Home Alone on the Benefits of Being Alone

home aloneIn the classic holiday movie Home Alone, eight-year-old Kevin is accidentally left behind by his family. His parents don’t realize this until they are half-way to Paris. By then, Kevin has accepted his situation and begun to enjoy his newfound freedom. I used to find the hijinks entertaining; now I notice how much Kevin grew by getting some alone time.

We are often encouraged to work in teams, brainstorm with others, and gain consensus before enacting ideas. Large networks are a “must” and we cannot survive without “forging partnerships to achieve our maximum potential.” I know this because I am usually one of the first to taut it. Just last week, I wrote about the need to have friends at work.

Today, I’m not contradicting what I’ve written; I am expanding on it. Great things happen when we work with others. At the same time, we need time by ourselves to reflect, learn, and be creative. In the recently published book How to Be Alone, Sara Maitland discusses the need for solitude. She cites historical periods when it was appreciated and today’s challenges to get away.

I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life. — Warren Buffett

As I read Sara’s numerous examples of how different societies view solitude, I thought about Kevin and his home alone predicament. Here are a few things to consider next time you want to be like Kevin.

Creativity. Silence improves our sensory awareness. Just look at Kevin who took down two burglars with his enhanced sensory skills. When we can avoid the distractions associated with other people, we are better able to create new and innovative endeavors, focus on our genuine feeling, and work through complex problems.

Unwind. There’s a great montage in Home Alone where Kevin is running around like a maniac. He sings and dances throughout the house, eats junk food, and screams as he experiences the pain of aftershave. Like Kevin, we all need some time to be less self-conscious. Having time to yourself allows you the opportunity to release inhibitions and bring your guard down. You can revitalize your mind and replenish your energy.

Unplug. Technology does not make solitude easy. In 1990, Kevin could not experience the onslaught of today’s social media, interactive video games, etc. Try turning off the iPhone for a few minutes and appreciate being disconnected. Sure, you may miss out on being the first person to “like” that Facebook post from your high school friend telling you the humorous thing her four-year old said, but it will be there in a half hour.

Loner. Worried that taking alone time will make you seem like a loner? There’s a big distinction between finding a few minutes of solitude and acting like a recluse. Consider Kevin’s next door neighbor, “Old Man” Marley. He was hermit-like – rarely left the house, was not openly friendly, seemed distant and disconnected from the world. There are extremes to being alone, so if you find that you’re losing friends, maybe you’re indulging in a bit too much solitude. Otherwise, a little time here and there should not lend itself to a negative stigma.

Take some time every day to be by yourself. This can involve a walk, waking up early to enjoy a quiet house, or just shutting your office door. Kevin shopped for food by himself, watched a movie by himself, and went to church by himself…and he was only eight. Imagine what you can do.

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