No man or woman is an island. I believe those are commonly-repeated words from English poet John Donne. Seldom are any of our accomplishments solo achievements. Even an athlete in an individual sport, like Track and Field, takes a team of coaches, competitors, and organizations for them to reach their full potential. Likewise, an entrepreneur must work with a team of investors, customers, and employees in order to bring their vision to fruition. In fact, most of the time we all operate as spokes in the wheel of a greater whole and we are highly conditioned and accustomed to operating in this mode whether it is in professional, social or familial settings.
What we rarely do, and what a lot of us need, is to realize that every once in a while we need to take a pause in order to bask in the light of our individuality. We can easily get lost in being a team player and attempting to please our bosses, friends, family and special someones. And if we are not attempting to please, we can find ourselves consciously or unconsciously imposing our ego and will upon them. And our ego can be imposed in any number of different ways: trying to prove our competence, ultra-masculine or ultra-feminine behavior, passive-aggressiveness, manipulative actions, etcetera.
We can get so wrapped up in the everyday and in everyone that we forget our first priority: ourselves. Sometimes, we just need to step back and spend time with ourselves and only ourselves. This is necessary, because every time we interact with someone else we give a bit of our energy, in terms of emotions, thoughts and actions, to them. Every time we give our time and attention to others, especially in unequal interactions, we deplete the resources left for our basic wellbeing. We may not realize this is happening because it is the normal order of business for most of us. But consider this: after you have an interaction with someone, does it really end there? Or will you spend a few minutes, hours or even days recalling and reliving, and appreciating or regretting that interaction? In the act of processing that interaction, we spend a lot more energy than we realize.
But yet, as social beings, we continue to and need to seek interactions with others. This isn’t a bad thing all together; it is only bad when we do it while running on empty. You see, interactions of any kind are more equal and fulfilling when we are operating out of a place of already being full. You know how in all airline pre-flight safety videos they advise you to put on your mask first before putting it on others, so too we should fill our own saucers before we can fill others’. Otherwise, you’re giving of yourself something you don’t have or seeking energy or attention from someone who usually doesn’t have it either.
This is why alone time is so important. Most people fear being alone for concern that they’ll be thought of as unusual, friendless, or lonely in some way or form. While there are people who are alone because they are lonely, there are people who are alone because they enjoy their own company. The strongest individuals I’ve ever met in my life and some of my closest friends have always had one characteristic in common—they are comfortable being alone and they can go out to eat at a restaurant with nothing and no one but their thoughts or take solo trips where they go on different adventures. You see, they recognize that it is okay to have alone time and they understand that it can be a valuable tool for self-discovery and truly figuring out what you are about without the noises of the world.
Being alone is a form of space where you are free to take a non-judgmental look at yourself and learn to enjoy you as much you might enjoy the company of someone you really like. And the neat thing is the more you practice taking time just for yourself the more you learn about you and the more you get to like your company.
And when you truly enjoy your own company, when you talk to others it will begin to feel like you are adding to the interaction as opposed to completing it. Because you realize that you are already whole, the interactions you engage in will feel like bonus additions to your life. You are able to be more present and more generous with your attention to others because you have already given yourself enough attention.
Now you might be thinking that it all sounds nice but how, if you have a really busy schedule and all these big responsibilities, do you ever get to have alone time? Well, you have to first decide how committed you are to being the best you that you can be. I kid you not, if you are committed to it enough you’ll find the time.
But let me be a bit more practical for those of you that may want a more casual start to this. We already spend a lot of time by ourselves—driving and commuting in some form from one point to another, at our office desks, in the shower, in a doctor’s waiting room, etcetera. But instead of just taking these moments we have to ourselves to just be peacefully at ease with our company we spend it anticipating the forthcoming interaction or mulling over our last one. What I would recommend in these everyday situations is that you form a habit of gently reminding yourself that ‘look, I just got some me time right now—let me just enjoy this for a second.’ It may sound silly I know, but if you begin reminding yourself often enough, it will start to become a habit to just automatically recall that you have a moment to yourself to just enjoy you.
And if you are able to and want to take it to the next level, spend a week or a weekend by yourself but doing everything that you would normally wait for the company of others to do it. Go to the movies, go hiking or swimming, spend a day in a theme park, take a trip to a local or non-local place you’ve really wanted to check out. All the while be conscious of a sense of gratitude that you get this time to just enjoy being enough in your own company.
As you take up these habits of recognizing your alone time, your whole being will begin to become reinvigorated—your mental and emotional cup will be in a positive state of filled-to-overflow. And when you are in a state of energetic overflow, you are able to be the best you that you can be to everyone you encounter in your life.