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Being Alone: Thoughts On Peace, Preference, Motivation, And Control

Posted May 28 2013 12:21pm

Over the past several years I have spent a lot of time alone, literally and figuratively. It wasn’t a conscious choice, at first, and for a while I thought it was just a phase. But I’ve had a series of ah-ha moments that have led me to be much more deliberate about choosing to be alone.

But first, what do I mean by “alone”?

Literally: I spend most of my days alone. I work alone and there is no one else around. I don’t go out with friends as much as I used to. I also limit my time with certain people.

Figuratively: I am careful about what I allow to influence me. I don’t watch television, I limit social media, and I limit other forms media (like newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online news sources).

(This is not about being an introvert. And it’s also not about being a hermit. To use an overused word, I think it’s mostly about being mindful…and intuitive.)

Ah-ha #1 The more alone I am, the more peaceful I feel.

I had this realization one evening when Tim and I were out having dinner recently and there was a TV on (sound muted) in the restaurant and every time I looked at it, I became anxious.

My heart started beating faster, I ate faster, I breathed more shallowly, and my stomach clenched.

Ah-ha #2 The more alone I am, the more I know what I like.

Without a lot of outside influence, I am much more aware of my true preferences and I am more discerning when it comes to making decisions and purchases. As a result, I spend less money. I eat better. I enjoy myself.

Ah-ha #3 The more alone I am, the more motivation and control I have.

Oooo…there’s that word! How many times have I said that it’s about taking control out of the equation? Well, I have an important distinction to make: white-knuckle control (fear) and truly self-motivated control (love).

Here’s what I realized: when I am trying to control and/or change the uncontrollable/unchangeable (other people, the past, the weather…) I do not have the freedom to control or change myself. And it is ONLY when I relinquish white-knuckle control that truly self-motivated control is possible.

Ah-ha #4 The more alone I am, the better I am able to practice and master that which is important to me*.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post called How I Want To Be In The World   and in it I described my aversion to conflict. This is something about which I often felt “weak”…as if I didn’t have a “backbone” because I didn’t enjoy “debate.”

Here’s what I’ve come to realize: I do not like to feel reactive or defensive. When there’s a situation that feels polarizing to me, I’d rather remove myself from it than to publicly take a side. I feel stronger in my convictions and thus ACT on them versus having to “preach” them. And in that way, I am more powerful and influential.

*Be for, not against; practice, don’t preach; and it’s not mine to fix

Ah-ha #5 The more alone I am, the less I concern myself with what others are thinking and doing.

It’s not that I don’t care about others…and I don’t say this in reaction to what others are saying and doing. I say it because it sets me (and everyone else around me) free. They get to be who they are and I get to be who I am and, as a result, I feel lot more love (rather than sadness, fear, judgment, etc.).

Who and what tells you who you are and informs your choices? Have you ever consciously experimented with aloneness? 

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