Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. So glad you could join us today. I want to talk to you about something I never thought in a million years I would be interested in, and that is solitude. That's right. The ability to actually enjoy time alone and to benefit from being alone.
I've been thinking about this topic for several months now. As I am recording this particular episode, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and we've been forced to shelter in place. It means for many people, close proximity to family and roommates, friends, even though there are many people who are alone and in isolation. [01:08.6]
There can be tremendous benefits from solitude. The problem is we have a tendency to look at solitude as something that is negative. Let me begin by saying that there is a tremendous difference between loneliness and solitude. Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a choice that we make to be alone for benefit. While loneliness is a negative state, solitude is positive and constructive. You can actually rediscover yourself. You can have time for reflection and inner searching and growth, even enjoyment, as I have discovered.
Now, I need to just share something with you right out. I'm an outgoing type of person. My personality tends to feed off other people. I gain energy from being in a crowd. I know that there are some of you that are like that and get that solitude has rarely been a desire ever in my life. [02:13.9]
What happens? I marry a woman who is the complete opposite of me, and that's not a bad thing. My wife loves times of solitude. She craves those special times. My wife tends to get overwhelmed when there's too much activity and excessive noise. She loves to chill, and as a result, my wife works a time of solitude into every day, something that for years I just did not get.
As a matter of fact, when I think about her favorite hobbies, I think about her gardening, solitude. I think about birdwatching, solitude. As a matter of fact, my wife will say to me sometimes, Hey, I need a break, even from you. I don't get that, but be that as it may, I just simply have never been able to relate to solitude until being forced to shelter and experiencing close proximity with children, with a wife, with other family members. [03:15.1]
It's interesting. I never liked birdwatching and I realized that there is something very special about it. I think my wife tricked me. What she did was she put some bird feeders in the backyard. Now, what I do love is getting up early. Didn't even realize that I was practicing solitude. I would love to get up early and sit out in the backyard often with my Bible and a cup of coffee. Now, if that's not solitude, tell me what is.
At any rate, those bird feeders attracted cardinals and finch birds and mourning doves, and all of a sudden, I noticed that I am looking forward every single morning to the chirping of the birds announcing the dawn of a new day, the gathering of these birds and the interaction that these birds have, not only with other birds, but with the rabbits in the yard, with the squirrels in the yard. [04:06.5]
For what seemed like just a few minutes, I was mesmerized. Oftentimes, it was 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. I would actually lose myself in solitude. I found something interesting happening. I found that I was in a better frame of mind. I found that there was a smile on my face. There was a little bit of pep in my step and I was literally blown away.
I have experienced this one other time, and that is the rare time that I have a chance to play golf by myself. Now, I love playing golf with others. I love being in a foursome of friends, and the competition and the camaraderie, and the talking smack. But I have discovered, particularly the more public I get, the more I crave that private time to just simply go out to the golf course and to play. [05:03.0]
Guess what I'm doing. I'm not nearly as consumed with golf as I am looking at nature, listening to sounds that I normally would not hear, experiencing life on a totally different level in a different dimension, and I have discovered the same kinds of benefits following that round of solitude, that round of golf by myself that I have found with birdwatching.
Yeah what, friend? I want to tell you something much to my shock. Solitude has brought joy and peace to my life that I think has eluded me for years. These activities were activities that I would be doing, playing golf for sitting out on the patio. They never were activities that caused me to just be. When I'm by myself on the golf course, I am in the moment. I am just being. When I'm sitting on the back patio and observing nature unfold before me, I'm not doing something. I am in the state of being, and I’ll tell you, it relaxes me to my core. [06:14.0]
The benefits have been unbelievable. I'll leave the golf course, I'll leave the patio table more grounded, with a better perspective. I seem to be happier, more at peace. As a matter of fact, a study published in Forbes magazine reported that the ability to tolerate alone time—watch this—has been linked to greater creativity. In fact, the study goes on to outline that being alone with your thoughts allows your brain no wonder, which helps you become more creative. Some people will like being in the mountains. Some people like being near water. Some people like camping in a cabin or a tent. Some people have a favorite hiking trail. But being alone allows you the time for your mind to wonder. [07:00.0]
Also the study reveals that the ability to tolerate alone time has been linked to increased dreaming. You know what's interesting? All great people dream, but do we make time to dream? As a matter of fact, I need to admit something to you. I used to think that daydreaming was a waste of time. I literally used to think that daydreaming was counterproductive and I would actually feel guilty over how much I would daydream.
Over the years and after reading several books about successful people who dream big, like Walt Disney, I have given myself permission to daydream and I love it. I use the creative process to construct possibilities. It not only opens my eyes to what could be, but it also helps me in my never-ending pursuit of improving my storytelling skills as I tend to audibly narrate most of my dreams. [07:56.5]
Not only does solitude impact our creativity and give us an opportunity to dream, but it increases our mental strength. According to Forbes magazine's research, while it is important to have connections with other people, solitude is just as important. The ability to have time alone is linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management. People who enjoy alone time report being more productive and less depressed. Isn't that interesting?
Another benefit, you have more time to think. I think this might be my favorite one. As I set out and watch the birds in the morning, as I play golf by myself, I'm thinking about goals and plans, and changes I want to make. I'm working out problems and this has been so helpful for me, because by nature, I'm a reactionary person. I hear something and I want to react. You know what solitude does for me? It slows down my internal clock. Come on, y'all. It slows down my internal clock. [09:03.4]
How many of you could afford to use something like that, where instead of just saying the first thing that comes to mind, you kind of think through conversations? I make a choice to walk through issues and problems. I actually rehearse conversations that I think might be difficult that could be taking place that particular day.
I am discovering that solitude is helping me to get to know myself in a way that perhaps I have not chosen to in the past, and self-discoveries can be both good and bad, right? They can be both positive and negative. For example, my journey of solitude has allowed me to discover that, for whatever reason, I was afraid of solitude. I was afraid to be by myself. This is no longer the case, but I will tell you, as I become, like I said earlier, a more public person, I am both excited and surprised by the fact that I find myself seeking more solitude. [10:01.5]
But, still, the lingering question in my mind is this. Why do we fear solitude? Think about the barriers we put up when someone suggests solitude. “I'm too busy. I don't have time. I can't sit still that long. I need to be more productive with my time than just wasting it like that.” The critical question becomes, why are we afraid to be alone?
According to a Huffington Post article, experts say, on a personal level, at some point we're attempting to escape something. That noise actually helps drown out a harsh reality that avoiding solitude is the anecdote for a chaotic inner life. Many have found that noise is soothing that we become seekers of noise that we avoid quiet places within at all costs, usually as a result of a past hurt or pain or a mistake. [11:03.5]
In relationships, when noise becomes the glue that binds people together, it creates a false sense of comradery, party sense that something is missing, and before you know it, it's possible for a good relationship to go sideways. In social settings, we become so busy with people and things and places that we tend to lose our balance, our perspective, and without perspective, we cannot see what's really going on, and we begin to use the noise of the world and not the voices of reflection to keep us centered.
I don't want to use the noises of the world as my center piece, as my point of reference. Without solitude, we become easily overwhelmed. I've been there. We tend to overreact to minor issues. Been there. We're easily discouraged. Been there. There's no sense of being or place. Been there. We live from the outside in. That's been my life most of my life. [12:01.4]
With solitude, guess what I'm discovering? My perspective is restored because my balance is more centered. I tend to be happier and at peace. I tend to have more joy. I tend to have more energy. My creative drive, it's vociferous. My overall health has been enhanced, mind, body, and spirit.
I love the scripture, “Be still and know that I am God,” and even if you don't believe in God, just take the first four words of that passage. “Be still and know.” There's something powerful, implied about solitude, about separating, about being still.
There's a popular ad on television, and I’ve enjoyed watching this ad over and over. It's an ad for a mental fitness app called Calm, C-A-L-M. The spokesman is mega NBA basketball star, LeBron James. [13:02.7]
I'm wondering if you've seen this ad on television. James is sitting quietly, pensively, reflective, introspective, and he's actually doing the voiceover. As you see his face sitting quietly, he narrates the script. He says, “The mind is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it becomes. And while the greats master the body, the greatest master the mind.” Oh-ho, baby. The message is crystal clear. The pathway to greatness is mastering the mind. The pathway to mastering the mind is the calm produced by solitude.
Friends, may I encourage you to build solitude in your life? Connect it to a hobby, if you wish. I highly recommend birdwatching, playing a little bit of golf, playing your favorite sport, but do something every day to enhance your life whether it's even reading. Do you know that deep reading requires solitude? Experiencing the beauty of nature requires solitude? Fishing requires solitude? [14:15.1]
I have a buddy that happens to be a chef, and so his day is every day it's hustle bustle, lots and lots of people. He has discovered fly fishing, and he's a type-A personality, just like me. He has discovered fly fishing in remote parts of the United States in Montana and Wyoming, and the Dakotas, and he says the one benefit, quiet, not talking to anybody, but listening to nature, listening and being separated from everything that would have the potential to draw energy from him.
The benefits are just simply undeniable, friend, and so for a while, if you don't mind, for the next couple of days, I want you to think about the benefits of solitude. [15:05.9]
I conclude with this thought. If you've been struggling lately with focus or concentration, or creativity or perspective, or problem-solving, if you've been struggling lately with your productivity, you've discovered mood swings, tension, stress, or if you're just having a hard time getting a grip, keeping it together, why not consider spending just a few moments each day in solitude, time alone from the noise, the chaos, the interruptions, the intrusions, the rat race of this world? Combine your time with something you enjoy and, just like me, you may find that solitude is something you can no longer live without.
Friends, until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking you the most important question I could ask today. How you livin’? [16:05.3]
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout,” absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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