Maximize the Quality of Your Alone Time

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need alone time. Some of us crave it. Some of us avoid it. But no matter your disposition, there will of course be times in your life when you will be by yourself.

I’m by myself right now!

Excellent! That means I’m talking to you. If you also happen to be one of those who dreads being alone, want you to realize what an enormous gift being alone is. How many projects have you been putting off because you’ve been busy catering to other people? How unfocused have you become because you haven’t allowed yourself the time you need for self-reflection?

Being alone is an opportunity. It’s a chance to put your creative powers to use and make something unique that will add value to people’s lives. So much of the alone time we do have we end up squandering. How much time do you spend alone consuming the creations of other people instead of making something yourself?

You have the potential to do great things, and the majority of your best ideas will come to you when you are alone. Most of my great ideas for my novel Scourge Ship came to me while I was alone.

You probably shouldn’t use ‘great ideas’ and ‘Scourge Ship’ in the same sentence.

That’s true, but the point is that I took the time to make something that was my own. And you can too, if you’re willing to use your alone time to the fullest.

“The Warrior of the Light makes use of solitude, but he is not used by it.” – Paulo Coehlo

What kind of pseudo-spiritual nonsense is that?

The kind that will hopefully motivate you to take action. I’m certainly not suggesting that you should never watch TV or sit on the couch and zone out from time to time, but that you take a critical eye to the things you do in your spare time. You may discover opportunities that you never knew existed.

You Owe it to Yourself to do This

I get it, sometimes life is overwhelming.

You get nothing, John Chambers.

 Hear me out. A life that’s overwhelming can feel like a tidal wave bearing down on you. And there are sharks in the tidal wave, and they’ve all eaten people who look exactly like you. Did you know that sharks can live a really long time? In 2016, a team from the University of Copenhagen discovered a nearly 400-year old Greenland shark in the sub-Arctic. That’s not exactly relevant, but it is cool.

Anyway, I was going to say that the next time you find yourself wondering whether or not you can handle something, remember to trust yourself! Trust that you will make the best possible choice given the information that you have. That’s all we can really do in the end. Also, don’t swim with sharks.

What in the good God are you talking about?

Can you imagine living for 400 years? That would be a lot of memories to have to integrate and make sense of. On the plus side, you’d have plenty of time to go back to school and change vocations multiple times.

Why are you still yammering on about sharks?

I’m talking about you, now. Sharks can’t go to school, obviously.

The only person you can really count on in life is you. You will of course encounter others who do in fact have your best interests at heart, but they also have to take care of themselves and may not be there for you 100% of the time. And even if they are, you still need to be able to rely on yourself.

Trust that you will make good decisions. Trust that you will also make bad decisions, but that you will learn from those mistakes. Above all, trust yourself.

Why Things Always Get Better

As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Listen, John, quotes are great, but I’m up to my neck in pure shit and I don’t know what to do.

Understood. What you should do is largely dependent on the nature of said shit you find yourself buried in. I discuss techniques for dealing with various kinds of shit in other posts. The point to remember here is that nothing is permanent. No feeling, good or bad, lasts forever.

It’s actually physically impossible for your body to maintain the same emotional state indefinitely. The way you feel is a combination of several factors, many of which involve a delicate balance of body chemistry. What ends up happening is that your body exhausts its ability to produce the specific hormones and other chemicals necessary to experience a specific emotion, and as such your emotional state eventually changes.

How long do I have to wait?

That depends. The initial surge of chemicals that result in you feeling uncomfortable only lasts 90-120 seconds. If it doesn’t pass after that, it means you are continuing to feed your body’s response with negative thoughts. Change the way you think, and you change the way your body reacts.

I have problems with change in general. It scares me.

Change is a fundamental attribute of the universe. Since the beginning of time, matter has been transforming from one state to the next. We often fight against this by building structures or monuments that feel permanent to us, but that permanence is an illusion. What appears solid is actually composed of subatomic particles that are constantly in motion and that continuously exchange energy with the surrounding environment.

Studies have also shown that we are notoriously bad understanding and preparing for the future. Back in our caveman days, we were only concerned with the present moment. Planning for the future doesn’t matter so much when you’re staring down a tiger and just trying to survive to the next day. We’re hardwired by evolutionary forces to want to dwell in our current circumstances.

It takes conscious effort to overcome these tendencies, but over time these efforts will become habit! The next time you feel like crap, try to remember all the previous times you felt bad and how those feelings never lasted. Happy times await.

If everything sucks and you feel like crap, know that this feeling isn’t permanent.

Conversely, if everything is awesome, remember that you can’t sit around and hope that things will continue to be awesome all on their own. Situations come and go. Whatever is awesome today will be something different tomorrow. You must continually push yourself and seek new ways to bring awesomeness into your life.