I remarked to my Dad a few days ago how everywhere you look you see someone talking on a cell phone. I use mine a lot too, but it’s generally for business, setting a meeting, following up with a prospective client or checking my answering service for messages.
It seems as though many people use their phones just to talk to friends or text messages back and forth. They do it walking, driving, sitting in restaurants, libraries, and bookstores, or while shopping or banking. Some people can’t even order a hamburger at McDonalds because they are on the phone. With all of that constant communicating when do you spend time just with yourself?
Developing a life philosophy can only be accomplished after you have made life decisions for yourself which you check in on periodically to see what is working and what isn’t. That philosophy will grow with you, but it can’t be developed without time alone to actually think about what you want out of life.
Alone time is so important to reflect on your past, present and future, to discover how you really feel without anyone else’s input, and most importantly, to realize that you can depend on yourself to make good choices for your life. I don’t care how old you are, teenager, twenty-something, middle-aged or a senior citizen you need time to listen to your thoughts, compare ideas, see what sounds exciting and what is just someone else’s idea for you.
So often people never spend enough time alone in deep thought to really know who they are, they rely on what teachers, the media or family and friends tell them. Early in life we depend on our parents, close family and friends to help us evaluate how our lives will go, but at some point we have to take control of our thinking, formulate our lives around a plan that we alone design.
The whole world has bought into the idea that you have to be in touch with someone all the time; to that extent Europeans spend even more time on their cell phones than Americans, if you can imagine that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk as much as the next guy, stay in touch with friends about getting together, talking politics, bicycling, skiing, etc., but to do it constantly has got to have it’s drawbacks. Unfortunately, it’s also addictive, the more time we spend in contact with others, the more we become insecure about being alone; you don’t have the perpetual personal reinforcement you need to feel good about yourself.
Feeling good about who you are comes from the confidence in knowing you will do the right thing for yourself and for others; that through practice you can accomplish life on your own terms.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk, practice yoga daily, sail around the globe alone or be a hermit to have alone time; it does help to plan it though. I take time each morning, before I write, to take stock of how things are going and answer some basic questions: am I pleased with progress in my work, if I’m taking a course, am I keeping up with the demands of my class and achieving the level of grade I desire, am I making enough money to keep me happy, is my social life living up to it’s potential, is my physical fitness where I want it to be for the upcoming bicycle racing season?
If I can realistically and truthfully answer these questions, I’ll know where I am in my life plan, the changes that need to be made will be obvious and then it’s up to me to make them. We all have to make mid-course adjustments in life; you can’t drive a car in traffic with out making constant adjustments in your lane position, speed, checking the rearview mirror, etc., life is the same only more serious.
Time spent in your car is the perfect opportunity to think about how you feel about you. Don’t play the radio or your latest CD, don’t talk on the phone, but mostly don’t just sit there like a bump on a log. Use the time to bolster your ideas, make exciting decisions, and get stoked on what you are accomplishing and how great your life is right now because you pay attention.
Occasionally, I’ll ski or ride my bike alone to be free to think and appreciate life, nature and my abilities. You could take a hike, go canoeing, a walk in the park, or meditate it doesn’t matter, just do it alone occasionally.
In our fast paced global life, we sometimes lose track of where we are because we become so busy, and sometimes we intentionally make our lives busy so we won’t have to think about the tough questions. This is the insecurity I spoke of earlier; we lack the confidence to think for and about ourselves constructively.
Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect and practicing to take charge of your life through time alone is just a matter of planning and executing it. To get started make it a game that you play with yourself; pretty soon it will become clear that you have taken charge, and you will actually enjoy planning many more aspects your life.
Sometimes when I plan to do some thinking about my life, I’ll have paper and a pen handy so I can make notes of decisions, changes or ideas that might enhance what I’m trying to accomplish. In the past, I’ve also used a notebook that I’d set beside my bed and write these notes upon waking in the morning, that way I’m rested, thinking clearly and the clutter of the day isn’t in the way yet.
All of this can be summed up in two thoughts: 1) pay attention to who you are and where you are going, and 2) take time to be alone, to let life be quiet and thoughtful. Try it you might just like it.
Anyway you look at it, it’s just on man’s opinion…mine.