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The Business Case for Solitude

One of the things business owners don’t get enough of is solitude. We are constantly surrounded by coworkers, prospects, suppliers and customers in a never-ending battle to grow the business.

anoldent via Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of business owners are cut off and alone too, but solitude and loneliness are not the same thing.

Solitude is an intentional step away from every possible distraction. Even folks that work alone suffer from the constant pull of email, phone calls and dozens of online social interactions and distractions.

In order to stay true to your business and purpose you must explore ways to create intentional solitude or what I like to call the solo planning practice.

The idea behind any practice is the act of doing something habitually or repetitively in the hope of getting better at it. There are countless patterns and actions that business owners do almost daily that certainly meet the definition of practice – selling, writing, speaking, training, educating, and documenting just to name a few.

When you add the systematic practice of solitude to this list you may gain greater access to the following business and life benefits and find that you can more easily keep your business purpose in line with your life’s purpose.

Hear yourself – A business can create so much noise that it becomes hard to listen to your own guiding voice. When we react, without witnessing our thoughts and actions through our true voice, we set ourselves up to be influenced in ways that our not genuine. Have you ever found yourself doing or saying something and soon after thinking, that’s not me, that’s not how I want my business to run?

The voice in your head, the one that tells you why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you are and how you want others to experience you, is your true voice and solitude is the way you let that voice come back and remind you why you do what you do. This voice refuses to shout over the noise and deserves your full attention.

Get clarity – Once you return to hearing yourself you can begin to organize what that means. Have you ever had one of those times when things don’t make sense and you don’t feel like you can find an answer? Or worse, things just don’t seem like fun anymore. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a simple, elegant, perfect answer presents itself. That’s one of the things that being alone with your thoughts has to offer. You get the chance to relax and not try to find or force answers – which of course is what makes them appear.

Clarity is what you need to in order to make the big decisions about your business, about your people, and about markets. Without it you’ll be driven by the rush of the day and idea of the week.

Learn to speak – Sometimes I talk too much. Most of us do. We get very nervous when there is silence and we stretch to fill up the silence whether it needs us to or not. This is as true for the stammering we might do in front of a prospect as it is for the conversations we have with ourselves. One of the odd benefits contained in the practice of solitude is that it better prepares us to not say things. To have the confidence that just enough has been said about something or someone. To know when to ask for help, when to say no and when to stand firm.

This of course transfers over into the voice in our writing as well.

Create higher – Innovation and creativity in most small businesses must develop in layers. It’s very difficult to come up with an idea for a product, service or product that won’t impact the overall brand, strategy, culture and customer.

Quite often we get what seems like a great idea and we lurch into full implementation mode first.

By stepping into solitude and summoning your thoughts about your business there you are more likely to start at the very overarching level necessary to consider the strategic impact first and then you can more accurately develop the projects, actions, patterns and processes needed to bring your innovation to life properly.

Renew purpose – I believe that one of the greatest reasons to create a business is to create purpose – purpose in your life, in the lives of those that work in the business and at some level the lives of those that experience the business as customers, suppliers and mentors.

When you connect your business to the higher purpose it serves for you, you are more apt to create patterns and actions that support that purpose and attract others that share or connect with that purpose.

Practicing solitude forces you to consider, evaluate and connect with that purpose even as the constant natural forces of business try to erode it. Solitude is a great way for you to unearth that one driving purpose your business meets and help you evolve what that purpose can and does mean to all that come into contact with your business.

This is the real stuff; this is what turns simple passion into focused commitment. Don’t wait until you go on vacation to consider this idea – make it part of the game, build it into the culture of your business and teach your customers about silence and solitude as an aspect of regenerating value for them.

What does your intentional solo planning practice look like? Is it an hour a week, an entire day once a quarter? Can you pair it with another passion such as painting or nature? Can you build on small steps and extend solitude to the point where it captures a significant amount of your attention?

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