It is hard to think differently when you are surrounded by the same people and the same stuff.
While a familiar environment might play a soothing role amidst the stresses and strains of life, when you reach a crossroads in life such as a new job search, this familiarity can stifle any thoughts of significant change. When you are constantly reminded of your everyday comforts, a risk-adverse attitude of minimising disruption is a natural reaction when the time comes to make a change.
In an uncertain world, you might argue that playing it safe is not such a bad option. Many of us have mortgages, children and a myriad of other responsibilities. Why would we not want to retain much of what we know and love? After all, pursuing an incremental approach to change is still moving us in the right direction.
Nine times out of ten, this is the approach that we will take, but unless we allow ourselves to imagine a more radical option, the “road less travelled” will never be on the cards.
To paraphrase Robert Frost, that could make all the difference.
To picture what this road might look like, we need to step out of our comfort bubble and find a place of emptiness and solitude where our current life seems distant and our future life is filled with possibility. For me, solitude is not only about being alone; it is about finding a place of emptiness.
Meditation gurus might be able to close their eyes and do this without moving, but for normal folk it is easier to retreat from everything that is familiar. For me, true solitude is about being physically and mentally detached from your current reality.
When you get out of your normal groove, you give your brain permission to pursue entirely new thought processes. When you want something “different” from your life but are not quite sure that what means, clarity often comes from the previously unexplored realms of your mind. When you allow yourself to forget what has been, you do not discount the possibility of a whole new dimension.
I know that this sounds like a load of fluffy ideals, but there is a lot of science behind what I am suggesting. For our minds to create new neural pathways, we have to give ourselves a rest from our well-worn everyday habits.
I escape to Cornwall for a week every summer for exactly this reason. My kids and wife go to visit her parents and I seek the solitude of the wild north Cornish coast. I have been happily ghostwriting for my clients since 2012, so my thoughts do not typically centre around my career, but it is rare that I drive back to Saffron Walden without a few other seeds of inspiration in my head.
That is what solitude does – it allows you to do nothing else but think.