditate effectively despite having an ear-shattering tune of a jet engine just above my head and that I’m just being a big wimp…) 

Conquer Fear the Price of Silence
To find enlightenment, one must BECOME the jet engine…

Thankfully, I found the answer to my own question when I traveled to Fiji last year. I bought a sleeping mask and earplugs combo for the flight, a purchase that has paid for itself many times over (probably because it was rather inexpensive). So evidently I’ll pay enough for a set of very average earplugs – and not a cent more!  

The earplugs may not leave me in complete (and I dare say – blissful) silence, but they do block enough of the noise to the point where sleep is possible. Lessening the discomfort I am trying to overcome may be what allows me to manage noise pollution better. It’s very similar to how assisted pull-ups are used to transition to regular pull-ups. I mean, I suppose dealing with constant obnoxious noise may get easier with practice, just ask any new parent…

…or perhaps it’s always annoying – I wouldn’t know!

Conquer Fear the price of silence
Only half of these people are getting enough sleep to keep their sanity.

At the very least, if you examine the areas of your life where you pay a premium to avoid discomfort, it might let you determine if any of them are worthy of giving a little extra effort to fight through that discomfort in order to better yourself. 

Is every discomfort worth fighting through? Probably not (go try and read a book cover-to-cover at a construction site – I dare you). However, we all have habits that could use improvement. Maybe it’s walking to errands that are close by instead of driving the car. Or skipping that dessert and actually going for some exercise. Perhaps it’s finishing a whole project without binge-watching an entire Netflix series between each step (guilty).

We all have room to improve. And as you get more comfortable being uncomfortable, you’ll find your improvements come quicker and quicker.

Originally Posted September 27, 2017

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