THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SOLITUDE What comes to your mind when you think about solitude? Do you think forced isolation? Retreating into the mountains as a hermit? Being in a prison that includes only yourself? Isolation is very different than solitude. Solitude is a proactive chosen time of privacy, peace, aloneness and is an opportunity to balance your life. It’s actually a tool great leaders truly need. 1. Leaders need to regularly schedule times of solitude in order to gain perspective on their lives. If you want to truly get an accurate read on where you are headed in terms of your relationships, your work, your spiritual life—all of it—you need time to meditate, reflect and plan. Here’s an example. Suppose you take a time of solitude every evening to reflect on your life and analyze where you spent your time. You are likely going to feel that you need to make some adjustments because you can’t fit everything in. So you can evaluate which relationships are draining instead of building, and adjust those. Or solitude will help you figure how your current job is fitting in with your life goals. Are you staying in a job you really don’t enjoy and is not your calling because you are afraid of change? What do you need to do? 2. Leaders need to schedule solitude time to see if their priorities are matching their life goals. Sometimes we live life on low level priorities, and we need solitude to figure it out. A lack of solitude may prevent you from realizing you are neglecting for family for a job you don’t even enjoy. 3. Leaders need solitude to foster independence. Psychologists say that the ability to spend time alone, and be happy doing it, is a significant marker for emotional maturity. Social media has exploded and made us virtually super-connected, always accessible and in touch with someone all the time. Even the most extroverted person can benefit from solitude and time alone. Every person needs to learn you don’t have to be in the company of others to be fulfilled and happy. Can you be by yourself and like your own company? You will be a stronger leader when you can. You will be able to make decisions with more clarity and will tame the people-pleasing bent that can destroy good decisions. Being alone helps you think deeply about the challenges in your life, because you are not being distracted by the input of others. When you have independently considered the input of others, but made the final choice you feel convinced in your soul is right, you feel empowered. You begin to have ore confidence in yourself. And when you have more legitimate confidence in yourself, other people have confidence in you. Ralph Waldo Emerson concluded, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to life after one’s own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of the soul.” 4. Leaders need to learn solitude to get their creative juices flowing. Creativity demands a certain amount of it. A few people are able to withdraw into their own thoughts, like Mozart and Beethoven and be creative in the midst of a crowd. Most creative minds, however, require a special private place to fertilize the mind and allow creative seeds to germinate and grow. Most leaders eventually discover that when they are entangled in personal relationships, family matter, and such, their creativity declines. Those matters are of primary importance, but there has to be times of solitude so the interior you can create, and that will in turn fuel the energy for other matters. Even Mozart, who could be creative in crowds, said that it was when he traveled away from home and found himself unable to sleep at night that his greatest creativity flourished. In the next blog, we will look at a few more benefits of intentionally creating solitude in a regular, peaceful place and time. Today, think about this:Great leaders need regular spaces of intentional solitude to balance the huge amounts of themselves they regularly give away. Ask yourself:
"When was the last time I spent at least an hour in private reflection, and actually enjoyed being alone and thoughtful?
"What are my greatest obstacles to making solitude a priority?"