Forced Solitude: Embrace It, It’s Not All Bad!
Many of you are quarantined or practicing self-isolation or social distancing during these difficult times of pandemic. In my coaching practice, I get to speak with my clients via zoom technology daily and hear about how their lives have changed. Many are Emerging Leaders, who are now required to work from home with their wives, husbands, and children in close proximity. While they are not isolated from their families, they are isolated from their friends and their colleagues and customers. It can be a difficult time and certainly an adjustment that is causing a number of them anxiety, stress, or even flat-out depression. A couple of weeks of frequent “How do I adjust to the new world of Coronavirus pandemic?” conversations got me to contemplating writing an article touting the benefits of solitude. My family is safely home in our house in Minnesota and practicing social distancing as best they can. Meanwhile, I’m in our winter home in Tucson, Arizona, practicing near-complete isolation from the human beings who reside in Tucson. In the last two weeks, I’ve gone to the grocery store twice, and the hardware store, and the laundry. Other than that, I am holed up in our Tucson office working with clients around the United States, practicing some solitude – and, for the most part, enjoying it.
Think About Your Human Behavior Right Now, What Is Your Natural Style?
Each of us is an individual as unique as snowflakes. We are a unique mixture of human behaviors and brain chemistry that dictate how we handle situations, how we respond, how we speak, how we decide, and so forth. If you haven’t thought about your natural human behavior style in a while, you need to think about it again, pronto! In my case, I’m an ambivert, which means I am both Extrovert and Introvert, but truth be told, I’m much more of an introvert than an extrovert. I’m also much more data-driven and process-oriented than I am emotional. My wife and my friends remind me occasionally that I need to show some emotions. Apparently, I remind some of the folks around me of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Enough about me, what about you? Are you extroverted? If so, the current situation where your contact with other people is severely limited is going to be an imposition for you that will cause some anxiety, stress, and pressure. Be aware of that, and remain mindful that you need to safely get some human contact. Call a friend and go out for a round of golf, go for a walk, maintaining a safe distance, of course. If you’re an introvert, you might be more productive right now than you’ve ever been, in these times of self-isolation, social distancing, and quarantines. Embrace it, but be mindful that even introverts need some human contact, and when you begin to tire of the solitude, call a friend and safely get together for a hike or a bike ride.
Think About The Benefits of Solitude & Embrace It!
The list of benefits of some occasional solitude is long and impressive. Frankly, over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to practice more solitude than I experienced in the past. The benefits have been surprising, but they have been tangible and palpable for me. I’ve noticed that my productivity increases pretty dramatically when I have more time to focus and get into the flow, or what some people call “the zone.” Likewise, I find that I am more creative and innovative than when I am more frequently interrupted and mixing socially with other colleagues. I realize that sometimes that is also one of the benefits of being with colleagues, they tend to spark ideas. Interestingly, creativity can be sparked by both solitude and by being among teammates. Having time alone provides us with ample time to ponder the meaning of things, the real purpose of our work and our lives, and many other thoughts. The time for self-reflection and for reflection, in general, is powerful. I’ve been able to proactively plan for so many anticipated changes and events, and my level of concentration seems to be markedly different and higher. I’ve googled the concept of solitude and learned that it’s not just me, everyone can benefit from solitude! All of this solitude, with its productivity, creativity, and focus leads to increased self-confidence and greater empathy for others, which are two things I very much appreciate. You will too! In the bargain, you are likely to notice that you can unwind a bit from the normal pressures of our society and reduce your stress and depression and find greater happiness. Now that you have the opportunity to really look into yourself and spend time with yourself, you might learn a thing or two. You have time to process feelings, make plans for the future, determine whether you enjoy your path you’re on, perhaps even overcome an old grudge. You will have to embrace your solitude with the proper mindset of course, but you can do it.
Think About The Potential Liabilities of Solitude & Manage Them!
Like anything, solitude has its Pros and its Cons. You aren’t going to have much choice, for the foreseeable future, you’re going to have more solitude than you’re used to, perhaps. But if you keep yourself focused on making the most of the opportunity, you are likely to come through the experience in a very positive way. Be careful and mindful of some of the negative aspects of being alone for too long. The longer we are separated from others, the more prone we are to those voices in our heads that start to create a narrative that we’re “not enough”. “Not smart enough”, “not good enough”, “not able to do that”, etc. Here’s some really good advice that I learned from another great coach. When your self-talk begins to turn negative, take control, and start having a talk with yourself where you’re focusing on positive things, and refuse to listen to the negative junk that the voice in your head is trying to feed you. It works! Of course, over time, too much “Alone Time” as one of my sons used to call it, can lead to debilitating loneliness, depression, and a feeling of being disconnected from social connections and relationships that keep us healthy. Manage this assertively. If you are getting too disconnected from people, arrange a neighborhood party where everyone chats 6 feet from one another or has a cocktail from a safe distance. Go for a “social distance” walk with a friend. Play a round of golf, or a tennis match, maintaining a safe distance, of course. Even just getting outdoors and waving “hi” to those passing by will bring a smile to you (and to them). Throughout all of this, something we must remember is that we are all in this together. The whole world. So each and every one of us has a responsibility to be safe and try to help keep others safe.
Bob Dylan’s Take Away
Bob Dylan once sang that “The times, they are a-changing…” and he was talking about the sixties. Here we are in the ‘wheezing twenties’ and Bob’s observation seems eerily prescient once again. Get on the right side of this. Think about how much time you will be alone, how much time you can successfully be alone, and try to make the best of the situation as often as you can. When you begin to see ‘warning signs’ that you need some human companionship and contact, take action to make it happen, and be sure to do it within the guidelines that our scientists and medical professionals are recommending. The sun continues to come up in Tucson every day, despite coronavirus and this pandemic. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is kicking our asses right now, but one day, it will become more a part of our past than our present, and it will become less relevant one day for our future, as sure as I’m sitting here. I wish you good health and a safe journey over the coming weeks and months. While our 401ks have likely become 301ks or less, we will recover. There is nothing more indefatigable than the human spirit. Keep being human, and embrace the solitude wisely until we can rejoin one another on the field of commerce and on the playing fields of life.
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Michael is the CEO and Founder of Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, a business advisory firm with offices and coaches in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. Michael and his colleague coaches work with C-Suite Executives, their Leadership Teams, and their Emerging Leaders, all over the United States. Fast Growth High Technology Companies have unique challenges and opportunities. Michael and his coaches understand those unique challenges and opportunities and are well-positioned to help you to assess the current state of your business and to put together an executable plan to take your business to an entirely more predictable and sustainable level of success. If your business wants to invest in your people and processes so that you can continue ascending in your market space, contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org fill out a contact form, or call 651-335-4505 today!