Take Back Your Day - and Your Life - with the Sphere of Silence
What if there were a less complicated way to deal with stress and burnout? All you need is to invest one hour a day into a consistent practice I refer to as the Sphere of Silence (SoS). Setting aside this hour every day will help you master the remaining 23 hours of the day.
As an entrepreneur who started a company at the height of the Asian economic crisis in the late '90s, I have experienced every type of challenge a business can face. Today's 20-something start-up founders have a number of resources to tap into, from VC funding and co-working spaces to technology-enabled tools to help with hiring and scaling up. When I was a first-generation entrepreneur in my late 30s, the economy in Asia was shaky and I had absolutely no guidance. It should have been overwhelming, but what got me through those early years was my consistent practice of the SoS.
So, what is the Sphere of Silence, and how does it work? The Sphere of Silence is a daily practice that involves retreating into silence for an hour a day and going through a three-step process that will help you make the most of your day, and eventually your life. It's derived from the art of silence that I learned from my grandfather at a very young age. He would spend an hour in complete silence at the beginning of each day and nothing could distract him during that hour. He believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace and made him a better listener.
I don't claim any ownership to its originality. I discovered through extensive reading and discussions with people from all over the world that a ritual practice of silence is not unique to any particular religion or culture. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all advocated the practice of silence in one form or another. Gandhi is supposed to have practiced a day of silence each week. Even Nelson Mandela is believed to have observed an hour of quiet each day.
I developed this daily routine from a combination of personal and historic mindfulness techniques. It is not to be confused with meditation. In fact, I would refer to it as active silence that is purposeful and structured. It is easy and approachable for anyone who wants to reinvigorate their mind and take charge of their day. Sixty minutes in the Sphere of Silence every day enables you to slow down and take stock of where you are now and where you are headed.
The 60-minute practice is made up of three paths of reflection: duty, knowledge, and devotion.
- The Path of Duty (30 minutes) allows you to set goals for today, assess goals set the day before, and map out new goals for the future. After all, tomorrow develops from what you intend today, and one cannot structure today without knowing why or how yesterday happened. Hence, understanding yesterday is the key to tomorrow.
- The Path of Knowledge (20 minutes) is about enrichment of the mind. I recommend reading an interesting non-fiction book that you think you can learn something from. For the first 10 minutes, read a few pages, and use the second segment of 10 minutes to write a summary of what you just read. This process not only helps you absorb and understand the text, it helps build short-term memory, an important requisite in any quest for success.
- The Path of Devotion (10 minutes) is the time taken to commune with a higher power, the universe, or whatever you prefer philosophically. This is purely personal, and the practice does not, in any way, try to define or dictate the process.
The process is meant to question and challenge the standards in our lives that we have accepted and grown accustomed to. We have allowed ourselves to fall into a trap by letting our habits dictate our destinies -- but this can change. It starts with our thoughts and progresses into words. From word to deed, then deed to habit, habit to character, and character to destiny. Practicing the SoS is akin to a productivity life hack that allows you to break the routines that trap you from the start. If thought is responsible for creating our destiny, then the way we think is essential to making meaningful change in our lives.
I recommend setting aside time in the morning for the SoS practice because it is the time of day before the chaos of our daily lives begins. However, it can be practiced at any time of day that is convenient for you. You must maintain absolute silence during this period and focus completely on what you are doing. It is essential to turn off all forms of external communication during this time. No phones, laptops, or television. Refrain from breaks, music, or any other distractions. If you break the silence or get distracted by external stimuli, it is important to start the process from the beginning.
I have found this practice to be a holistic approach to improving one's mental well-being. By simply practicing SoS on a regular basis, you can acquire an intense insight into everything you do, and you will be able to accomplish great things with your life. I have been practicing the Sphere of Silence for most of my life, and I attribute a large part of my success to it. Today, more than two decades after I began my entrepreneurial journey, that small Asian start-up that was born in a world of chaos has grown into a multi-business conglomerate with a global footprint, and I continue to practice my personal productivity hack to this day.
The Sphere of Silence can be applied to any endeavor. The paths are each designed to encourage positive action in various aspects of your life. I find that practicing the Sphere of Silence is the ultimate weapon against the assault on our senses and the insanity that prevails around us on a daily basis. To many, it may seem like no quiet could exist amid the din and racket of an ever-blaring world. However, if you make it part of your daily practice, you can learn to begin the day with more focus, energy, and motivation.
Vijay Eswaran is an entrepreneur, speaker, and philanthropist. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group of Companies, a multi-business conglomerate with headquarters in Hong Kong, offices in more than 25 countries and customers in more than 100 countries. He has published three bestsellers on leadership and mindfulness. Praised as "a beautiful book" by self-help genre pioneer Stephen Covey, the Sphere of Silence (2006) has sold over half a million copies to date. His latest book, Two Minutes from the Abyss, was published in 2017. He is a passionate advocate for improving the quality of higher education in South East Asia, the recipient of numerous awards for entrepreneurship and business leadership, and has been featured in Forbes as one of Asia's Top 50 philanthropists. He is also on the advisory board of the World Economic Forum's Global Growth Companies, and a regular speaker at WEF's annual meeting in Davos.
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