Below is my answer to the Quora question, "What are…
How many times in our crazy, busy world do we find ourselves avoiding moments of alone time? We’ve all been there and we’ve all met them. You know, those people who struggle to stop talking, who always have to have a TV on, or a buddy to talk to at all hours of the day. They can’t be single, and they can’t let their friends be single. It’s like the world is filled with people looking for a solution for ‘alone’.
But do we ever stop to appreciate the lessons ‘alone’ might have to teach?
Learn that You Know Best.
Ok, this isn’t always true for everything, but when it comes to life decisions being alone teaches you more about what you think, more than what anyone else can tell you.
By avoiding alone moments we seek the easy option. We bandage over our troubles by using other people and things to keep us from ‘meeting ourselves’. In the long run we pay the price. In the end we fear who we are without all the ‘stuff’.
Never forget that your opinion is the one that matters the most. Remember that you are the one most invested when it comes to yourself, and you are the one who lives with the consequences of your choices. Too often we ask for advice from other people before first asking ourselves, and often the advice we seek, we don’t really need. I get a lot of people seeking advice from me and that’s ok. But sometimes listening to yourself will show that you already know the answer.
Learn to Observe, learn to love silence.
There’s a certain type of manic behaviour that goes with the constant need to be entertained. I learnt this during my years as a professional performer.
Certain groups with access to money and endless entertainment, more often than not, found it difficult to just sit and enjoy. Suddenly, as a performer, you’re using a lot more props and routine changes just to keep people focused. Other groups find it easy to appreciate the artistry alone. This phenomenon has gotten worse in this age of internet and portable entertainment. In my work as a teacher it’s increasingly hard to engage students, without having to act like Krusty the Clown.
By being alone you learn to switch off. You see the beauty in ordinary things. You feel less stressed, and you observe quietly, without needing to always be participating. And when you do have interactions, there’s a pronounced contrast. You can enjoy another person without the innate pressure to be interesting. Your focus shifts from being interesting to being interested, and it’s a better experience for all.
It’s ok to not have the answers.
It’s not easy to avoid the urge to rush an opinion. The thing is, when you have a problem, most meaningful answers will take time to form.
Being alone can help detach from the need for the instantaneous. Being alone forces you to stand in your own power, and you eventually learn that you do not always need to give an immediate response. That email or text you have waiting in your list does not need to be answered right away, that decision you have to make can probably benefit from you waiting until your mind is clear…
Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. – Robert H. Schuller
When you’re alone, can you be ok with the idea that sometimes in life there won’t be an answer?
Why are you waiting for someone else to start living your life?
Time is one thing you can never get more of. Your body is going to wear out, your muscles will get slower, so why are you waiting to experience the things you want to experience? Ask yourself, what will happen if you go see that movie, that concert, or go on that holiday alone?
I’d say most people fear looking weird, or sad for going it alone. To that I want to impart my old performers logic of “If I look stupid, if I mess up, that’s ok. I’ll probably never see these people again anyway”. And chances are that once you’re out of the house, other people won’t think you’re weird, in fact some will even go out of their way to interact with you.
Personally, my friends and I have semi-adopted lone travellers while holidaying abroad. And that’s half the fun. You meet new people, and strike up conversation with strangers. Such experiences lead to feeling less cynical about the world. You make connections with other human beings, and find similarities and lessons from those outside your own circle (elderly people are the best at this).
Imagine the things you’re missing out on by waiting for other people to join your adventure.
Boredom is the breeding ground for talent.
I believe everyone has some creativity, we all have something to say, and boredom can be the impetus for saying it. If there’s a project you’ve been meaning to start, when you’re alone, you are the only one to blame for the work not being done. Being alone affords you time to shut out the world and create autonomously. In those times you are telling yourself that your voice matters, that others opinions are not important at this point.
The fact you’re reading this, is in itself a product of my own (admittedly forced) period of solitude. A couple of years ago I got struck with the flu, I was in bed for a week, and I was a few months out of a soul sapping break up. During those months I spent a lot of time reading romance novels, they were entertaining and inadvertently spoke of a level of intimacy I didn’t know I’d been missing in my life. On one of my bedridden days I did the numbers. I realised that if I wrote a 1000 words at a time, in a about 40 sittings I’d have a short novel done. If I did that everyday, or second day, I’d have a first draft completed in a couple of months.
So I started writing, and I finished that book. My alone time came to include other people, I went on to join a writer’s guild, and made new friends. Now I’m onto my third book (the first book inspired a trilogy), and looking to get published later this year. Most importantly I love what I do.
I didn’t expect or plan to be a romance writer, or even a blogger; but when I listened to the silence I found my soul knew better when it came to finding my bliss.
I’m not implying we should all become hermits. I’m not even telling you to sacrifice an arbitrary amount of time to being alone. What I am saying is that if you search your soul and find the idea of being alone, brings upon a cold sweat, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Often the need for constant distraction comes as a need to avoid something else in our lives. Ask yourself. Who would you be without the clutter? And what are you holding on to that no longer serves a purpose?
There are many people who hold onto bad relationships, or hollow aspirations, for no other reason than they are scared of being alone. To go back to my title question, there is nothing bad about being alone. Away from partners and friends, you still exist, you can still be happy. Alone doesn’t make you less worthwhile, and the truth is you’re never really alone. Your company is just as valid as anybody else’s, and you can learn to love hanging out with yourself.
Consider for a moment that a fear of solitude might be keeping you away from ‘meeting yourself’.
Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.
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*Added bonus for those keen to kick off their alone time. Here’s some Alanis Morrisette to get you started, I think she sums it up pretty well…