The Power of Alone

I recently watched this Ted Talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts. If you have some time, I encourage you to give it a listen. I wanted to tease out and discuss with you one of her overarching points. https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts#t-80690

One of her main points is that we come up with our best ideas and we are at our most creative when we are alone. She absolutely advocates for the cross pollination and sharing of ideas, but when it comes to wrestling ideas out, coming up with solutions, or purely being creative, Cain advocates for the power of solitude.

As someone who has always scored as an extreme extrovert on personality tests, I feel like an introvert. I’ve grown increasingly more and more introverted the older I’ve become. I think that is normal. Here is something I’ve found with myself, and I’m curious if it’s true in others. I’m much more honest about what I think and real with my own thoughts when I am in my own head, alone instead of with others.

Growing up I spent a lot of time alone, in my own room, or in my own space painting. I had seemingly endless art supplies supplied by my mother. I did some of my deepest and biggest thinking while I was painting, alone.

Back to addressing Cain’s Ted Talk. I think the reason people come up with better ideas, solutions, and creations alone than in groups is because we can be more profoundly honest with our constructions.

Is this idea good or bad? Is it the right solution for the problem? Is it the right shade of blue for this painting? Is it good enough to share? Does it need more work? Should I throw it away? Should I keep trying, or let it go?

It is only when creators, when introverts are given the space to be alone, and alone in their own minds that that can answer these questions honestly to themselves and tackle projects, revise or make changes, or built up enough gumption to present their work to others.

This is key. My most complex, layered, and rich ideas come when I’m alone. Some of my most pleasurable experiences, fondest memories, and most profound moments of peace are alone. Going out to dinner, alone. Going on a run, alone. Swinging on my swing in the backyard as a child, alone. Soaking in the music while I paint in my studio, or childhood bedroom, alone.

I love what Susan Cain had to said about feeding introverts and giving them the space to create, to grow, to seek, in solitude. Like her, I hope we as a society can learn to cherish “alone” and view it as a badge of creation instead of the mark of an outsider.

Why do we fear the alone? Why is doing things alone seen as sad? I see alone time as the ultimate luxury, the ultimate haven of peace and ideal space for creation.

So here are my questions and charges for you. Are you an introvert or extrovert? and do you love to be alone? Why or why not?

If you hate being alone, have you ever tried to soak in it like a bath? Have you have taken yourself out on a date, alone, no blaring music, no cell phone or tv distractions. Have you ever marinated in your own head and gotten to know your own thoughts? Try it, take a swim in that skull, ignore the voices in your head saying “people will think it’s weird if I’m here alone, or doing ‘X’ alone.” Most people are more interested in themselves anyway.

Even for us extroverts, I think being comfortable alone and comfortable living in your own head is a skill, and one that will eternally pay off as it requires nothing of anyone else and is solely focused on you telling the truth to yourself. Alone time allows us to think about what we as individuals can create and contribute instead of what we can just absorb.

Like or share this post with fellow introverts and extroverts, I’d love to hear about your stories of when you are most creative!

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Photo by Klaire Dixius Photography 



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