February 3, 2022


May 29, 2023

As MEA alum Douglas Tsoi told me recently, “Loneliness may kill, but solitude does not.” His prompt led me to create a poll on the MEA Facebook group with the following question:

Are you more or less extroverted than you were 20 years ago?”

I was hoping to get at least 100 responses. We got 430! Thanks to all of you who participated. Here are the final results:

Less extroverted, more introverted 48%
More extroverted, less introverted 21%
Pretty much the same, I’m an extrovert 11%
I’m an “ambivert” (added by Kit Cassingham) 9%
Pretty much the same, I’m an introvert 3%
Various other added answers 8%

These results didn’t surprise me. Fortunately, you don’t have to be lonely when you’re alone. As we age, we shift from the era of the ego to the stage of the soul. It’s around midlife that many of us turn inward, become quiet, and start feeling the stirring of our soul. We realize that our soul needs space, solitude, and quiet. Or, better yet, we need space, solitude, and quiet to reconnect with our soul.

So, as we age, many of us intuitively retreat from the social world into solitude that feeds our soul. Maybe that’s been one of the silver linings of the pandemic when "social distancing" has forced a little "soulful listening."

Harley-Davidson’s former Chief Marketing Officer Shelley Paxton did a little "soulful listening" that took her off the career fast track so that she could write “Soulbbatical: A Corporate Rebel’s Guide to Finding Your Best Life.” She’s a regular MEA Sabbatical Sessions attendee, and she’s now co-leading a workshop week: “Awaken Your Rebel Soul to Reimagine Success” March 6-13 with my co-founder Christine Sperber. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with your soul amongst like-minded souls.

I’ll finish with a lovely quote from theologian Henri Nouwen,

“By slowly converting our loneliness into a deep solitude, we create that precious space where we can discover the voice telling us about our inner necessity—that is, our vocation. Unless our questions, problems, and concerns are tested and matured in solitude, it is not realistic to expect answers that are really our own. . . . This is a very difficult task, because in our world we are constantly pulled away from our innermost self and encouraged to look for answers instead of listening to the questions. A lonely person has no inner time or inner rest to wait and listen. He wants answers and wants them here and now. But in solitude we can pay attention to the inner self. This has nothing to do with egocentrism or unhealthy introspection because in the words of [Rainer Maria] Rilke, ‘what is going on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love.’ In solitude we can become present to ourselves. . . . There we also can become present to others by reaching out to them, not greedy for attention and affection but offering our own selves to help build a community of love. Solitude does not pull us away from our fellow human beings but instead makes real fellowship possible.”

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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