The blessing of a jackhammer (and what that has to do with creating work you love)

road construction

There’s a big road construction project going on across the street from me. The last couple days have been filled with wave after wave of jackhammering.

There’s not much to do but tune it out, but every time it stops for an extended period of time I’m struck by how peaceful it feels. The silence is almost palpable.

Every time I experience that silence, I realize how much tension the jackhammer has been causing – both in my mind and my body. The silence feels like a little trip to the spa where that tension just drips away.

Sure, the incessant rattle of metal on concrete has been irritating, but it has also been a blessing.

Huh? How could a jackhammer be a blessing? Let me explain.

Quieting the jackhammer of the mind

Grating as it has been, the noise of the jackhammer has helped me experience the peace of the silence in a way I seldom do when the noise level outside is just at your standard urban hum.

Every time I feel that silence, I think, “Ohhhhh, that’s what’s there when the noise stops!”

That jackhammer and the silence in its absence is a perfect metaphor for what happens in our minds, and the peace and spaciousness that comes if we can quiet that mental jackhammer even just a little bit.

The jackhammer and the profound peace of its absence has been giving me a frame of reference – an experiential analogy, if you will – for what happens at an internal level, both with the noise we create in our minds and the potential for peace when we find ways to turn down the volume.

Recognizing the unacknowledged tension

One of the most striking things about the peace following the noise has been a realization of just how much tension I was holding in response to the jackhammer, even though I thought I was tuning it out.

It’s the same in our minds. Our thoughts create a tension in our minds we often don’t even realize is there. Maybe it’s the shrill underlying hum of a worry about the future, or rumination about what he did, or what she said, or how you screwed up.

Maybe it’s an ongoing battle with what is and an insistence that things should be different. Perhaps it’s just an addiction to going at mach speed without the ability to really relax.

Whatever it is, it frequently creates an underlying tension there that can suck your energy dry.

What jackhammering (and quiet) has to do with loving your work

The goal of getting Wild About Work isn’t just finding work you love. It’s also developing your capacity to fully experience the juice your work offers.

The tension and energy drain created by the jackhammer of our minds has a constricting effect. It makes us smaller and less open. It takes us out of flow, rather than helping us step into it.

The benefit of toning down that internal jackhammer is twofold. First, you reduce the energy drain it causes. And second, the more you can do to quiet that internal jackhammer, the more internal space you have to experience the good stuff.

How to turn down your mental jackhammer

In the Wild About Work model, one of the basic foundational pieces is some kind of grounding practice (or even better, several grounding practices).

There are a bazillion different ways to turn down the volume on that internal jackhammer. I’ll dive more deeply into a few of them in future posts, but for now here’s a handful:

Mindfulness: This is simply pulling yourself back from whatever wild gyrations your mind is doing in the past and/or future and experiencing what is happening right here, right now, without overlaying a story.

Meditation: A regular meditation practice – even just a few minutes per day – can have a profound effect on the noise in your mind. You can use it both as a regular practice and as a way to ground throughout your day.

Breathing: Your breath is a great tool for getting out of your mental noise and into the present moment. Try simply focusing on your breath for sixty seconds at various intervals throughout the day.

With any of these, try to take an approach of softening, rather than effort to make something happen. An effort to relax only contributes more tension to the mix.

Try this: Here’s an experiment for the next week, if you’re up for it. Every once in a while throughout your day, stop and notice. Are you grounded and present? Are you spooled up and tense? Just notice. No judgment.

Then  take ten breaths. Focus your attention on how the breath feels. Connect with how your body moves as you breath in and out. If your mind starts to wander as you do that (it probably will), just come on back to focusing on the breath.

That’s it. Notice, then breathe. Notice, then breathe.

Simple, right?

Let me know how it goes!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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One comment

  • This is a nice way to or a new point of view looking at the noise jackhammers produce and the discomfort it causes for those who don’t have the right ear protection in a better way. The appreciation of the “silence” after the noise of the jackhammer is really relaxing.