Updated: Feb 20
Have you ever wondered about the difference between solitude and silence? I became interested in the contrast a few years ago when I read a book about hermits. As you may know, hermits isolate themselves to eliminate all distractions of humanity and achieve silence. While I found the idea intriguing, I knew that I would never be able to check out of society like that and wanted to see if there was a different way I could embrace solitude that would fit into my busy lifestyle. What I’ve found is that solitude and silence are very different things and you don’t need to have complete silence to gain the benefits of solitude. Here’s more about what I’ve learned regarding these two similar concepts and how you can use solitude to further your personal growth and development.
What is Silence?
Silence, which is the absence of all sound, is pretty hard to come by in today’s world. Even if you can find some ‘quiet time’ to read or meditate, it’s unlikely that you’re in complete silence. Since most of us don’t have the option of going completely off the grid or living in a bubble to achieve silence, it’s just not a feasible goal. Should you seek out quiet time free of distractions? Yes, absolutely. But I believe solitude is the more practical (and enriching) goal.
What is Solitude?
Solitude may be synonymous with isolation, but I think the two are quite different. I define
solitude as not letting others’ opinions and beliefs influence your own. What do I mean by that? First of all, everyone who reads my blogs knows that I’m a huge supporter of educating yourself through books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. However, what I might not have ever talked about is the importance of taking some time away from these things so you can process what you’ve taken in and how you really feel about them. Does what you’ve heard or read fit in with your values? Do you really believe it’s true? Are there some parts of what you’ve learned that you doubt? Giving yourself free space in your head to process your own thoughts is crucial. I usually find I do this best when I’m walking—preferably in a natural, peaceful setting.
Solitude is valuable because we are constantly being bombarded by other people’s opinions. The news, social media, in our offices…it just never ends. Unless you remove yourself from this chatter on a regular basis, it can be very difficult to figure out where other people’s opinions end and where yours begin. When you take regular solitude breaks, you’ll come back more refreshed, clear-headed, and ready to engage in a more authentic and relaxed manner.
How Solitude Helps You Become a Better Person
It helps you set boundaries: Setting boundaries with others—even those you are very close to—is very important. When boundaries start blurring, you end up taking too much responsibility for others’ problems and issues and you can easily lose sight of yourself. When you insist on having time for solitude, you strengthen your boundaries and show that you value yourself and your priorities.
It allows you to grow: Growth has two parts: learning, and then reflecting on that learning to see how it plays into your overall beliefs and goals. When you don’t allow yourself time for both, you impact your growth as a person and you your ability to be emotionally agile.
It helps you see the bigger picture: If you’re struggling with some big life questions, it’s easy to get caught up in details and not see the bigger picture. Taking a step back for some quiet reflection can often be the small step you need to make the situation clear and help you realize the actions that need to be taken (or not taken) to move toward a resolution.
Taking time for solitude is not selfish. In fact, it’s one of the most unselfish things you can do because it will help you be a better partner, parent, and human being. Though you may not be able to find silence in today’s busy world, you can find solitude and it will inevitably help you in your career.
Have questions or comments about using solitude to be a better person? Please leave them below!