The Importance of Solitude #2
Last week we talked about how valuable solitude is to the leader. Solitude is a proactively chosen time of privacy and peace, aloneness, and an opportunity to balance your life. It is a great tool leaders need.We mentioned leaders need solitude to 1) gain perspective on their lives; 2) to foster independence; and 3) to get their creative juices flowing. Now, let’s look at more ways solitude can benefit you.4) Leaders need to practice solitude to protect and enrich their interpersonal relationships. Believe it or not, psychologist believe that the lack of downtime between work and home life/romance are causing an up rise in divorce and separation rates. No matter how much we value each other, we need a break from people to do things that foster our own souls and cause them to flourish. Perhaps you can identify with being “peopled out.” It will never be cured simply by moving from one group of people to another. You need space by yourself to see other people correctly, even those you love.5) Leaders need to foster times of solitude to create spaces for reflection and spiritual growth. Every religion preaches the value of solitude and the greatest leaders (Jesus, Moses, Gandhi, for example) all practiced it and urged it. In solitude, you can feed your soul. The more reflective you are, the more effective you are. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.Just like your body, your spiritual self needs nurturing, too. Feed it in times of solitude.6) Leaders need solitude in order to enable transformation. In solitude, you can see yourself clearly. When you are in the midst of the hustle and bustle, push and shove of life, it is easy to either over estimate yourself or destroy yourself. Being alone and reflective allows you allows you to process the information you have been given, to see more clearly where you really are, and begin the journey to transformation. You can get clarity on the things that are out of whack, repent of your errors, and start a season of change.In solitude, you can gather the courage to own how your decisions and emotions have impacted others, and either celebrate the good or change the things that have been less than helpful or even destructive. The bottom line on transformation is that it always requires a change of mind. How can you do that without solitude? When we are with other people. We are always trying to fit in. Even if the people are on television. The way they think and act influence us. Henri Nouwen says, “Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.”7) Solitude enables leaders to spend some time doing what they like. Leaders are generally serving others. In solitude you can read, listen to music you like, and think the thoughts that come to your own mind. This was perhaps the genius behind Henry David Thoreau. He lived for 2 years in a cabin he built by himself by Walden Pond. He shared some sage advice he learned in this manner, “The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” (I can think of at least a dozen spouses who would affirm THAT truth!) Doing what you truly enjoy relaxes and empowers you for another hard run at the business of life, and replenishes you to consider others’ needs and desires without resentment.Perhaps you are convinced that solitude can benefit you. But you have no idea how. You are frankly scared at the idea of just sitting there, staring at your navel. THAT is not solitude.Solitude is purposeful and focused activity, alone.You can write—keep a journal or a diary. You can describe your hopes, dreams, experiences, conversations, failures, successes. It will clarify your thoughts and drain away stress.Brad Wilcox says, “A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to “become”. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” Helen Keller said, “I don’t want to live in a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences. I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.”You can listen to good music—particularly classical music. Believe it or not, the “Mozart effect” has been documented ability to improve spatial and visual skills as well as reduce the number of seizures in epileptic patients. Music reduces blood pressure, the heart rate, and hormones related to stress. “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold AuerbachEnjoy nature. You can garden, hike, walk. The good exercise is helpful, but even the fresh air and outdoors yield many positive benefits. US President Calvin Coolidge remarked in a speech to a stressed nation in 1924, “There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.”Read a good book with a good positive message. Reading will boost your intelligence and vocabulary and polishes your skills. You can virtually go places and meet people in other times and places. Your conversational ability will improve. Your knowledge will increase. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”-Richard Steele.Take time to have a hobby. A hobby will relax you, develop self-confidence and self-esteem. “Today is life – the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” - Dale CarnegieLeaders who are effective are in hot pursuit to be all they can be. The MOST effective leaders decide to slow down with regularity and build the benefits of solitude into their lives.