Wherever we live, work and play, the single most common complaint of ambitious people is: “I don’t have enough time”.
In a bid to maintain relationships alongside a career, we end up promising all our time to others and trying to find gaps here and there to squeeze in our side-hustles or extra-curriculars. With these gaps filled, one thing generally disregarded is alone time. By which I mean time to be in solitude, away from the influence of others.
Whilst the benefits of this are a little less tangible than time spent ‘doing’, by not prioritising it you may be limiting yourself. Though your actions are what will define you, these are determined by your thoughts, which is where the power of solitude comes in.
“Silent thought, is, after all, the mightiest agent in human affairs” — William Ellery Channing
We often associate the need to be alone as a characteristic of introverted people, or ‘loners’. However, securing time alone to think, allows you to hear your own voice and make up your own mind. Something its almost impossible to do when surrounded by the noise and opinions of everyone else. Solitude enables you to develop strength of character and inspiration to come. It allows you to think beyond the matrix we live in, and through this process, become awakened and more able to think of new ideas and avenues.
It’s something understood by many of the world’s greatest achievers, both past and present.
Here are some of the different ways people have been empowered by time spent in solitude:
Bill Gates: “If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.”
Audrey Hepburn: “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering — because you can’t take it in all at once.”
Albert Einstein: “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind”
Ariana Huffington: “Solitude is a state of being alone without being lonely, and can lead to a greater sense of self-awareness.”
Guy Kawaski: “You may find this hard to believe, but I am an introvert. I have a “role” to play, but I fundamentally am a loner.”
Elon Musk (as described in his biography by Ashlee Vance): “He goes into his brain, and then you just see he is in another world…You could do jumping jacks beside Musk or yell at him, and he would not even notice”.
Eleanor Roosevelt: “Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
“When I’m left by myself and I have some time to be alone, that’s the time I have to recuperate and re-validate how I am feeling about myself. That’s always when I feel like I’m being given an opportunity to really start to love myself again — it’s a really special time.” – Leandra Medine
Stephen Hawking: “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”
J.K.Rowling [on a critical moment in the creation of ‘Harry Potter’]: “To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one… I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain.”
Charles Bukowski: “People empty me. I have to get away to refill.”
“A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.” – Rumi
Jane Fonda: “I realized that my blog gives the impression that I am always surrounded by excitement and people. But the fact is that I spend much time alone and cherish that. I don’t write about that cause what’s to say. ‘I am alone, thinking, reading, meditating…’ Isn’t so interesting so my blog gives a false impression of my life. I identify with the bear who hibernates much of the time–in fact, has her cubs alone while she sleeps–but then needs to be social, playful. That’s me. I am alone a lot. I read a lot. I meditate. I love solitude. It’s different than loneliness. I am not always surrounded by excitement. That’s just what I blog about. Anyway, I wanted to set that straight.”
As described by his sister, Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd): “He found his own mind so absorbing that he didn’t want to be distracted.”