For the last several months I have been going to the same restaurant – Sweet Confections Café in Belton – nearly every day of the week for lunch. After ordering, I sit down alone at the corner table, purposely facing the front door so that I am not distracted by the television up behind my head. I then open a book and begin reading – all while doing my best to avoid spilling any food on the pages. For those of you who know me well, this might seem strange as I have never been the type to find joy in reading anything longer than 140 characters. But what I have learned in these 45 minutes of solitude each day has made a huge impact on my life.

Flash back a couple of years ago to my senior year in college, and my normal day was anything but calm and alone. I woke up each morning and usually rushed to make it to class on time, tired because I had stayed up too late the night before. Often times I would find myself sitting in one class doing homework or studying for a test in my next class. I could never seem to keep up with classes. I would then rush from class to meetings or work, barely having time to stop for lunch. But I loved it. I loved to stay busy. It was my way of finding meaning. I wanted to do everything I could to make a name for myself and accomplish as much as I could to build up my personal resume before graduating. So much so that at one point I was president of two different organizations, Director of Stunt Night, a member/officer of at least two other student organizations, and a youth intern at a local church – all at the same time.  To say I was stretched too thin was an understatement.

It wasn’t until I decided to make good on one of my New Year’s resolutions for this year – to read 6 full books – that I started to take time out of my day to slow down and enjoy being alone; to enjoy focusing on only one thing at a time. By choosing to take these short 45 minutes every day to read and spend time alone, I have realized several things.

You can be alone, but not lonely.

People often group solitude and loneliness together even though they are actually polar opposites. When someone is experiencing loneliness, they tend to be in a negative state of mind due to others around them. Solitude, however, is choosing to be alone, allowing time for reflection and personal growth. Loneliness is something that is forced on you. Solitude is a personal choice.

Being alone can better your people skills.

By spending time alone each day I have been able to better understand who I am and what it is in life that I find important. By knowing these things I have been able to better communicate with the people around me. I even value spending time with others more – even those who are opposite my personality – and I don’t feel like I have to prove myself to every person I meet by the things I am involved in.

Being alone can help you become accomplished.

I am working on finishing my fifth book already this year. That is five more books than I have read in the last five years. No kidding. Not only that, but I have been less stressed at work – especially after lunch when I return to the office – and this has helped me become more productive with my time. I also don’t have to bring work home on the evenings or weekends as much anymore.

So I challenge you to start finding time each day to just sit back, stop multi-tasking, and find time to be alone. This can be done with a book, personal journaling, or even a quiet time with God. Just find whatever works for you and go be Alone. Not lonely.

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