“We live, in fact, in an age starved for solitude.” -C.S. Lewis
Today it takes a conscious effort to be in solitude, with noise and interruption swarming around us… emails, text messages, social media posts, meetings and obligations, and all the countless new intrusions from technology.
These intrusions keep us from taking the deep dive to where reserves of inspiration live within us. Ergonomists say information overload distracts and clutters our thinking. The only way to achieve clarity is to seek out moments of solitude. All the great leaders in history sought clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and courage via solitude.
No matter who you are—a parent, a CEO, a celebrity, a teacher, a neurosurgeon—you must seek regular intervals of solitude. It is essential to self-awareness. In order to lead and inspire others, you have to lead and be inspired yourself.
Constant connection to intrusions, such as phone alerts, deaden the mind and soul. Part of the solution is simply to unplug; to make yourself inaccessible. This is not the norm, and you will feel uncomfortable at first. You might perhaps try for small amounts of time first until you get used to being inaccessible. The other part is just being aware of what is lost inside. What thoughts are swimming around that you never have time to consider, or to even let materialize? What is inside of you that deserves examination?
Solitude is where things in your subconscious take form and become tangible. It allows you to access intuition. I love this quote from Jim Collins: “To engage in disciplined action first requires disciplined thought, and disciplined thought requires people who have the discipline to create quiet time for reflection. The net results is not doing more, but doing less. ‘Stop doing’ lists reflect great discipline more than ever-expanding to-do lists of frenetic activity.”
And here’s one of Warren Buffett’s best phrases: “Inactivity can be very intelligent behavior.”
So take some quiet time. Engage with this suggestion and commit to the hard work of time alone. It might feel like an indulgence, or maybe even a waste of your precious time at first—but through regular periods of solitude for reflection and self-examination, you will be amazed at the benefits you receive.
A great follow up resource: A book by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin: Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude.