We humans are social animals. We need to belong, love and be loved, we need to thrive, create and grow with other human beings. Long periods of isolation lead to nothing but depression, loneliness, poor self-image and other related mental issues.
If you want to be happy in life, you need a team of people with whom you work and create on meaningful projects, and where you feel that your contribution is respected, and you need a group of people in your personal life where you share love, affection and have fun together.
There are six key relationships in your life (spouse, family, friends, boss, coworkers and mentors) and the deeper and healthier these relationships are, the richer your life usually is. That’s why you need to choose and nurture relationships very carefully. People are the ones making your life on Earth heaven or hell.
Since we’re all different, for someone two good friends, a coworker and family are more than enough to feel socially satisfied, while others thrive only in interaction with many people. You need to know yourself very well and discover what works best for you in different periods of life. There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to designing your life.
Much like socializing is important, so is regular temporary (active) isolation. If you’re an introvert, temporary isolation is probably something that feels very natural to you. You need it to refill your energy and you have no problem blossoming when you’re alone with books, your thoughts or something else you love and doesn’t involve other people.
But even if you’re an extrovert, you can benefit from short-term isolation a lot. It may be a little bit harder to do it in the beginning, but once you see all the benefits, I’m sure you’ll have no problem sticking to it. Let’s look at the main benefits of temporary (active) isolation and how you can easily do it.
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When you feel the urge to be alone, it’s already too late
The main problem with short-term social isolation is the following. When you feel that you need to isolate yourself, it’s usually already a little bit late. In the same way like thirst is a sign that you should have drunk water way before you got thirsty.
As you can easily forget to drink enough water throughout the day, so you can very easily loose the connection with yourself, without even being aware of it. You get a little bit too busy for a week or so and the connection with yourself gone.
Unfortunately, the majority of people live like zombies and have zero connection with their core self. Life is a very busy thing and so you can easily forget about yourself.
Regular isolation is the only way to keep the connection alive. Like you satisfy your thirst by drinking water, so you can only keep your core burning alive with regular active isolation during which you pay full attention to yourself.
Isolating yourself with the goal of devoting full attention to yourself is nothing but a habit. And as every habit, it needs a trigger and a reward to be performed. Potential rewards are colossal.
The benefits and triggers of active isolation
In addition to that, there is nobody there to bother you so you can create without any interruptions, and if you don’t feel like creating you can improve your competence level (with reading for example), get familiar with a new topic and much more. It all depends on your goal.
As for the trigger, there are three best triggers that can take you into active isolation:
- Time trigger – you timebox time in your calendar for when and where you do active isolation.
- Thought trigger – you get a thought that leads you into a rich internal world of thinking, analyzing, brainstorming and thus you completely lose your sense of time and your environment.
- Location trigger – you have a specially dedicated place where you go work in solitude. I call it a place to escape life.
The time trigger is the most common one. You save a block of time in your calendar for active isolation. It can be time dedicated to planning, working on a meaningful project, reading or whatever.
You can be in your office or at home, it doesn’t matter. When the time comes, you close the door behind you and don’t want to be disturbed. The key is that you’re really alone and that you’re performing a mentally active task that’s connected to your core self.
As an interesting note, I’ve noticed that my time alone is not that quality and deep if there is another person in the room or in a room next to mine. I need to be really alone, knowing that there is nobody who can disturb me. So test if there is any difference for you if you actively isolate yourself when people are present in the room next to yours or when you’re really completely alone.
A thought trigger is when you get completely lost in your own world. I think you know exactly what I mean by that, but let me still give you an example. Here is what Maye Musk, Elon’s mother said about him: ‘
He goes into his brain, and then you just see he is in another world. He still does that. Now I just leave him be because I know he is designing a new rocket or something.' Maye Musk (he = Elon)
You can get yourself isolated, even if you aren’t alone. But you need a vivid internal world and strong inner focus, to not get disturbed easily and to block all other stimuli.
The third thing that has the ability to lead you to active solitude is location – a place to escape. Many successful people have a place where they go alone in order to think, create and reconnect with their true core.
Sometimes they go to such a place based on a plan, a timeboxed time, in other cases spontaneously when they feel like it. They just drop everything and go to the place where they can pay full attention to themselves. A place like that can really do wonders for you.
The main reason for having a place specifically dedicated to active isolation is that you don’t want to run away from yourself and life with drugs, overworking, daydreaming and other addictions, you want to do the opposite.
You want to run towards life and your true self by closely examining who you truly are and what meaningful things you can do with your life. Active isolation is a tool exactly for that. And it's also the perfect tool to create.
“My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones.” — Isaac Asimov
Always have a place to escape life and listen to your thoughts
Albert Einstein took long walks on the beach so he could listen to thoughts in his head. Nikola Tesla discovered very soon that being alone is the secret to invention. Pablo Picasso stated that without great solitude, no serious work is possible.
Many successful people had or have a place where they devote complete attention to their true self. Then they use their pure essence to create new masterpieces the world has never seen before.
Knowing that you have a place where you can always go to regroup, reconnect with yourself or analyze and create brings a special feeling of meaning and power into your life.
You know there is a place you can “escape” to, a place where you can be only with yourself and bring your true core to life. It’s a place that belongs only to you and you belong to that place. There are so many different options of how a location can be a trigger for active solitude.
- You can have a “man cave” or a “she shed” where you work with no distractions
- You can go to your favorite coffee shop or restaurant where it feels like the perfect place to create
- You can take long walks on the beach or in the forest to listen to your thoughts
- There might be a place you rent for an extended weekend to have alone time
- The road or, to be more exact, driving in a car can also be a great place to reflect
- Another way to do active isolation is to travel alone
- Or maybe you can have a creative corner where you sit when you need time for yourself
Options for where to do active isolation are endless. You can have several of them.
I have an office called the “man cave” where I work without any distractions. No phone, no email, no visitors.
I have no problem getting lost in my mind in a single second no matter where I am, thinking about the outline of my next article or a new idea I want to play with.
I climb mountains to completely lose myself and relax. I take almost daily long walks to listen to my thoughts.
Now I’m even thinking about having extended weekends only for myself. I’m just searching for the perfect place I could rent every quarter. I want to always be in the same place to anchor the location to active isolation.
In my case, I’m an interesting mixture of an introvert and an extrovert. I need the time alone to think and create, but I also have a strong urge to be connected with other people. I thrive in a funny mixture of solitude and teamwork. So I do both, strategically and planned.
Consistency is the key to not losing connection with yourself
Much like you have to drink water daily to stay healthy and avoid thirst, in the same way you need to take regular time in active isolation if you don’t want to lose the connection with yourself.
Consistency is the key to many things, and the connection with yourself is no exception. There are several patterns for assuring regularity:
- Take an hour of power every day, existing in active solitude.
- Turn one day of the weekend or at least a few hours to be completely with yourself.
- Have a place where you go alone for several days in regular intervals, like every quarter.
- Devote 6 – 12 months of your life at some point to be in monk mode and create like never before
- Use all the options or a few of them to construct an active isolation pattern that works best for you.
If you’re a complete extrovert and being alone is something alien to you, you might be asking yourself what can you even do when you’re alone.
Here are only a few ideas for what to do in a place that’s devoted only to you (as you’ve probably figured out, I call it active isolation):
- Write a journal
It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it – here is why
For an introvert, it may be easy to be alone and recharge, reading a book or doing any similar activity. For many extroverts, it’s already hard to take time to be alone.
But for both types it’s usually extremely hard to be in active and creative isolation, if you aren’t a naturally born artist. At least at first. With time, it gets easier and when you realize how rich your internal world is, you become kind of addicted to it. You need it like you need the air to breathe.
You are here on this planet to grow, enjoy, connect and create. For the creating part, to really put your talents to work, I think there are two mayor approaches that work by far the best. Almost every great artist, engineer or thinker used these two approaches.
Testing thousands of ideas and creating in solitude, that’s what great minds master.
The first approach is to regularly create and create a lot, I mean really a lot. (1) You have to write down thousands of ideas, outlines, concepts and creative thoughts. You must have no problem with failure, with the fact that the majority of them are nothing but crappy ideas.
But in the flood of thousands and thousands of ideas, one of them is a very original and brilliant one from time to time. And that’s enough. Many times, you only need to be originally creative once.
(2) The second approach is to work and create in solitude as we’ve discussed. Active isolation gives a special edge to understanding yourself, being connected to yourself and expressing yourself in the most genius and unique ways possible.
Both concepts are hard to follow and implement, but they’re the one thing that distinguishes great minds from the rest of the world. You also have a great mind and now you know how to put it to use.