If you flip through the pages of history you will find a common thread between great leaders, they all held a deep appreciation towards solitude and personal reflection. From Marcus Aurelius’ meditations in stoicism, to Abraham Lincolns’ journal writings on his leadership to the Dalai Lamas’ wisdom teachings, solitude and personal reflection provided them with the means for growing beyond what they were and into the great leaders they became. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way society began to devalue, diminish, and forget the importance of finding time for solitude and reflection.
We live in a world which is constantly begging for our attention. The human brain is unbelievably powerful, extremely complex but at times easily overwhelmed and over stimulated by the never-ending onslaught of information from the world around us. Research has shown that in order to accurately learn from our experiences our brains need time to interpret, analyze, and store our experiences. The brain is only able to perform these processes at an effective level when we take time away from the information overload created by our environment and find solitude.
"Follow effective action with quiet reflection.
From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." - Peter Drucker
Solitude is defined as “the subjective state of mind, in which isolated from input from other minds, works through an issue on its own.” We are all unique, and as so, each of us will find our own unique way of experiencing solitude which enables us to reflect. Personally, I find solitude through nature and music. I’ve always found great inner peace and calming from watching the sunrise or set from top of a mountain or when sitting on the beach. These experiences of solitude provide me with a greater ability to reflect on my life, choices, leadership and learn from my experiences. Others find solitude and time to reflect while driving, exercising, listening to music, and the list goes on. To find what works best for you, experiment, be open-minded, and explore for new areas of solitude. Reflect with curiosity, ask yourself questions, be honest with yourself, look for the meaning of your experiences and conceptualize the lessons you’ve learned.
To grow personally and continue on the path of becoming a great leader we must know why we are who we are. Being self-aware and learning from our experiences, thoughts, challenges, triumphs and defeats illuminates the path for becoming more tomorrow than we are today. In the words of Steve Jobs “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” If we do not take the time to look backwards, we may never be able to connect the dots.
RJ Ulrich, Founder Eudimonia