We’ve all been there. Whether it’s facing a rough stretch in life, or quite literally witnessing a storm outside going around us, these events can be somewhat unpredictable while being quite an inconvenience at the same time.
Maybe it is an exciting trip or event you were hoping to go to, but rain (or a pandemic…) canceled your plans.
Perhaps a goal you had been working towards, but the cards just didn’t fall in your favor.
Regardless of what it may be, being able to separate ourselves from the event and allowing ourselves to slow down can make it a lot easier to move through the storm.
This is no different than pulling over on the road in a blizzard or a torrential downpour and waiting it out when visibility is poor.
Just as promised last week, this entry in the blog will cover my experience with taking a “solitude retreat”.
This will also be the final blog before we kick off our educational series on many financial topics, the first of which will be an entire series devoted to investing.
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What is a solitude retreat you might ask?
Well. It is simply taking some time from our busy and interconnected lives to sit, be silent, and be still. It may sound simple, but it was actually pretty tough at the start.
This challenge was given to me by a few financial planning friends who are reading The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry with me. The book digs into how our busy society has subjected us all to “hurry sickness”, and has eroded our ability to rest or just go with the flow in life.
I love how this book highlights examples of how our hurried life impacts other areas of our lives in ways we may not expect. Our stress levels, our relationships, our level of enjoyment, the list goes on.
While it focuses primarily on its impact on our faith, and how disrupted faith impacts many other areas of our life, there is a lot of value in this book for any audience.
Here are a few things I noticed during my first solitude retreat:
1. Being still is really difficult
I spent the first 30-45 minutes of my solitude retreat just finding comfort in getting situated, getting my notepad out, and getting the thoughts of what I had to do on this day out of my head.
Our brains are wired to think this way, and I was warned this would be the hardest part. “If I weren’t here, I would be doing x, y, and z.” Or “I am going to have to catch up on x, y, and z since I am getting a late start to my day by being here.”
It really made me think about how often we are bombarded or distracted by all of the noise around us. Phones, screens, the noise of cars, people in our cities… we are subjected to A LOT of noise on a daily basis.
A lot of things we could explore, read, watch, or listen to. And probably a lot of things we shouldn’t listen to.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t last 5 minutes on my social feeds without seeing someone voicing how their opinion is 100% correct, and someone else is 100% wrong.
The more time we spend on our phones or even around others, this just becomes magnified. We need interaction for a healthy life, but we also need time to make sure we know what is going on in our own heads.
It made me wonder how many chances do we have in our average day to be in silence and away from the input of others? Probably not very many.
It also made me think of how many clients of mine have the same phenomenon happening in their life when it came to what they were pursuing financially.
There were so many tasks, chores, or things I felt I should be doing that made their way onto my paper in this first section of time.
When we are in a rough, stormy season of life, this is especially true. We start compounding this by trying to plan out more than one decision at a time, trying to navigate our way ahead of where we are rather than being still.
Once I was settled in, I started to really key in on my surroundings.
2. Nature is noisy too, but it is different
Maybe I just chose a particularly noisy day or time of day to start this adventure, but I was absolutely amazed by all of the different noises I heard inside this first hour.
Bugs chirping or making noises near and far, fish jumping in the lake nearby, birds calling throughout the trees, there was a lot to take in.
What fascinated me most though, was what happened about 90 minutes into my time. The noises began to change.
It wasn’t a sudden change, but rather a gradual change. Different bugs began making noise (or maybe the others just stopped?), smaller birds came out and were making different noises, no fish were jumping. The time of day changed the noise in my surroundings.
This really made me think about our human noise. It is the same, all day long. It carries on into the night, it really just never stops. We always have access to the internet, and infinite opinions to listen to.
Also, our noise is much more intrusive. While there was a lot going on in this particular place with nature, when I got back home, the noise from a car going down the street was much louder than the combination of noises in nature.
I’ll come back to this a bit later.
3. Nature is complex, but also simple
I am going to keep this section short and sweet, but it was the “ah-ha” moment for me of the day as I sat in this thought.
The bugs, birds, and animals around me were doing what they need to do in the time they have and then moving on to making sure they were safe. That’s it.
Putting it another way, they don’t get distracted. This isn’t saying they don’t explore or roam, but they have a finite time to do so, limited energy to carry them through their tasks for the day.
The things in nature weren’t rushing through their workday to cut out early and make it to the next thing or gulping down an extra cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage to extend your day.
4. Set Schedules
Our world is much different today than it was in earlier human history. We can do basically anything we want to do at any given moment.
Nature still operates in the finite way it was designed. Now that we seemingly have the ability to do anything at any time and our schedule fills to the brim, we don’t stop and rest, but rather expand our schedules.
I know we don’t all do this all the time, but it is a slippery slope.
This is in my opinion, the greatest influence on the hurried life. We have access to so much more at any given moment, we just try to fill our time with more than we can handle, because how else would we get to it all?
Tying it into the financial side of things, something as simple as checking your bank account balance, couldn’t be done at any given hour even 20 years ago.
The internet wasn’t everywhere, it was barely around. If the bank wasn’t open, you couldn’t check the bank account. There was no point to think about it because you wouldn’t be able to get to the bottom of the question you had until morning anyway.
If we sit and look at the balances in our accounts at all times and compare it to what we hear on the internet about what others are experiencing (or just projecting), we are going to feel behind.
The cycle fuels itself, back to work we go.
5. It takes time for the benefits
The first 90 minutes consisted of a lot of junk coming out of my head. All the noise I had in there had to come out.
The next 90 minutes you ask? Well, I had a lot of clarity on what really is and isn’t important.
It is the worst part about anything good, it just takes time. I hope the next time I do this (next month) there will be less noise that needs to come out.
I am sure it will take a few times of doing this to “get the hang of it”, or just be better at not letting as much noise come in as I have in the past.
Going back to my second point, there is a time and a place for noise, but we must limit it.
Many internal pressures I was feeling were coming from external factors. The clarity came in this moment, and it allowed me to refocus on the purpose of the tasks I commit myself to on a daily basis.
The key is to get started. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good, or even in the way of better.
While I am really good at helping people do this with their finances, I am not always great at doing it in other areas of my life.
We have the decision to either listen to the noise or mute it out. This means less time on my phone, less time on Twitter (this one is going to be hard!), and more time spent on internal reflection and recharging with rest.
The same is true with your finances, and I would love to help you focus on playing your own game when it comes to your journey to building your ideal life.
A well-crafted financial plan will allow you to block out the noise around you, focus on what really matters, and allow you to calmly navigate stormy weather when it inevitably arrives down the road.
Take action today, and schedule your free 30-minute consultation by clicking below:
Next week, we will kick off our first educational series on the foundational elements of investing.
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Until next time,