Being Good at Being Good: The Role of Solitude
In a culture that ascribes self-worth to output and relationships with others, deliberately spending time alone without a task at hand is hardly the norm. Many of us drift through life distracted and unconscious, guided by the milestones established by society without taking the time to truly get to know ourselves. What is it that drives us and more importantly, why? What are the beliefs and callings that inspire us to act? When we strip away labels like child, parent, student, employee, friend, partner, etc., who are we? And if we don’t know, how can we hope to lead and inspire others?
I’ve contemplated these questions frequently throughout my life as I’ve moved through different beliefs, passions, practices, and professional capacities. One concept that’s remained consistent throughout these spaces is the idea of goodness, yet goodness – on the surface – can look different depending on the context. We often interpret goodness as being good at something, yet this type of goodness shifts. We can be good at something, an output, at any given time in our lives, but these things are fluid. For instance, a professional athlete does not start out their career by being good at their chosen sport. They train effectively and efficiently for years until this status is achieved. Fast forward a few decades and they aren’t “as good” as they were in their prime. They can no longer perform at the same level.
The idea of goodness in and of itself transcends output and performance. It’s the underlying drive to be better, the reason people want to grow in the first place. The degree of hard work, discipline and energetic focus it takes to excel in any given way. The relationships built with oneself, colleagues, teammates, coaches, mentors, family members, partners, and friends as we move through life’s joys and challenges. The way we treat ourselves and others during those challenging times, and our ability to return to kindness and gratitude again and again.
In my experience, goodness grows stronger when rooted in a deep level of commitment to, and understanding of, the mind and body. The mind-body connection serves as a solid foundation for cultivating the relationship we have with ourselves. It requires spending time in solitude without distraction, so that we can better stand in congruency with ourselves and solidarity with others. When we relate to and communicate with ourselves in a conscious, compassionate and empathetic way, our presence can positively impact the world around us.
However, empathetic and mindful communication within leadership is not the norm in most cultures despite a growing body of research supporting its significance. Mindful leadership starts with the courage to approach the self with curiosity and compassion, empathy and candor. Approaching the self, others, and the world at large in this way, with the mindset of connectedness, encourages mindful action and a shift in paradigm toward the positive.