Engaging people in their own growth and development unleashes potential and results in peak performance.

Noise VS. Signals

“I learned long ago to focus on things you can control and don’t even pay attention to things you don’t.”

-Bryan Cranston

Peak Performance Training

Noise is all around us. I am not talking about the loudness or softness of the sounds that we hear rather I am alluding to the information we continually take in moment to moment. Shawn Achor in “Before Happiness” distinguishes between noise and signals stating that a signal is “information that is true and reliable and alerts you to the opportunities, possibilities, and resources to reach full potential” while noise is “any information that is negative, false, unnecessary or prevents you from perceiving success”. For most of use, we have way too much noise coming at us which impedes our ability to hear signals.

Achor divides noise into four categories; unusable, untimely, hypothetical, and distracting. Unusable noise is something that you hear or think that will not change your behavior despite engaging the noise. A good example of this is natural disasters in other countries or even politics in other countries. Unless you are planning to send money to the Red Cross or another helping agency you are limited in your response to the noise. Reacting emotionally in a way that distracts you from your life makes this noise constructively unusable to you. Second, untimely noise is information that cannot be acted upon now and has the potential to change by the time you are going to use it. Information about mortgage rates, the stock market and any other distractions that take your focus from what you want to achieve fit into this category. The third category of noise is hypothetical. I find this category incredibly problematic. According to Achor weather predictions which have a 53% accuracy fall into this category. I have a client who glued to the television once she hears that there is a dire warning of bad weather. She gets her weather radio out just to make sure she does not miss anything on television and is completely undone by waiting for the worst to happen. Fortunately, nothing has happened that is weather related in her life but if you add up all the hours she has spent listening to the worst possible scenarios she could probably recoup several months of her life. Finally, distracting noise is the last category of noise. I would put social media first on this list. When you are involved in a project, do you stop to check in on Facebook, Linked In, Snapchat or any other form of social media? Even checking your email counts can be a distraction if it keeps you from being productive and successful. You might want to rethink its’ value until you have time to spend engaging in it.

We actually can control the amount of noise in our lives. First, we have to get really good at differentiating between signals and noise. A signal provides us with information that takes us towards our goals while noise takes us away. I don’t want to over simplify yet using that measurement will help to discern the value of the information we are taking in. A suggestion from Achor is to limit the amount of talk radio we listen to daily. For me if the information is a fact, can be acted upon today or soon, adds value to my life and helps me get down the path, then it’s a signal. However, most talk radio whether liberal or conservative is opinion and can derail us for an entire day. I was working with a salesperson who listened to talk radio every day on his way to appointments. He shared that when he gave the habit up and listened to music, his approach to his day became much more effective and he wasn’t finding himself as stressed and angry as he walked into client offices. This is true for social media as discussed in the previous paragraph. When we continually seek out what is happening to our friends, acquaintances, and even our enemies we can become caught up in drama that has not effect on us. My clients who limit themselves to early in the day and end of the day interactions with social media find their days to be much more effective and less tense. Achor challenges his readers to reduce noise by 5% each day to determine if it makes a difference in daily experiences.

Interestingly, I had a good friend who signed off from Facebook because he was spending too much time reading posts and it was way too distracting for him. When he did come back after a several month hiatus, I noticed his posts were not as frequent nor were his comments as plentiful. When I asked him about the experience, he told me it was the best thing he did to increase his productivity, engagement with family, and overall enjoyment of his life.

Developing expertise at differentiating between the noise and signals can lead to a much calmer life as well as greater success. The choice is yours!

To Your Success!
Dr. Peggy Marshall

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