Have you ever lived by a train? Or airport? Do you know anyone who has?
It’s said that if you live by a train long enough, you won’t even hear it eventually. You get used to the noise, the rumbling, the intrusion.
It feels normal, just like our hyperconnected world of cell phone notifications.
News, notifications, and nuisances barge into every part of your day without any concern about how you will be impacted.
Living in an epidemic of distractions and constant interruptions feels normal, but it’s unhealthy.
Unhurried, undistracted time is essential for our health. In every way. Mentally and emotionally. At work and home.
While this often requires being alone, there is a difference between solitude and loneliness.
How Does the Impact of Solitude Differ From Loneliness?
Solitude creates space for meaningful reflection and restructuring your priorities to reflect your values better.
Engaging in solitude appropriately has positive effects on your personal and professional life. Spending intentional time alone can sharpen your focus and provide clarity that’s hard to attain in the middle of a busy life.
Loneliness, on the other hand, tends toward isolation. It can precipitate burnout. When a person feels disconnected from others in meaningful relationships – personally and professionally – the end result is often tragic.
A sense of loneliness can spread like an emotional wildfire in a person’s being, consuming every area of their self-concept.
This is why the benefits of reflective solitude are so profound and have an impact far beyond our immediate sphere of influence.
Hurt People Hurt People
No one makes it through this life without accumulating a few scars along the way. The story behind our scars – emotional and physical – often influences how we interact with the world around us.
Most of the sharp, prickly, selfish, and inconsiderate things we do stem from a place of deep woundedness.
As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” That is, people are most likely to hurt others when they are hurting themselves.
Facing our pain requires enormous strength.
The problem is that our hyper-distracted culture makes it difficult to withdraw and tend to our emotional needs.
What we don’t know about ourselves influences us in ways we don’t fully grasp. Psychologist David Benner provides incredible insight.
He says that the parts of ourselves that we are unaware of “become stronger, not weaker. Operating out of sight and beyond awareness, they have an increasing influence on our behavior.”
Great Leaders Prioritize Solitude
Regardless of how extraverted you may be, how many people rely on you, or how demanding your schedule is – you need time alone.
In their book “Lead Yourself First,” authors Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin identify how great leaders prioritize solitude. Dwight Eisenhower, James Mattis, Jane Goodall, and Martin Luther King are a few examples they provide.
Kethledge and Erwin draw out how time in solitude allowed these great leaders to gain clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and moral courage.
Many businesses fail to realize their potential because the leaders are so focused on working in the business that they can’t work on the business.
Self-Care is Paramount to Care Well for Others
Navy SEALS train so ruthlessly that each SEAL possesses superhuman strength and tenacity. It’s said that Navy SEAL training is the most rigorous training in the world.
Out of every ten soldiers that begin, only two finish. Why do Navy SEALS train so vigorously?
To take care of others.
In a recent conversation, former SEAL Chad Williams told me, “The mantra in the SEALs is ‘Team, buddy, me – in that order.’”
For a SEAL to effectively take care of the team and their buddy – before taking care of themselves – they must train themselves to be equipped and prepared to do so.
It’s like the instructions we receive before a plane leaves the runway. We’re told that in the event of a crash, we must put on our oxygen masks before helping others so that we can help others.
Self-care does not have to be selfish. With the right motivation, self-care and solitude can be among the best gifts we give others.
No SEAL wants a teammate who isn’t healthy enough to serve others. No employee wants a boss who is unaware of their own wounds and ends up hurting others.
You can offer something better. But it will require shutting off distractions, disengaging from responsibilities, and opening yourself up to your inner person.
Solitude is Categorically Different From Loneliness and Isolation
It’s essential to differentiate solitude from isolation or loneliness. We define solitude as a healthy, personal discipline that allows you to engage in meaningful self-reflection.
Loneliness, however, is a state of “sadness because one has no friends or company.”
While you can be lonely in a crowd, you cannot have solitude there. Solitude is a virtue to be pursued. Loneliness is a danger to be addressed.
A recent Harvard study found a significant correlation between feeling lonely at work and exhaustion.
“The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel.”
Loneliness profoundly affects individual health, as demonstrated by several studies by leading universities.
One study led by Sarah Pressman of the University of California at Irvine showed that obesity reduced longevity by 20%, smoking by 50%, and loneliness by 70%.
Conclusion? Loneliness is as dangerous to your health as smoking and obesity – combined.
Corporately, the toll of loneliness on disengagement is staggering.
Loneliness leads to disengagement. According to Smith’s School of Business and the Gallup organization, disengagement leads to these massive organizational issues:
- 37% higher absenteeism
- 49 % more accidents
- 16% lower profitability
- 65% lower share price over time
And that’s just business. Loneliness is impacting society on a historical, global scale.
In May 2023, the Surgeon declared loneliness an epidemic. This puts the US five years behind the UK, where there has been a “Minister of Loneliness” at work since 2018, and two years behind Japan. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) cited in March 2021 that ~28% of employees felt isolated at work.
Loneliness needs to be addressed. Solitude needs to be embraced.
Leaders in the Workplace Have the Opportunity to Shape History
Our mission at the Full Sail Leadership Academy is to make the world a better place by making workplaces better.
Loneliness and distraction are being declared epidemics in our day. Leader – you can do something about this. You can do more than improve your company’s bottom line.
You are positioned to usher health, healing, and wholeness into the world through your workplace.
Step up. Be bold. Step into solitude and gain the self-awareness you need to address and grow in the areas of healing your heart longs for.
Learning by example is only one, yet vital, way we adapt throughout our lifetime. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you’re entire team is encouraged to cheer each other on.
Watch the World Change by Changing Someone’s World
A large insurance company attended one of our workshops a few years ago. Total assets for this company are $3.8 billion, with 1,400 employees nationwide.
While everyone eventually went out on the boats, there was a great deal of reticence as we worked through the classroom portion of the workshop.
One of the participants was afraid of the water and could not swim. Another was extremely afraid of getting seasick.
It was amazing to see the participant who was afraid of the water conquer her fears as her teammates encouraged her.
Even though she had the opportunity of bailing out and staying in the classroom to plot the course of the rest of her team, she sensed the loss of missing out on an incredible learning experience.
Our captain and first mate on her boat helped her find the most secure place to sit. Our team also showed this participant that there was no harm or fool in donning a life jacket to make herself more comfortable.
After she did all that, she slowly began to explore other areas of the boat. Eventually, this unwilling participant became an advocate for getting outside your comfort zone, saying, “I’m so glad I pushed through my fear; this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”
The participant who was worried about sea -sickness saw the power of her team as they rallied around her and distracted her from her fear.
In many cases, seasickness can be overcome by distracting the mind. In this case, our participant was encouraged to drive the boat when she became a bit queasy.
While she was a bit timid about driving the boat, once we taught her how – she lost her seasickness, and we kept her at the wheel for a reasonable amount of time, whereas in a typical workshop, we rotate team members through the driving opportunity.
Keeping this participant at the helm helped to keep the seasickness at bay. Eventually, she got tired of driving and went to sit down in her seat.
As soon as that happened, she returned to feeling nauseous and seasick. While watching their teammate overcome and then succumb to seasickness, the team learned some of the biggest lessons.
The rallying effect of working together to beat a “crisis” showed the team the importance of caring for others while caring for themselves. It also showed the crew the amazing power of mind over matter and using the power of positivity to get past difficult times.
Crush the Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness in Your Workplace
What are you waiting for? Elected officials are sending out a beacon, begging people to step up and respond to these epidemics of loneliness and distraction.
The world is reeling, longing for space to be seen – and accepted. People are desperate for someone to help them turn off the distractions so that they can tune into their deeper purposes.
Your organization needs you to lead. By example. In humility.
The time is now. You can make the world a better place by making your workplace better. We can help.
Our workshops are customized to meet your company’s most pressing needs. You’ll be trained in the classroom, sent out on the water, and provided an opportunity for reflection and growth.
We’ll also work with you to create an actionable, 12-month plan to ensure the progress you paid for!
Reach out now….before you get distracted 😉