How to Live a Quiet Life (It Looks Different Than You Think)

quiet life

Just before Oprah Winfrey launched her own show, she was asked what she would do if her endeavor failed. “I think we are defined by the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat other people,” she said. “It would be wonderful to be acclaimed as this talk show host who’s made it, but if that doesn’t happen there are other important things in my life.”

Winfrey’s show certainly did more than “make it.” It became the highest-rated daytime talk show in American television. In addition, Winfrey created a magazine and her OWN network. According to Forbes, Winfrey’s net worth is 2.8 billion. Prior to these successes, an employer told her that she was simply “unfit for television news.”

Winfrey represents a kind of steadfast ambition, an inner calm, rooted in the worth she knew she had despite others’ support or criticism.

Albert Einstein stated that, “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.”

A Biblical proverb from Paul instructs, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands…so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

These statements are intriguing because they starkly contrast with the vision of success presented to us today. We’re taught that rather than an action being defined by its impact, a success or failure is only as great as the number of witnesses. This desire for outside recognition leaves us in a continuous loop of frustration rather than presenting us with a sense of accomplishment. It steals energy away from us fully pursuing our goals.

In this atmosphere, we look frantically from left to right. We can brag and we can shout. We share others’ secrets and weigh in on breakups and engagements in an attempt to tear down and shift focus from our shortcomings. This kind of life can be exhausting, manipulative and cutthroat. It thwarts relationships we desire and the true achievement we long for.

The “quiet life” needn’t be silent or solitary; it simply finds contentment regardless of the noise around it. Rather than seeking validation, a modest person looks inward to cultivate growth. This stance eliminates the need to highlight others’ scandals and slip-ups. It takes focus away from competition with others, and calls us to think about the merit of our own actions. An increase in intentionality leads to both inward peace and outward progress.

Here are some ways to lead such a life:

1. Foster genuine and pure curiosity.

Our brains were designed to ponder, yet they are often pandered to instead. Take a step back from the media you are consuming: What’s the essence of what you’re ruminating on? Look for something to learn that expands your mind.

This desire for outside recognition leaves us in a continuous loop of frustration rather than presenting us with a sense of accomplishment. It steals energy away from us fully pursuing our goals.

2. Eliminate unnecessary talk.

Gossip goes beyond speaking poorly about another person. It could mean sharing personal information we were told in confidence. Are you discussing a co-worker’s childhood to avoid drawing attention to a misstep you made? Avoid using gossip as a distraction tactic or tearing down innocent people for your gain.

3. Seek purpose outside of validation.

Are bravado and volume truly more important than integrity? Are you focused more on how others’ are performing than actually learning your own craft? When you celebrate the process of your own growth, you will have more energy to devote to it.

What do you think? What does a “quiet life” mean to you and how do you cultivate it?

Images via Beth Cath

A current student of journalism and creative writing, Annika splits her time between Syracuse University and her home nestled in Seattle’s evergreens. Though words are her first love, she enjoys film production and film photography. She believes kindness is a sign of strength and espresso is best served dark.

19 COMMENTS
  • greg carradine June 30, 2018

    I love your article. As a quiet and introverted person, you described me exactly. I used to be the opposite as an outgoing, loud and talkative person wanting attention and meeting people to hang out with. Moreover, I have been caught in situations with nosy, loud and talkative people where I was accused of bad mouthing another person. The accusation was false, fortunately. Anyway, I learned to be very careful around talkative people, and I mainly associate with other quiet people. Thank You, Annika.

  • Whitney Wills May 29, 2018

    Wonderful post! A quite life allows you to turn down the extra noise in life. You end up ultimately hearing so much more. Social media can never fill the void of true peace, joy, and love.

  • Lena Dee February 20, 2018

    This was so thought provoking, so beautiful! I definitely relate to this on a personal level…there’s nothing like being wrapped in your own self worth and knowing you can surpass many negative realities. Your examples were spot on and the reasoning behind each was great. 🙂

    xx Lena | https://lenadeexo.com

  • chichi February 16, 2018

    This post resonates with me 100%, outside validation takes so much energy and barely gives back, a constant deficit!!
    http://www.thestyletune.com

  • Vicheka Im January 11, 2018

    I really enjoyed this piece. It’s so easy to get caught up in social media and do things “for the gram” rather than for genuine interest.

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      Vicheka – I agree. I’ve been working on using photography as a way to celebrate and absorb life, rather than a mechanism of proof. When using Instagram, I like to evaluate whether I’m just seeking to validate an action or if I’m expressing true appreciation for something.

  • Estrella January 10, 2018

    Such a great article to read that reminds me of the quote “Move quiet in silence, let success be the noise.”. Just because you are not showing accomplishments to the world, doesn’t mean you aren’t creating them and this article is a great reminder of that.
    http://www.lacasabloga.com

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      Thank you, Estrella. I’ve realized how important it is to acknowledge your accomplishments as detached from others’ praise or criticism. Even if your work is received positively, you have to recognize for yourself how it is worthwhile.

  • Emiy January 8, 2018

    “… a modest person looks inward to cultivate growth.” Great reminder!

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      Thank you, Emily!

  • Tonya December 27, 2017

    Well written truth! Thanks for the reminders for healthy living!

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      Tonya – Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

  • A December 18, 2017

    What a wonderful article! I love how this concept can be applied while having ambition. A quiet life can be perused no matter the lifestyle. Thanks for writing!

  • Janine December 18, 2017

    Love this read. Such a great topic and beautifully spoken about.

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      Janine, thank you for your kind reply!

  • J December 17, 2017

    A great piece! Well said!

  • I love point 3! It’s so important to stop looking at others to put all the energy on ourselves. I’m learning to practice it every day. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    • Annika Hoiem January 12, 2018

      It can be exhausting to fixate on others the way we often do. Glad you are focusing on cultivating a more independent, fulfilled life (in which others are involved, but not markers of your success).

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