I do my worst work in isolation. When I find myself solving problems, dealing with challenges, parsing out situations in my head – and only MY head, I find my decisions and outlook on the world is small and biased. “I” statements become the main narrative.
On the other side of the spectrum, when I have not been alone and openly discussed what I am thinking, pondering, dreaming, discerning, and studying, I become a better version of myself.
This year more than any other in my life, I have felt both sides of this spectrum. Here’s a list of isolation on both sides of the spectrum. Think about yourself and those closest to you. If something hits you as you read it, do something, say something, call someone, reconnect to yourself and those who need more or less isolation (hint: most people need less right now). I’m not a psychologist, and this isn’t clinical. The point is to be a kickstarter to get your brain firing on challenges and opportunities.
This is the one most of us have experienced this year, not be around other people. If you or someone you know has been physically isolated from other humans, get creative, and get around that person. No one should accidentally become a hermit. We were not created to be alone. Who needs to be seen during this season? Reach out. Make them seen and heard. Do you need to be seen? Reach out.
This one has been hard for me. Sometime in May this year, I had some interactions that caused me to wonder if I was crazy. I decided I needed a checkup from the neck-up. For the first time in my life, I went to talk to someone about it. You know what? I wasn’t crazy. Over the next few months, getting professional therapy unlocked many things that were deep inside and brought them to the surface, giving me clarity and peace. As Americans, we are “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” kind of people. Especially men, we won’t, don’t, or can’t show our emotions and struggles. Don’t do that with your emotional health. I will now make this a part of my annual health plan and talk to someone at least once a year. Do you need a checkup from the neck-up?
I didn’t think that not being in a church building would affect me as much as it did. I know it is the only way that some people can still do church, but virtual services suck for our family. My “favorite” service was in the beginning of streaming and our church used an iPad. User error placed it vertically instead of horizontally, so we had to watch the service sideways. No Bueno.
The day I walked back into our church a hardened outer shell fell off my body, and I softened. You might say my heart grew ten times that day. If you can get into a church, GO! Get that ticket to the show, sign up, wear the mask, whatever you have to do, get in the building. If you can’t, find another outlet, particularly with others – group study, Bible study – whatever – just do it.
At some point, I noticed that I had been going 100 miles an hour for months without any downtime. So I scheduled a few hours one day to go through and journal about what happened, what I learned, and a plan for the next month. The impact was enormous. So much so that I made it a weekly habit that became a morning practice. This isn’t just work stuff but ALL the things in my life: Work, marriage, kids, health, moolah, friends, all the stuffs. Quiet reflection is something the most successful people do. Bill Gates had “think week.” Jesus was always going off by himself to pray. How do you isolate yourself for reflection?
Where are you unhealthily isolated? Who do you know personally and professionally that is isolated? Where can you create solitude and reflection to lead yourself and think about what you are thinking about? Which ones do you need to act on? Who needs you to take action?