It was a rainy day. The man shook off his umbrella as he climbed on the train he takes to work. It was the same train he takes every day, with the same people he always rides with. Everybody following their usual routine as they head in to their desk jobs.
Then the man noticed something.
As he looked around, he noticed that nobody – not a single person – around him was doing anything other than browsing their phones. And he looked down, and noticed he was doing it too. Impulsively, Subconsciously.
This got the man to thinking. “Why do we do this so much? Why do we need to be distracted from ourselves like this all the time? What are we hiding from?” He thought. He didn’t have the answers just yet, but he resolved to find them.
When he got on the train to ride home, he chose not to use his phone at all. It was very hard, and he found himself with his phone in his hand without even realizing it at times. Such was its power over him! He never turned it on though, and an interesting thing happened as a result.
A voice awoke inside of him.
Quiet at first, timid, it asked questions like “I wonder what’s on that app you like today?” And “Why haven’t you checked your social media yet?” The man was annoyed at these questions. They weren’t at all what he was hoping to find. He left them unanswered as he continued on with his evening routine. Disappointed but not defeated, he resolved to try again the next day.
The result was similar. The voice inside of him protested the lack of stimulation: “I’m BORED. Just turn on your phone, will you? There’s nothing to do in here!” This continued for a couple more days.
Then one day, something interesting happened. Left to its own devices for days, through all the protesting, the voice in the man’s head asked a new question.
“Hey, so… why do you do everything the same way every day, anyway?”
The man was taken aback by the question. It came from inside his own head, after all… a place where he should have full control. So where did this question, unbidden and unexpected, come from then?
He didn’t have a good answer to the question, so he chose to ignore it for the time being. Slowly though, the voice grew bolder. It asked more, and harder, questions.
“Do you like what you do for work?”
“Why haven’t you traveled to see more places?”
“Family is important to you. Yet you live so far away from them. Why don’t you do something about that?”
“That woman who yelled at you the other day… why didn’t you stand up to her like you wanted to?”
Finally, the man understood. He understood, through his own example, why so many people choose to distract themselves from the inner voice in their heads. He understood, but he didn’t accept it. He refused to shut the voice out of his head moving forward, because it had good, important things to say.
It highlighted areas of his life he knew, deep down, he wanted to improve. Somewhere, those things had been forgotten, buried alive under layer after layer of debt, material goods, obligations, societal expectations, and so on.
But they never disappeared. The flame never died, it just burned lower and lower, until the man decided to give it room to breathe and grow again.
One by one, the man began to take action on the suggestions his moral compass was offering to him. He began by booking a trip across the world. He even decided to sell his home to be closer to family. Occasionally, he would worry about the implications of such decisions. He would think to himself, “But I need to save for retirement, a trip like this would really set me back.” He would think “But I like my current home, and it’s closer to work. Do I really want to move?”
Every time he had one of these thoughts, he would stop, and be silent for a while. Each time, his inner voice would wake up and point him in the right direction.
“Ok, a trip would set you back a bit. What’s money, if not a means to an end? And what end exactly? Is it not to live the way you want to live? You know travel is important to you, so just buy less things.”
“What’s more important to you, commute time or the ability to see your family when you want to?”
He knew the answers to these questions. He just a little help from his inner voice to know to ask them.
Wrapping it Up
See, too often, we suppress the inner voice in our heads, distracting ourselves in our downtime so that we don’t have to hear it. Because we’re afraid of what it might say. We’re afraid it might show just how far away from our ideal life we actually are, and that’s too hard a pill for most people to swallow.
That’s the thing though. No matter how quiet, we’ve all got an inner voice, and it’s always got something useful to say. And the only way we ca get closer to the kind of life we know we want deep down is to listen to that voice. Hear what it has to say, consider it, and slowly take action on it.
It’ll be quiet at first, almost impossible to hear over the deafening silence. You may even need to take a vacation in order to wake it up. But do whatever you need to in order to hear it, because we’ve all got a limited time on this Earth. We owe it to ourselves to spend it the way we really, truly want to.