What NOBODY Told YOU About SOLITUDE (Learn to Be Alone!)
There’s a secret that successful and iconic people like Pablo Picasso, Bill Gates, and Nikola Tesla knew but nobody ever really told us, and that’s the hidden power of solitude to change our lives and work. If you want to find out, stick around.
Modernity and Solitude
We hate being alone and that’s pretty much a human trait. At work, we’ve changed the cubicle office layout for open co-working spaces because, in the former, we thought, we were too separate from each other, and in our personal lives we organize or say yes to pretty much any event just for the sake of avoiding being alone with ourselves.
Human beings are social creatures, and our brains crave relationships and socializing. But this is not a bug of our psychology, but a feature.
Solitude and Evolution
For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived in nature surrounded by all kinds of danger: Ferocious animals trying to eat them, enemy tribes attempting to enslave them, and a weather that was unpredictable as well as lethal. Being alone in this kind of circumstances was almost a death sentence for our ancestors.
With time and thanks to evolution, we learned that being part of a tribe and socializing were critical for our survival; living for another day was way easier if people were helping you.
To prevent the scenario of being alone and dying, our brain created a feeling to avoid that: loneliness. Just like thirst is a sign from your body that you need to drink water, loneliness is a sign from your brain that you need to socialize.
But things have changed.
Nowadays, we don’t live in such a hostile environment anymore: police protect us from any dangerous situation, food and water are always at our disposal and we’ve built houses strong enough to resist almost any weather.
Unfortunately, a couple hundred years is too short of a time for our brain to adapt to this new way of living… They are still running the same million-year-old software. In other words, even though it’s no longer necessary for our survival and well-being, we still suffer from loneliness and, as we’ve seen, go through great lengths to avoid it.
Whether we like it or not, that’s how our psychology is designed, but it doesn’t have to determine our behavior.
Buddhist Monks leave society for years and decades, Bill Gates takes two weeks a year to go by himself to the middle of nowhere just to think, and Picasso is known for phrases like the following:
Without great solitude no serious work is possible.
So yes, we may not be wired to enjoy being alone, but it looks like there’s something about solitude that no one is telling us.
What is Solitude
It’s important to recognize the difference between solitude and loneliness.
Loneliness is a subjective experience characterized by a sense of isolation and connectedness. Since it’s a personal feeling, it can appear either when we are alone or when we are surrounded by people.
On the other hand, solitude is the state of being alone without feeling lonely. It’s an empowering and positive state that takes place when our own company suffices us and our minds are fully engaged with an activity or thought.
In solitude, distractions are scarce since there’s no one grabbing our attention and the mind is free from the constant influence of society and culture. In this mental space, we become extremely productive, our creativity soars, and the quality of our lives improves. But this is not new, humans have been leveraging the power of solitude for years:
- As we’ve seen, Bill Gates used to spend two weeks per year in solitude just to come up with business ideas for Microsoft, and we all know how that went. He is one of the richest people in the world and his company is widely successful.
- Carl Jung, one of the most influential psychologists of all time, bought a house in a small village in Zurich called St. Gallen and spent weeks every year there just thinking and contemplating deep questions about psychology and philosophy.
- Pablo Picasso, the most prolific professional painter that ever existed was a lover of solitude and spent countless hours by himself working on his craft.
- Mozart, a prolific an influential composer of the 18th Century, said: “When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.”
- Franz Kafka, a well-known writer said: “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
- Nikola Tesla, one of the fathers of electricity, among other inventions posits: “The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
- And finally, the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti says: “Solitude gives to the mind a stability, a constancy, which is not to be measured in terms of time. Such clarity of mind is character. The lack of character is the state of self-contradiction.”
This is just a small sample of the people that realized the importance of solitude and the role that it plays in building a fulfilling life.
Apart from improving your productivity and creativity, learning to be alone will help you:
- Build better relationships: Since you enjoy your own company and know that aloneness doesn’t bother you, your dependency on people naturally decreases and healthier interdependent relationships can flourish. But most importantly…
- Will help you build a better relationship with yourself…
Now that you know the true power of solitude, let go through a couple of tips and recommendations:
Tips and Recommendations for Being Alone
- Give yourself time
Given that we are addicted to social interaction, it will take time for you to enjoy solitude and become accustomed to it. You might feel bored and perhaps lonely but don’t worry, it’s completely natural. Embrace it and…
- Find some activity to focus on
Whether it’s working, reading, walking, meditating, or exercising, it’s a good idea to find a task your mind can entertain itself with. This will help organize your thoughts and make being alone more enjoyable.
- Use Solitude as a productivity tool
Set aside a specific amount of time during your working hours to focus intensively. Personally, 2 to 3 hours of focused work early in the morning works like a charm.
- Avoid distractions
During your solitude time, avoid using your phone and distractions. Let your mind be clear and use that time to be with yourself.
- Schedule solitude time during your day and week
With the craziness of daily life, it’s almost impossible to find time alone. That’s why if you want to benefit from solitude, you’ll have to consciously choose it and organize your activities. It can be a daily walk, listening to music, or a weekend in the woods. Whatever works for you.
Arthur Schopenhauer once said:
A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
So, give solitude a try, get to know yourself better, clean up your mind from external influences and use to engage in meaningful and productive work. Being alone is a tool that the greatest people knew and used and now it’s your turn.
This is Juan Cruz from Inerize, thank you very much for reading!
See you soon!
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