[6 minute Quick Read]

[Solitude and the Sea – Painting – By Jacques Bodin]

When is the last time, you spent some time with your thoughts?

In all possibility, you may not remember at all. 

Ubiquitous smart screens are encroaching every aspect of our life. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or in Queue for some booking, or waiting for the bus, or even in restrooms – we fiddle around with our smart-phones.
That’s a disaster for deep thinking. 

In Lead yourself first, author – US court judge and Army Veteran argues for the importance of spending time alone. It’s not only for creative professionals. It is important for everyone. Spending time alone has benefits like  

  • Simplifying hard problems, one is struggling with.   
  • The clarity in thinking and writing
  • Conveying complex concepts in presentation, speech in engaging manner.
  • Excellent regulation of emotions leading to better emotional intelligence
  • Build moral courage – look at the life of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.
  • To strengthen relationships. This sounds odd. But yes, solitude helps to build close connections.
Cal Newportargues in digital minimalism with the example of Lincoln, that Lincoln’s habit of spending time alone helped save the nation! He further gives many examples, quotes supporting solitude. 

So, what is Solitude precisely – As defined in “Lead yourself first” – 

 “Subjective state in which your mind is free from inputs from other minds”. 

So, when you are looking at the iPhone screen, watch TV, or listening to songs – it violates the idea of solitude even if you are alone at that time. To take full benefit of Solitude, just remain with your thoughts, cut-off all kinds of disturbances. Period.  Digital Minimalism’s chapter-4 focuses on a few practices to build solitude and gaining the advantage of it. 

Practice #1:  Leave your phone at home

We are too addicted to the phone. Do we need it? Those who are born before 1980 must have experienced life without a mobile phone. So, learn to disassociate from the phone. Maybe while going to class, teaching a class, for meetings. Just keep it away. If leaving at home is not practical, then maybe leaving in a vehicle (glove-box) or keeping it at the bottom of your backpack. That will make it difficult to reach and you will use it only when it is necessary. 

Practice #2:  Take Long Walk

Walking is often looked like one of the best forms of exercise. But we often overlook its unique value in building solitude. The chapter refers to Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote his landmark essay in just two weeks attributing credit to walk. He said, “Only thoughts reached with walking have values”. To maximize the benefits of the walk, take it alone, if possible, in a scenic place. And keep the phone at the bottom of your backpack or leave it home.  

Practice #3:  Write letters to yourself

Cal Newport is not advising like writing a diary or journal. You may use Moleskine like him or any other notebook. But what he suggests is to write like you are talking to yourself. This is a great suggestion for clarifying one’s thoughts. And yes, you have not engaged with another mind also. This perfectly suits the concept of solitude. Many books advocate the use of writing to clarify one’s thinking. For example, you can look at the title “Accidental Genius”. I often scribble my thoughts and it helps. And I am certainly going to get this idea-note-book. 

[This is my review/summary  of Chapter-4 of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism] 

[You can check Chapter-3 summary/review here] 

[Image Source: Solitude and Sun – From Wikimedia – accessed as of 17-May-2020]