In 2017, Columbia and Harvard researchers discovered that Americans now valued busyness over leisure time and this was the new status symbol to achieve. In fact, people were more impressed by online posts showing products aimed at busy people than expensive items like a yacht or exclusive vacation. Being busy is equated with success and regarded more highly. It has turned into literally keeping up with the Joneses to show your social status. Yet busyness has emerged as a significant health concern.
The belief we need to do it all and do it well has created a feeling of constant anxiety. Overscheduling can cause people to not sleep, think or even make time for important activities like exercise. It can cause emotional distress and can manifest as difficulty in focusing, irritability, impatience, lack of concentration and even mental and physical fatigue.
How do we take ourselves out of the running for being the busiest and shift our focus to a better and healthier balance?
One of the hardest things to do in our American culture is to take time to practice solitude. Solitude allows for the mind to work on how to be a better person and hopefully, how to help create and make a better world. It’s more than just “me time,” but rather is a time to actively reflect and focus. Even though solitude is often mistakenly interchanged with it, solitude does not mean loneliness. Loneliness is isolating and being in a negative state. It’s even possible to feel alone surrounded by people. But solitude is being alone without being lonely. It is positive and often gives us the ability to think better and be more creatively—entering in broken and coming out refreshed and renewed.
I love to be busy and have my hand in a myriad of things—everything from preaching to producing movies—but it’s imperative to learn how to be disciplined in solitude. It’s part of the reason why I’m looking forward to setting sail for the Faith & Family Cruise in November with my family. On the cruise, I will be encouraging everyone to take time to breathe, to mediate and to reflect. This is essential for moving forward in the right direction. You cannot hope to have the full picture of what is going on in your life if you are constantly on the move. This will lead you right into feeling unfulfilled and with a lack of direction. I have spent many times in solitude where I came away with a fresh take on a situation or an idea was sparked. Perhaps a new sermon or new business idea. The opportunities are endless, but I would never know without taking time to stop and reflect.
I challenge you to take a step toward incorporating the practice of solitude into your own life. It can be as small as leaving your phone alone for an hour. It could be taking a walk without music or talking to anyone. Or simply take five minutes to close your eyes and breathe. Let your mind take you to where it needs to go. Take time to relax and focus. After all, the average attention span is now eight seconds for Americans. That’s less than a goldfish. Let’s do better than a goldfish and learn to be still in solitude.