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“In order to understand the world, you sometimes have to turn away from it.” – Albert Camus, French philosopher
How can we as entrepreneurs find answers in a world that vies for our attention with constant stimuli and distractions?
According to Albert Camus, the only real progress is learning to be wrong alone. If we step back from this overwhelming volume of information, we can recognize our mistakes more clearly and consequently find solutions.
Giving us time to think and process our decisions is critical to progress, and this is especially true in times of turbulence and uncertainty.
Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton spent years in solitude, and in his celebrated book Thoughts in Solitude, he said, "We can't see things in perspective until we stop pushing them on our bosoms."
Technology is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for our resistance to spend time alone, but another is the fear of loneliness.
This used to be the case with me. Over twelve years ago, as a new entrepreneur in my company, I thought I had to stay up to date by overloading myself with leadership development and training opportunities. I didn't think twice before answering another meeting or answering emails late into the night.
However, Jack Fong, a sociologist at California State Polytechnic University, notes that we can see situations more clearly in times of crisis if we are not surrounded by external distractions.
He describes them as "existentializing moments" or mental flickers of clarity that occur during inward loneliness. In Fong's words, we shouldn't fight these moments. "Accept it for what it is. Let it show up calmly and truthfully and don't resist, ”notes Fong. "Your time alone shouldn't be something you're afraid of."
What I didn't consider in my earlier years was the need for lonely reflection. I found that between trying to stay ahead of the curve and the relentless stream of distractions, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find the inner clarity that Fong is talking about.
For many of us, completing their schedules is our job. As managers, we are action-oriented and not necessarily prone to silent contemplation. However, a lack of focus can significantly hinder our development.
Related: Why time alone gives your company an advantage
Why we should commit to loneliness
In a story for Harvard Business Review, Mike Erwin repeats what past philosophers have known for generations. "The discipline to withdraw from the noise of the world is crucial to stay focused."
But it can also give us a competitive advantage.
During this time, I thought a lot about the annual trips I make to my hometown to help with the olive harvest. Most of my best and brightest ideas as an entrepreneur come from those days when I enjoyed sunshine with my family. My mind is free to wander aimlessly.
Needless to say, my next trip will not be that soon. But that doesn't mean that I can't have the same benefits where I am. According to experts, we don't have to travel halfway around the world to gain improved problem-solving and concentration skills.
"Loneliness is a vital and underestimated ingredient in creativity," said author Susan Cain in an interview with Scientific American. "In our culture, snails are not considered brave animals – we constantly admonish people to" get out of their shells "- but there is a lot to say if you take your home with you everywhere."
Don't let distractions get in your way
I am sure that you are thinking: Sure, Aytekin, theoretically, it is good and good to be alone, but we are in the middle of a pandemic that is trying to complete our work while at the same time reconciling childcare with other domestic tasks bring. How in the world should we squeeze ourselves in one time?
I hear you. Loneliness sounds like a dream. I also juggle a lot of hats at home while trying to be as present as possible to my team. But the key word here is presence.
Most of us have more time per day than we think, but the majority of it often goes to our social media, email, and other devices. We are so "tuned" to what is going on in the outside world (understandably in these times), but we also accidentally switch off the inside world.
In their book Lead Yourself First, Erwin and co-author Ray Kethledge define loneliness "as a state of mind, a space in which one can focus one's own thoughts without distraction – and in which the mind can solve a problem itself."
According to the authors, we can override our distraction impulse by adding 15-minute pockets of loneliness to our day. Instead of checking our inbox when we have 10 minutes to finish it, we can log out of our accounts.
We can even turn everyday activities like sorting laundry into more mindful reflection activities. It is about creating these spaces in which we can only devote our undivided attention to one thing. And it is these smaller, self-imposed moments of loneliness that can profoundly affect our productivity in the long run.
Related: How daydreaming and loneliness helped this entrepreneur …
Find clarity in loneliness
In recent years, scientists have viewed loneliness as something that can have therapeutic benefits if it is pursued at choice.
It can help us regulate our emotions better, which is essential for managing teams and dealing with a crisis. "If we can better identify moments when we need loneliness to recharge and think, we can better deal with negative emotions and experiences like stress and burnout," says psychotherapist Emily Roberts in a story for the New York Times.
But it's not just about being alone. "It's a deeper internal process," says loneliness researcher Matthew Bowker.
I have noticed that if I can structure my days with these periods, I can not only dig deep and access the clarity that I need to identify work-related problems and solutions, but also be mentally present to my family and what lies in front of me.
"It could take a bit of work to make it a pleasant experience," says Bowker. "But once that happens, it may become the most important relationship that anyone has, the relationship you have with yourself."
Related: Should the road to success always be lonely?