I am speaking to those who have hit success by everyday standards and might be questioning whether spending time in solitude is a useful way to go beyond it in order to create more impact and greater meaning.
I’m going to share with you some of my own experiences, what I have heard from others, and why it may or may not be useful for you. The best observation I’ve heard on this subject came from thought leader and psychologist, Jordan Peterson, in answer to an audience member’s question. He said that when somebody spends time alone in solitude, it’s like being alone in the dark and having your eyes closed, you start to imagine all the things that could happen.
The unconscious becomes conscious and all of a sudden you imagine “goobly gobs’ and monsters under the bed like kids do. Your fears come up, your imagination runs wild and starts to actually get a grip on you. However, if you spend enough time with these things within yourself and learn to survive it, what actually happens is you master more of your own mind and those things don’t actually start to affect you so much.
It reminds me of when I was in the jungle and there was a meditation going on, but I decided to go out on my own so was by myself in the dark. It was pretty freaky because it was the jungle. I had my eyes closed, and I started to imagine all these animals coming out and eating me, and then I would open my eyes to make sure I was still alive and all those things weren’t there. It was basically my unconscious completely running this, and these were the things that came up for me when I was in solitude.
I spent many days by myself where I didn’t talk to anybody or really know anything. It was great but very challenging. The first couple of days were hard and I wanted to distract myself from hearing my own thoughts and emotions. I experienced sadness and frustration, and didn’t want to look at them, so what I would do was just distract myself from it all. I learned that it is really, really important when in solitude to move through this. By the second day I wanted to run away, but by the third day those things started to become more tranquil.
I started to find more peace within myself and started to actually integrate those parts of myself that I felt were bad and dark which I’d tried to avoid. There’s a saying that there is great medicine in the darkness. I feel that there’s a lot of people talking about love and light out there, but it could potentially be spiritual bypass. This is really the time when we need to embrace the shadows and the light within ourselves, and I feel that leaders can become more impactful and create greater meaning, fulfillment and success in life if they can learn to do this.
The real meaning of success that I’m talking about is being able to be alone with yourself and enjoy your own company, which is one of the greatest gifts that solitude can potentially give you. So how often should you spend time in solitude? That’s up to you to choose. I think it’s really useful for somebody to spend at least 10 days in one stint to really get to know who they are beyond all the noise. It’s so easy to become distracted but this really supports it.
I heard of a very successful leader, who I’m not naming, who did very well for himself and hit that point of success where he made ridiculous amounts of money then did some inappropriate things and fell into a deep depression. He ended up travelling to a place to be in total solitude for around 15 days, and that particular person came back completely different. He fully reflected on the situation and found out how to do better.
Instead of allowing the darkness to run his life, which is what happened before, he was able to integrate those experiences and solutions, and choose to express them or not express them. Moving forward he chose a different path and his life completely transformed very well.
I feel it is important for leaders today to integrate as many of their own shadows as possible so they can actually become more compassionate and empathetic in this world that’s currently full of chaos. Potentially it is all of our own shadows that are protecting us and the more we can integrate them internally then we can create a world that’s more harmonious and peaceful. This is why it is so important for people to spend time in solitude.
So, I guess what I’m asking of the leaders out there is please let’s spend some time alone with ourselves so we can develop and remember our own sovereignty and then we can basically create a more sovereign world for everyone who lives here through our projects and our businesses.
Give it a try, see how it goes and when it starts to get uncomfortable, go further into it and see what you discover.
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