"Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self." - May Sarton
The winter holiday season often poses numerous challenges. High expectations frequently lead to disappointment. It’s a time filled with memories - some of which are joyous, while others may be painful. It's common for people to feel lonely, gloomy, or frustrated, among other challenging emotions at this time of year. Certainly, there are good feelings that come with the season as well, but, right now I want to discuss the difficulties that can arise during the seasonal pressure.
A friend recently asked how to combat their loneliness. As I pondered the question, I remembered a time, about 25 years ago, when I had felt the same. A wise teacher once told me to simply choose a different feeling. A well-meaning friend suggested I needed to love myself more. At the time, I had no idea what that meant. Nothing much changed for me that year… but, over time, I began to understand more about the complex experience of being human. (Well, at least a bit more than before).
Happiness is an inside path to walk. It’s not a magic wand or a special pill… rather, it is a journey of discovery. I often encourage my students to take inventory of their lives. The Conscious Leadership Group has an exercise I like that invites us to track the tasks we perform in each hour of the day. That done, the next step is to rate how performing those tasks has affected our energy levels (up, neutral, or down). If we find that we are regularly engaging in tasks that cause our energy to go down, we can notice we are then at choice… perhaps we choose to delegate those activities, dump them or do them differently. It is also very important to take special note of those tasks that lead to an increase in energy.
Every New Year, I review my calendar from the past year. I assess each event, task or activity that has filled my time and I make lists for each key area of my life. Once that is complete, I take the top 10% of each list and make a decision about whether I want to continue with those activities. If my experience of those happenings gets a ‘thumbs up’, I pull out my next year calendar and I schedule more of those types of activities. If the verdict is ‘thumbs down’, I make a reminder to avoid those activities at all cost. The results of this practice have been significant. Year by year, I get better and better at creating a life that works for me.
The same principle applies whether we are examining our daily routines or our lives as a whole. Only you can decided on what stays and what goes from your lists. Even my 12-year-old granddaughter grasps this, once remarking, “Grandma, you know when people keep getting really sick, they need to just learn that they are living life in a way that doesn’t suit them. They need to try something different.”
She's right, and her perspective echoes that of psychoanalyst and author, James Hollis, PhD, who wrote: “We become too often a servant of our environment, given our need to fit in, receive the approval of others, stay out of harm’s way.”
It's crucial to remember that our choices today lay the foundation for our future. If your goal is to earn a degree, for instance, don't let the required duration of the effort deter you. Start now, and in four years, you'll reach your goal. Waiting for the 'right' time only leads to unfulfilled dreams.
Whether we are lonely in our solitude or perfectly content is a journey of discovery. If you're seeking a shift, consider conducting a daily energy audit (see below) and use the information you gather from it to make more uplifting choices for yourself. Don’t let any ‘authoritative’ voice in your head get in the way of your joy. Happy people make better choices, from which everyone benefits.
The journey of self-discovery is ongoing. Our upcoming Zoom group called, Relationships: The Workshop of Life, begins meeting in January and it is an opportunity to delve deeper. Joining others to journey along with can be a powerful step towards finding what you're truly seeking.
If you have read this far, you are clearly motivated to change. Well done! Every minute invested in your future is invaluable.
ACTIVITIES for TRANSFORMATION
Check In With Yourself:
~ How much time do you spend in your ‘zone of genius’?
~ Fill out the form below as a way to become clearer about where you are devoting your time and whether or not it is serving you.