I believe that one of the biggest problems of the modern world is that we do not spend enough time alone in thought. This is ironic, given that most statistics for developed countries showcase that we are spending less and less time with other people.
I’ve travelled the world, and everywhere I look, I see a large number of apartments and condominiums being built, with the vast majority being single-bedroom apartments. These are more profitable for the developers, but perhaps that is not the only reason they are building such large single-bedroom apartments. Perhaps the trends are clear.
The problem is that we are spending far too much time with technology, interacting with humans via a digital interface instead of face-to-face. Covid accelerated this shift, but deep down we all know that one hour of face-to-face time is worth hundreds of hours spent exchanging instant messaging or even video calls.
I recently met a colleague on a work trip. I had been working with this person for over a year, but we had never met in person. We both happened to arrive a couple of days earlier, and this gave us a chance to simply walk around a new city talking, with nothing else to do but exchange thoughts and listen. The result? What was a rather two-dimensional understanding of an individual suddenly became a rich tapestry of humanity.
But returning to my original point, we still need time alone with our thoughts. This is because being alone and focusing on what we think can help us process what has happened and also prepare us for the future. Growing up is not simply about the amount of time that you have lived. I know plenty of adults — perhaps most — who are children in disguise. You grow up by reflecting on your experiences and extracting lessons that you can apply to your future experiences. This means that in the future, you’ll make new mistakes instead of repeating the old ones.
In practical terms, what does this look like? Well, you can think in two ways: just thinking or writing. I tend to do a lot of my thinking by writing, and this is why I have invested a lot of time in the last few months in building up my typing speed because I want to be able to type at the same speed that I think in the future — but I am still a long way off.
Thinking does have some advantages, especially when you close your eyes and try and imagine scenarios. You can train your imagination so it becomes more vivid and lifelike, and so you can then run scenarios in your head that can give you valid real-world feedback without having to take any actions. It is also more “pure” in the sense that you do not have to worry about the mechanics of writing while thinking, and it probably is easier to shift between related topics when thinking instead of writing.
And so I urge you to find some quiet time each day just to stop and think about life. This will make you more appreciative of whatever it is that you do have, and it will make you a deeper, more reflective person. The noise of life, and all your issues, will seem like a distant din of traffic compared to the specific moment that you’re in.