Power of solitude
One experiment that changed my life
A few years ago I isolated myself for 30 days.
I wanted to explore my inner demons by deep thinking, expose the current state of my personality and fix outstanding psychological issues. I also wanted to challenge an addiction to social attention I developed at that time.
As it turned out, solitude is quite powerful practice that can equally give and take from a person. Even after my experiment, I still hesitate to recommend solitude as a long-term solution, however, in short run it could magically turn things around. With so much useful information available online about the benefits of solitude, I feel drawn to share my personal practical experience.
Solitude can be dangerously powerful tool for anyone who searches for peace and looking to learn to rely on yourself. It feels necessary because, despite the growing popularity of social networks, and ease of connection with the world, there are crowded but lonely cities full of people who never built qualitative relationships with themselves.
The information presented here might feel generic as I only try to show what kind of thoughts one can discover by going through the process. It might feel irrelevant at times, so maybe use it as an anchor for future references.
Staying in isolation with your thoughts feels like The Dust Bowl of the 1930s — swipes cities in the deadly sandstorm. When your mind cannot keep you busy with distractions anymore, it will wander to places you can’t imagine. Your mind will begin reflecting on historical moments of personal and professional life while attempting to manifest a potential future that might never come to fruition.
Below are some important lessons that I “extracted” from my head, grouped to help you navigate the network of never-ending ideas.
1. Solitude & Dark side of personality
The first observation is that you can experience very honest self-reflection on the personality that you built.
Immediately I learned how much things have changed over the years, however, a lot of things remained “ugly” and left me shocked in disbelief. The opinion I had of myself no longer matched up with the true self I uncovered through solitude. My family, biased, obviously see me as a good person and successful individual, but what you will read will rightfully make you challenge that statement.
Below are the psychological challenges I have found during the experiment:
Narcissistic attitude — I expect a lot of personal attention from loved ones but rarely give anything in return and have big desire for professional recognition at every opportunity
Fear of authority — I don’t feel sorry for being lazy in personal life, but will feel extreme guilt for not working on a professional front
Confidence gap — I can’t let people know that I’m not competent at something, always switch on defensive whenever anyone is trying to give me a feedback, and worry that people won’t take me seriously after that
Perfectionist personality — I’m not satisfied until every to-do in the list is complete
Emotional instability — I’m extremely moody, feel very little to no empathy to people and have limited capacity to stay true to myself
Competency bias — I carefully choose people who can influence me based on how much I like them without verifying their competence
Double agenda — I would silently disagree, put on kiddish behavior to deal with stressful situation and put on a happiness mask in order to push what is important for me personally
Contradicting psyche — I can believe in one things and next day change my mind without tolerating what other people think
After reading the above one would prescribe a visit to a psychologist and I won’t blame you. Some of it I knew and got disappointed to learn that I still had not addressed it. Some of it was a huge discovery which credits the solitude to let me learn and improve it.
2. Solitude & Bright potential
Second observation is that you will learn a lot about all the opportunities that lie in front of you.
Most of it are long forgotten promises that will remind you who you wanted to be and rest is new potential — lurking you won’t be able to ignore it this time.
You will need a good mission statement to filter all the noise and have discipline to action with consistency. Some thoughts I captured are hard to process and will require switching to a growth mindset. Others just need a kick in the ass to remind who you are.
Below are thoughts that made me continue to dream big despite the dark side of my personality:
There is no instruction how to be alone with yourself — it is one person exploration mission which might end up in disaster
Personal freedom is only achievable when you fight the scariest monsters in your head — one an a time
You won’t be able to find meaning in your life while staying busy all the time — all the chores of the world can wait while you search for yourself
Remember that no one can answer all “why’s” — YOU can be next big thing
We have a creator’s mind. We are wired to build bridges, cities, worlds or life
Being sad is ok, it gives you a chance to change, push you out to bright side
Regret comes very late — all the great moments could be wasted by going into work meetings, scrolling through instagram or unrealistic worries
Having too many back-up plans, especially around people is not greatest idea because you might lose your true self by trying to satisfy everything and everyone
3. Solitude & Productivity changes
The third observation is that change is inevitable.
There is no guarantee that life will only improve positively, but it will never stop moving in the direction you set — a north star. To me, it is a clear representation of the absolute need to stay courageous and take risks to fight with “your demons” eventually creating order from chaos.
Some of the learnings from the solitude experiment I have applied practically to personal and professional life. I managed to create extra time for things like travel, reading, resting and build up bravery to try new things. All of these aspects of my life help me succeed even more. Creating time through hard work as a concept is powerful however very misguided. Without going into much detail people start to take advantage of your time, claiming that you have nothing better to do and asking you to give up your priorities. Make sure to respect your own freedom as well as help people understand it.
Below are some of the productivity and life improvements that I discovered, and tested so you can implement them if you find it compelling without going into solitude:
Have a system and one central place to manage time and tasks
Stop giving advice or help people if they don’t ask you — apply exceptions
Create time and space to think about difficult things — engage people in those conversation and without much interruptions let them teach you
Don’t force yourself and other people to change as self-development is a very slow process — all self-help books of the world won’t make it faster
Make financial freedom a goal for peace not for happiness — it will give you the time needed to answer existential question and work on new things that can make you happy
Challenge your comfort regularly because your normal day to day life is safety mechanist to keep you away from all the important thoughts that you have to find answers too and challenge continuously
Achieve progress by focusing on only on one important thing a day, that is 365 important things a year — don’t let your brain to trick you as it will get exhausting fast from switching between too many tasks at hand
It is easy to give advice to other people but it is absolutely hard core to have that kind of honest conversations with yourself — learn to listen yourself with respect
4. Solitude & Unknown
The fourth observation is that so many things will remain unclear without an answer and there is absolutely no reason to stress or overthink it.
I certainly enjoyed the level of unknown that solitude created. I can identify those things and work them out in isolation later. Despite all the new crazy thoughts that might visit during the solitude you should stay open-minded and humble — it might be the first time you have a real conversation 1:1 with yourself. Maybe that bedtime when you keep checking latest facebook posts should be used instead to lay down in silence — opening freedom to thoughts.
Below is the list of questions that I found myself hard to answer:
How would you celebrate a big accomplishment if there is no one around to share it with?
Would you reach psychological stability if you slow things down, like decisions, feelings, desires, etc?
There will be moments, your moments, which no one ever is going to learn about — can you truly enjoy life and keep all the secrets?
How do you deal with people who put you in solitude as a punishment?
5. Solitude & Readiness check
The fifth and last observation is that you can learn to deal with things that you were not able to deal with before.
The negative a
nd positive flows of information probably overwhelm you at the beginning and it will take some time to adjust to it as something natural. You will be able to keep that knowledge and re-use it after the experiment.
Below are some ideas I recommend to validate before practicing solitude, whether long or short term:
Accept that you might not know yourself well enough and experiencing conversation with your shadow can be uncomfortable
Silence is tough — meditation practice can help reduce the “noise”
Too many things in the world are based on fears — write all of them down before you start and be ready to deal with it one by one
Be careful with extreme solitude — such level of freedom is dangerous unless you are seeking new life and can allow yourself to disappear for a while
Quality of solitude will depends on quality of relationship with yourself — you might feel very lonely at times
Your inner voice will judge you every minute of your solitude and we are afraid of it even in normal days, so we replace it with phones, social events or anything that protects us from listening to ourselves. You won’t be able to ignore it long enough — that is unfulfilled potential and all ignored promises that you made in the past.
Surely being more introverted helped me go through this experiment. Without much preparation I knew it would be doable and helpful as I spent most of my childhood alone. Solitude helped me to discover an extraverted side and become open to new experiences. Whether you are seeking to learn more about yourself, change your life or just improve the reality — practical solitude might be an answer.
Some of the key solitude benefits that I want to share, considering all thoughts mentioned before:
Become your own hero that goes on adventures and dreams big
Remove any social debt from your life
Learn to be more grateful for what you have
Become a “dangerous” communicator with a structured system of thoughts
Learn to care without artificial stimulation
Learn to take extreme accountability
Remove fear of opinions
Imagine the new reality
There are few thoughts that I want to finish this article with. Before I do, without much thinking try to answer the following questions:
What is the first thing would you do in your ideal world?
How much do you really need to change in order to do that one thing?
Why do we wait for our life to become something else?
What can you give up to reach your dreams?
Unless you rolled your eyes in disappointment, there is a high chance it might take a while to get genuine answers. Even the first response is tricky as you might experience a weird reaction to the manifestation of social impact on your personality, which might not be truly you.
At the end of the day, we operate in the patterns and the world presents itself for us to judge and adopt. Questions like these really challenge our existence, hence are uncomfortable by default.
In order to become a hero it is crucial to take control over things that you probably never wanted or knew about before. Outer world will keep influencing you and stretch in all directions possible, so the task at hand is to discover a potential you can live up to and go into battles to the darkest places of your mind to find all the answers.
Good luck on your journey for excellence.
(c) Artem Gonchakov