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Embracing Solitude

leading & LIVING • Apogee Group

Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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“In that first hardly noticed moment to which you wake, coming back to this life from the other more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world where everything began, there is a ­small opening into the new day which closes the moment you begin your plans.”  ~ David Whyte, poet, author, speaker

 

On this spring morning I awakened to the sounds and smells of a new day and, by paying closer attention, to a season encouraging new life all around me. I am quite alone in my awareness. Now I really listen for what the world brings to me.
 

As I reconcile myself to a solitary life, I am reminded of the sly wisdom of author and critic John Leonard, who noted that "men tend never to be alone, except in hotel rooms in Cleveland." Instead, we are awash in the business of the life we have created full of children, strutting about, fuss, appointments, commuting and commerce. He writes, "in trenches, locker rooms, box seats, saloons, at the office and at dinner and especially in bed, we are surrounded ... by roommates and buddies and flunkies and relatives and secretaries and ghosts and qualms. Our failures of character constitute a throng, which teems."
 

In being alone, one discovers the smaller and larger silences of life. It is a new life, with more reflection than ambition. Given the lurching about us in the larger world, it helps to make time to try to understand the source and potency of change. Psychologist James Hillman, nearing his 85th birthday, notes that "everything that everyone is afraid of has already happened: the fragility of capitalism, which we don't want to admit; the loss of the empire of the United States, and American exceptionalism." He reminds us that we're in a stage of denial. We want things as they used to be; to put it all back the way it was.
 

Lord Byron in "Childe Harold" reminds us that "solitude should teach us how to die." We are alone, as we were when we came and as we shall be when we go.
 

But solitude can also teach us how to live. Solitude is also central to leadership, according to Yale scholar William Deresiewicz. Last year he challenged the plebe class of the United States Military Academy at West Point to consider the central truth that we must learn to think, to consider life deeply, in order to discover the abundant courage to lead and live with conviction. He reminded the young soldiers that "what we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don't have are thinkers. People who can think for themselves who can formulate a new direction for the country, for a corporation or a college ... a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision."
 

He sees solitude, including reading instead of tweeting, as essential to the authentic introspection that means talking to oneself in that focused work that lets us trust ourselves, to begin to ask the questions we aren't supposed to ask, to learn to trust your own counsel when the hard decisions count ... when all you have is yourself.
 

I find solitude allows me to experience a new, softer energy of deep awareness and surrender. When I stop speaking and answering life, small silences invite me to slip into the spaces between the over-scheduled and the hectic. I am slowly learning to use those feelings in my practice and in writing, creating new "quiet zones" in my life.
 

Clearly, human connection, friendship and fellowship are key to being engaged in life, while solitude offers time to really listen to you. It doesn't mean committing to a life of haunting loneliness. It allows us to, as Bohemian-Austriam poet Rainer Maria Rilke poignantly writes, "have patience with everything that reminds unsolved in your heart....to love the questions themselves."
 

Solitude allows us to “sit in the questions” and listen to the answers without distraction. What better season than spring to begin to understand this, to find a balance between being alone and being with others? In this season, everything is in resurgence, including new ideas about life.
 

Spring clears out the clutter that mucks up the brooks and clutters the leaf beds. In this vastly old season, we find new growth that, like life, is infinitely varied and promising. In the silence and surrender of this season, and indeed in each part of the annual sequence of change, we are reminded that, while alone with our solitude, we can enter life with a spirit of renewal ... and hope.
 

 

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OUR WORK:

I am often asked about our work and our global leadership Practice. We help leaders become more effective, and to produce exceptional results. We are in the Performance business.

We partner, assess, coach and support senior leaders and Board members to enhance their effectiveness as leaders and to help them take responsibility for their work and their lives, to lead and live fully. We believe that in a world of possibility we can choose to create conditions for greatness, to alter the forces that act upon us, and to exercise our intention upon the world of business and commerce. We can choose to take responsibility for our lives and our future, and in so doing, unleash incredible energy to live and perform at our best
In our newsletters and commentaries we frequently comment about the elusive path to life balance, the challenge of staying present in our own lives, the invitation to own more of our experience, to live, lead and love more authentically, and to have more fun.
 

Roger Fransecky
rfransecky@apogeeceo.com

-end- metroMAGAZINE

 

 

 

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