Five Incredibly Powerful Benefits of Solitude
In this post we will explore the benefits of solitude and how it can have a virtuous impact on your life. These benefits will not materialize overnight so it is important to practice the action steps in the last two articles so you can reap these benefits down the road.
It allows you to think deeply
When you are alone (and I mean alone, not just in your room by yourself browsing the internet) some wonderful things begin to happen. You start to question parts of your life and decisions you have made in the past. Did you decide to become a vet because you wanted to or has your mom always pushed you to become one? These surface questions are the gateway to knowing yourself more intimately.
As you spend more time with yourself the deeper you can dive into your own mind. Maybe that question about why you became a vet leads to a realization that you’ve been a yes man your entire life. As you start to disentangle your thoughts more paths to explore open up.
Most importantly is that while you are alone and thinking through these ideas you are not subject to external influences. Some of the issues you encounter may prompt you to seek the help of a professional therapist as it is helpful to talk to someone who will be objective (if you find the right therapist). For the most part, though, you become more familiar with your true wants and desires without people around you trying to influence you.
You understand yourself better
Through the process of thinking deeply you begin to understand yourself.
Moving right along with the vet example, maybe after some thinking he found that he really does like being a vet. He has always loved animals and his mom was simply there to encourage him through the difficulties of pursuing that career path. If this is the conclusion he reached imagine how much happier he will be going to work every day after clarifying the confusion over the subject.
On the other hand, if he thought about his life and concluded that his mom pushed him down a path he didn’t enjoy he now has the tools to do something about it. Rather than a cloud of unhappiness hanging over his head every day, he has identified that it is his career that is making him unhappy and he can begin to put together an exit strategy.
You find your internal compass
When you understand yourself better you can create your own internal compass to navigate your life.
Let us say that our vet has discovered that he has let himself be pressured into a career that he did not want to pursue. After some more deep reflection he comes to the realization that he has always wanted to be a high performance auto mechanic.
He now has a direction with which he can set his internal compass. He has identified something to work on in his internal life and external life.
- Inner Life: stop being a yes man
- Outer Life: develop the skills necessary to become a mechanic
With these two things identified our vet can now start to make the transition into the life he truly wants to live. He has also identified that in order to live that life he needs to stop being so agreeable to the people around him.
It provides resiliency towards external influences
When you take time to be by yourself and understand your thoughts, wants and desires you can begin to build resiliency to external influences.
Now that our vet friend has identified the behavior that he needs to work on internally to pursue his external goal he can cultivate the resiliency to tell other people no.
I am not saying that the moment you identify that you’ve been a Nice Guy (or any other behavioral problem) is the minute that you change all of that behavior. It is a very gradual change (I still work on it to this day) of noticing how you behave around certain people and how that behavior undermines what you want out of life. The benefit is that you are now aware of your behavior and you can do something about it. If this is something you specifically struggle with I’d suggest heading over to Amazon to buy the book No More Mr. Nice Guy.
The important thing to realize is that if you have identified an internal behavior you can now take small steps to change it. An internal frame of mind takes time to change but it is something that you have complete control over. The behavior may be triggered by an external influence but it is you who gets to choose how to respond to that trigger. Always remember that. It is also something you can work on in the privacy of your mind so that other people cannot disturb your progress on changing the behavior.
It improves relationships with others
This last one may be a bit surprising to some of you but I’ll make my case.
When you understand who you are and what you want out of life the relationships that you can have become much more rich and fulfilling. You no longer have to hide who you are and you do not need to worry about the disapproval of others because you have become comfortable with yourself.
Let me give you an example from my life to illustrate my point. For most of my life I let my dad influence my decisions: where I went to university, which major I chose, etc. However, in university I began to discover who I was and the fact that I had let my dad drive my life rather than take responsibility for it myself.
Fast forward a couple of years and my dad and I were sitting across the room from one another talking about my future. My dad was saying some really emotionally abusive things to get me to conform to what he wanted me to do. During the entire exchange all I could do was feel sorry for my dad because that was how he had been controlled by his dad for his entire life. The internal strength I had created by becoming comfortable with myself allowed me to empathize with my dad in a situation that used to cause me tremendous emotional strain.
Needless to say, I have not done what my dad wanted me to do. However, our relationship has gotten better because I do not let him control me anymore and he has stopped trying to. Now we have a very good relationship that we both can enjoy.
Not every relationship will end this way though. You need to be prepared for the inevitability that some people will not accept whatever changes you want to make in your life. That is not your problem, it is theirs. Do not waste your emotional energy trying to move somebody out of their position. Instead, simply appreciate what that relationship gave you in the past and move on to find people who will accept you for who you are.
If you have gotten to this point here is my call to action for you: identify a behavior you want to change. Here are the steps, regardless of the behavior, that will help you to overcome it:
- Take note of when the behavior arises. What is the external trigger for it? Is it a situation or a person?
- Do not try to combat the behavior in the moment. Just notice it and tag it for later
- When you are alone again think about the situation. What could you have done differently? How can you ensure a different outcome the next time?
- If you need to, make a journal and see how your reactions change over time
Begin this process and maintain it for a few months and see how your behavior changes. Most importantly, do not beat yourself up if you don’t fix your chosen behavior immediately. This will only cause frustration on your part. Recognize the failure, think over it and resolve to do better next time.