“The best thinking has been done in solitude.” – Thomas Edison
When was the last time you were alone?
Not alone by today’s standards (Facebook and Twitter within arms reach, friends constantly buzzing your phone), but truly by yourself, with no outside influences providing data or information to your brain. Can you think of that time? If you’re like most people, it might take you more than a few seconds. The speed of life at which the world lives today doesn’t leave much time to stop and smell the flowers, let alone leave time for yourself.
Society seems to have placed a negative stigma on being alone. When you see someone alone in public, eating a meal by themselves or simply walking around the block, what are your first impressions of them? Why are they by themselves? you might wonder. Without seeing social proof that they are not a complete weirdo, it is easy for people who are alone to make us uneasy. The issue here is that society often creates an inaccurate perception that “loneliness” and “solitude” are synonymous.
Solitude is the ultimate environment for clear thinking. Without any distractions, you allow yourself to think exactly how you want to think, without any outside influence. American entrepreneur and classic rags-to-riches example Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This insight reminds us how much influence other people really have over us, whether we realize it or not. With this much influence on us from others, how do we think for ourselves? How can we form opinions on topics that are truly our own? The answer can become clear with just a short amount of solitude.
Being in solitude is one of the best ways to improve yourself both mentally and emotionally. Clearing your head with just minutes of meditation per day has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, improve focus and memory, enhance creativity, etc. Blocking out time for yourself daily also allows you to develop your own interests. Have you ever wanted to be able to shred on the guitar, bench press 400 pounds, or become an award-winning chef? By taking just a small chunk of time out of your day (Earl Nightingale, personal development pioneer and radio personality, claims one hour of study per day for three years will put you at the top of your field ) to learn skills that you truly want, will keep you from thinking What if? later on in life.
In order to keep your life in the direction you want it to go, it is necessary to take some time and reflect every once in a while. Life goes fast; that is no surprise to anyone. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind of activities. The second you put yourself on autopilot, and then look up, it’s five years later. Set up a monthly-or-so schedule. Ask yourself, “What have I accomplished in the past month? What did I do well at and what would I like to improve? What would I like to accomplish in the next month? Am I setting myself up for success by surrounding myself with the best possible people?” When you set up checkpoints like this for yourself, you can help ensure that you keep yourself focused and your life on track.
I’m not asking you to pull a Henry David Thoreau and move into to a 10 x 15 cabin in the woods by yourself. Discovering yourself and gaining self-reliance does not require such extreme measures. But if you want to become a greater person and find out what you really want out of life, I highly recommend spending some time in solitude. You will not be disappointed.
Featured photo credit: murielle29 via flickr.com