“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a God.” – Aristotle
At different times, I have been both, and I assume the same is true for you. The difference between a beast and a God all depends on where you are in your work/recuperation cycle. Are you leaving or needing a break? When I need a break, I’m a beast, cornered and dangerous. When I’m a beast I have no capacity for creativity or empathy. When I’m tired and worn out, by necessity I have to focus on me. When I’m calm and settled, I am a God – generous and loving with the ability to raise landscapes through my fingertips.
Alfred Montapert, in his book The Supreme Philosophy of Man, states: “Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make progress.” Mr. Montapert figured out what I have figured out, that most of us are busy doing nothing of any consequence at all and that we could be better using this wasted time to do nothing, on purpose.
I’m learning that a deficiency of this one critical resource — stillness (and I suppose its synonyms) — is the single greatest threat to you, the creative entrepreneur, and the more inspired and present human being that is hiding inside you.
However, the idea of stillness and solitude – of slowing down and being alone on purpose – is out of fashion. Most of us work on teams, in offices without walls, and we work in a teeming, caffeinated hyper-connected and noisy orgy of collaboration. Curiously, research suggests that people are most creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. Sorry to tell you this, fans of groupthink, but the group is interfering with the think.
You need to leave the band behind and put out a solo effort. Or, as German poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “The only journey is the one within.”
Go on a trip with, and within, yourself.
Consider the effects of a long car ride alone – most everyone I have asked agreed that “they get a lot of good thinking done” over the course of a long journey.
Mohandas Gandhi is quoted as having said, “I have so much to do today that I must meditate two hours instead of one.” I understand his point: before taking action, plan your day. Calm down, prepare, visualize, make a plan and execute – regardless of how much work must be done, you will accomplish it more easily and with better results if you think before you start. Don’t mistake motion for progress. Thinking is progress, even if you are not moving, whereas moving just to feel like you are accomplishing something is simply a fantasy. The fantasy of progress.
In fact, our impulse is to stay in frantic motion. Our Lizard Brain is telling us to react, to attack it – or run from it or something – anything except don’t sit there and think. We are like roaches; our legs are moving, taking us somewhere before we even realize the lights have come on.
At work, we expect to rapidly respond to a myriad of crises at any hour of the day and you can forget about punching out at 5PM and having a life, hippie, unless you want to be considered lazy or raise doubts about your commitment. When we are not working, we constantly scan our social media feeds, which have been conveniently summarized into headlines for our consideration, as if we ever really consider what we think. Who has time? We communicate in sound bites and acronyms to save time, duh.
Litmus test time …
How difficult is it for you to answer this question: “Are you happy?” Do you have an answer, or do you have to think about it? If you have to think about it …
How about these questions: Do you feel inspired? Do you feel lucky? Do you feel burned out? Do you need a break? Are you certain or uncertain about your life plan? You do have a plan right now? What do you need to do more of? Why are you not doing enough of it now?
Here is the challenge: To solve this feeling of uncertainty and exhaustion, you have to solve it, and not manage it. This means you have to do everything differently, and the very first thing you might have to accept is that you’re not the person who should be the boss anymore. You can do a lot, but you can’t do this. Let go. Get some help.
You need guided transformation. You need a coach.
Your strategy at best needs a tweak, and at worst it requires a full on rebuild. Let’s assume that we help you do the rebuild. We’ll make sure we build in some time to be alone to think. As Pablo Picasso said, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”