2 Ways to Stop Anxious Thoughts & 3 Steps to Love Yourself and Build More Confidence (Special Episode) - Transcripts

March 03, 2023

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Today, I am going to share with you another snippet from my latest book, 8 Rules of Love. This time, we will talk about solitude. My focus is on the importance of solitude in our daily lives and how it can help us love ourselves better. Rule #1 - Let Yourself Be Alone outlines a three-stage process for transitioning from loneliness to solitude, starting with being present with yourself and moving towards developing confidence in areas of personal growth. It also emphasizes the importance of self-control and patience in the process of learning solitude and understanding our complexity, and embracing the idea that being alone can be transformational.


Being present and seeing your values gives you a sense of who you are and you get to decide if that's the person you want to be. You spend more time with yourself than anyone else in your lifetime. Take the time to appreciate your strengths and admit the areas where you need work. Then when you enter a relationship with someone else, you'll already have a sense of what you're bringing to the table and where you could improve. Hey everyone! Welcome back to On Purpose, the number one health podcast in the world thanks to each and every one of you that come back every week to listen, learn, and grow. I hope you're doing awesome. I hope your year is going really, really well so far. And I hope that you're finding time to connect with yourself. I hope you're enjoying my new book if you started reading it or listening to it. Even if you haven't, I have a little gift for you today. I managed to get the first chapter of the audiobook totally free for you today on the episode so you're going to get to hear the first chapter of the audiobook absolutely free.

And of course if you enjoy it, if you love it, head over to 8rawelsoflove.com and you can buy the audiobook right now and listen to the rest of the book. Of course you can get it from Audible, from Amazon, wherever you listen to audiobooks, especially because you're a listener of On Purpose. I wanted to do this as a gift for you. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you will listen and learn from the rest of the book. And I'd love to invite you to come and see me for my global tour, Love Rules. Go to JShediTour.com to learn more information about tickets, VIP experiences and more. I can't wait to see you this year. In this episode, I'll be talking about how to spend more time alone, how to actually be happy alone, how to be alone and enjoy our own company. What are the activities and things you can do when you're on your own? I think so many of us wonder like, Jay, well, if I'm on my own, what am I going to do? And I feel uncomfortable with that idea. So today I'm going to be sharing the principles and steps to how you can be alone and what to do when you're spending time by yourself, the benefits of that and how powerful it is for you as well.

I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you go and grab a copy of the audio book from EightRulesOfLove.com part one solitude. Learning to love yourself. In the first ashram, Brahmacharya, we prepare for love by learning how to be alone and learning from our past relationships, how to improve our next one. Alone, we learn to love ourselves, to understand ourselves, to heal our own pain and to care for ourselves. We experience Atma Prem, self-love. Rule one, let yourself be alone. I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being, Hafiz. We can all agree that no one wants to be lonely. In fact, many people would rather stay in an unhappy relationship than be single. If you type the phrase, will I ever, into a search engine, it predicts that the next words you will enter are find love, because will I ever find love is the most popular question people ask about their futures. This question reveals our insecurity, our fear, our anxiety around loneliness, and these very feelings prevent us from finding love.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found through a series of studies that when we're afraid of being single, we're more likely to settle for less satisfying relationships. Specifically, we're more likely to become dependent on our partners and less likely to break up with them, even when the relationship doesn't meet our needs. Being in a relationship seems like the obvious cure for loneliness. Aren't we lonely because we're alone? But the fear of loneliness interferes with our ability to make good decisions about relationships. My client, Leo, had been dating Isla for nearly a year when her job took her from Philadelphia to Austin. You should do what's best for you, she told him. I want to be clear. I'm not sure where our relationship is going. He was unsure at first, but a month after she left, he moved to Austin. Most of my friends were in relationships. I basically felt single without Isla and I didn't want to be lonely.

So I decided to join her instead of thinking about the pros and cons of moving. What were his job prospects? What was he leaving behind in Philadelphia? Who did he know in Austin? Did he like it there? Would this step benefit his relationship? Leo was primarily focused on avoiding loneliness. A month after he moved, Isla ended the relationship. Leo moved in order to avoid loneliness, but he ended up working remotely from a town where he knew nobody and found himself lonelier than ever. Do we want to choose or stay in a relationship based on insecurity and desperation or based on contentment and joy? Loneliness makes us rush into relationships. It keeps us in the wrong relationships and it urges us to accept less than we deserve.

We must use the time when we are single or take time alone when we're in a couple to understand ourselves, our pleasures and our values. When we learn to love ourselves, we develop compassion, empathy and patience. Then we can use those qualities to love someone else. In this way, being alone, not lonely, but comfortable and confident in situations where we make our own choices, follow our own lead and reflect on our own experience is the first step in preparing ourselves to love others. Fear of loneliness. It's no wonder we dread being alone. All our lives, we've been primed to fear it. The kid who played by themselves in the playground, they were called a loner. The one who had a birthday party when the cool kids didn't show up, they felt unpopular. Not being able to find a plus one for the wedding makes us feel like losers. The terrifying prospect of having to sit alone during lunch is such a common theme in high school movies that Steven Glassberg, a throwaway cameo in Superbad, has made it into the Urban Dictionary as that kid who sits alone at lunch every day eating his dessert. It was drummed into us that we had to have a prom date to fill our yearbooks with signatures, to be surrounded by a squad of friends.

Being alone meant being lonely. Loneliness has been cast as the enemy of joy, growth and love. We imagine ourselves stranded on an island, lost, confused and helpless, like Tom Hanks in Castaway with nobody but a volleyball named Wilson to talk to. Loneliness is the last resort, a place no one wants to visit, let alone live. When I spent three years as a monk, I spent more time alone than in the rest of my life put together. Though there were many monks at the ashram, much of our time was spent in silence and solitude and we certainly didn't have romantic relationships. The emotional isolation allowed me to develop and practice skills that are harder to access among the pleasures and pressures of a relationship. For instance, the first time I went on a meditation retreat, I was appalled when I saw that I wasn't supposed to bring my MP3 player. Music was my life then and I couldn't imagine what I would do during breaks if I couldn't listen. But on that retreat, I discovered that I loved silence. I found that I didn't need anything to entertain myself. I wasn't distracted by conversation, flirtation or expectations.

There was no music or device to fiddle with to fill my mind. And I was the most engaged and present that I'd ever been. If you haven't learned the lessons of an ashram, life will keep pushing you back to that phase of life in one way or another. Many of the key lessons of Brahmacharya are learned in solitude. Let's begin by assessing how much time you spend alone and how it makes you feel. This baseline audit is important whether you're in a relationship or not to see if you're using your time in solitude to understand yourself and ready yourself for love. Try this solo audit. First, spend one week keeping track of all the time you spend alone. This means without a companion. Don't spend the time with the TV on or scrolling mindlessly through your phone. I want you to track active solo pastimes such as reading, walking, meditating, exercising, or pursuing an interest like cooking, going to museums, collecting, building, or creating. No, you can't count the time when you're asleep.

For this part of the exercise, you don't have to go out of your way to be alone. At this point, we just want to observe what your habits are. Next to the time you spent alone, write down what you did and whether doing it without a companion bothered you. You might enjoy doing dishes alone, or you might find it a painful reminder that you cooked for one. You might like to walk alone, or it might make you feel lonely. Think about why you are comfortable or uncomfortable. When do you feel comfortable alone? The point of this exercise is to help you take stock of how you spend your solo time before we develop your practice of being alone. Now that you've assessed your baseline solitude, start doing one new activity alone every week. And I want you to deliberately choose how to spend that time. Pick an activity that you've rarely or never done by yourself before. See a movie, performance, or sports event.

Go to a museum. Make a reservation for dinner for one. Go to a restaurant without touching your phone. Go for a hike. Celebrate your birthday. Enjoy a major holiday. Go to a party on your own. Engage in a one-time volunteer opportunity. Take a masterclass. Try this every week for the next month. During the activity, pay attention to how you react to a new situation. Observe any intrusive thoughts that make it hard for you to be alone.

Use these questions to reflect. How long does it take to feel comfortable? How different would it be if you were with another person? Are you better able to enjoy yourself alone? Do you wish there were another person here? Is it hard to know what to do with yourself? Would your opinion about the activity be influenced by a companion's reaction? Depending on the activity, are you tempted to distract yourself or engage your mind with your phone, the TV, or podcasts? What do you love about the experience? What are the pros and cons of being yourself? If you can't go to dinner on your own without feeling uncomfortable, what would it take to make it more comfortable? You might discover that you like to bring a book or work assignment with you because it makes you feel engaged or productive.

Having a brief, friendly conversation with the waiter might be all you need to start your solo dinner on the right foot. If you see a movie on your own and miss sharing the experience with someone, find a new way of expressing yourself to yourself. Write a blog post, an online review, or a journal entry about the movie. The same is true if you take a class. Did you learn from it? What did you like? What would you have changed? Record a voice note telling yourself how you felt about the experience. It's nice to exchange opinions with someone about a movie, class, or lecture, but when you attend by yourself, you practice developing your ideas and opinions without the influence of someone else's taste. If you are unaccustomed to hiking alone, set a fun, low-pressure goal for yourself. It might be a physical goal, like making your best time on the hike, or it might be to find something that captured your attention and bring it home with you. You might set out with the goal of taking a photo you love that you can keep for yourself or post to social media.

The purpose of the solo audit is to get more comfortable in your own skin. You're getting to know your preferences without leaning on someone else's priorities and goals. You're learning how to have a conversation with yourself. Solitude is the antidote to loneliness. Paul Tillich said language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone. The difference between loneliness and solitude is the lens through which we see our time alone and how we use that time. The lens of loneliness makes us insecure and prone to bad decisions. The lens of solitude makes us open and curious. As such, solitude is the foundation on which we build our love. Solitude is not a failure to love. It's the beginning of love.

During the time we spend without a sidekick, we move through the world differently, more alert to ourselves and the world. In one study, researchers gave more than 500 visitors to an art museum a special glove that reported their movement patterns along with physiological data such as their heart rates. The data showed that when people were not distracted by chatting with companions, they actually had a stronger emotional response to the art. As the researchers wrote, those who were alone were able to enter the exhibition with all of their senses open and alert to a greater degree. The participants also filled out a survey before and after their visit. Ultimately, those who came to the exhibition with a group reported their experience as less thought-provoking and emotionally stimulating than those who went alone. Of course, there's nothing wrong with chatting and letting the art slide past. But think of the inspiration those museum visitors missed out on. Then, apply that to life in general. When we surround ourselves with other people, we're not just missing out on the finer details of an art exhibition. We're missing out on the chance to reflect and understand ourselves better. In fact, studies show that if we never allow ourselves solitude, it's just plain harder for us to learn.

In Flow, the psychology of optimal experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes, our current research with talented teenagers shows that many failed to develop their skills not because they have cognitive deficits, but because they cannot stand being alone. His research found that young people were less likely to develop creative skills like playing an instrument or writing because the most effective practice of these abilities is often done while alone. Like those talented teenagers, when we avoid solitude, we struggle to develop our skills. The path from loneliness to solitude. By itself, solitude doesn't give us the skills we need for relationships. You can't just decide you're going to use solitude to understand yourself and make it so. But if we use it to get to know ourselves, there are many ways in which it prepares us for love. Remember, in a healthy relationship, you manage the intersection of two lives best if you know your own personality, values and goals already. So as we make our way out of loneliness and into a productive use of solitude, we will explore our personality, values and goals. There are three stages on the way from loneliness to solitude. Presence, discomfort and confidence. Presence.

The first step to making use of your solitude is being present with yourself. Even when we're not with other people, we're often busy, distracted and distanced from our own lives. When we pay attention to how we feel and what choices we're making, we learn what we prioritize in life. Our values. Those values steer how we make decisions. Being present and seeing your values gives you a sense of who you are and you get to decide if that's the person you want to be. You spend more time with yourself than anyone else in your lifetime. Take the time to appreciate your strengths and admit the areas where you need work. Then, when you enter a relationship with someone else, you'll already have a sense of what you're bringing to the table and where you could improve. We don't think about the importance of bringing self-knowledge to a relationship, but being self-aware means you can temper your weaknesses and play to your strengths. Try this. Get to know your values.

Look at the choices you make in different areas of your life. Are they tied to your values or are they habits you might like to change? I'll give you some options to describe your attitude toward each element, but if none of them sound like they describe you, write down ones that do. The more specifically you know yourself, the more you can fine-tune what you love about yourself and improve the areas where you'd like to change. Time choices. Social media. I like documenting my life for my friends. Social media is not my thing. I like to be in the here and now. Weekends in travel. I want to see the world. When I have free time, I just want or need to relax.

Date night. I like to stay home and cook. I love a night out on the town. TV. I watch something every night. I curate my shows carefully and only stick with what I love. Punctuality. I'm always on time. I'm often late. Planning. I keep a calendar and stick to my plans. I don't like to be locked into commitments.

Habits. Organization. I keep everything tidy. Builds paid. I wish I were more organized than I am. Exercise. I like to be active or do it for health. I find it hard to motivate. Food. I eat healthily or do as best as I can. Life is short. I eat what tastes good.

Sleep. I like to sleep in if possible. I'm an early riser. Money. Discretionary spending. My focus is saving for the future. I spend it when I've got it. Vacations. I enjoy extravagant trips. I travel on a budget. Home, clothing, car. I keep it simple.

I like the finer things. Purchases. I buy things spontaneously. My purchases are carefully contemplated. Social interaction. Friends. I like spending time with lots of people. I prefer one-on-one time or to be alone. If it's the latter, you've come to the right rule. Family. I see my family as often as I can. I only see my family when I have to.

Conversation. I like to discuss all kinds of topics in detail. I'm a person of few words. Once you know your values, you can make sure your partner respects them. If you don't respect each other's values, it's harder to understand each other's choices and decisions, which then can lead to confusion and conflict. If you don't have the same values, you don't have to fight about them or defend them. But you need to know your own so you can respect yourself and know theirs so you can respect them and vice versa. Discomfort. If you're not in the habit of spending time by yourself, it may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. It can be hard to be alone with your thoughts. You might feel like you're not achieving anything or you don't know what to do with yourself. You might feel like there's no obvious benefit to it.

it. To get used to the feeling of being alone, we must challenge ourselves. First, in the small ways I described in the solo order, but also in larger, more immersive ways. Try this. Make use of your time alone. What's something new you want to try out? Here are three different ways you can spend time alone and use it to get to know yourself better. Use the option that most attracts you because part of this is learning your own preferences or come up with your own. One, commit to a new skill that will take weeks, months, or longer to develop. Take the singing lessons you've always wanted. Learn to roller skate or join the quarantine throngs and finally learn how to bake sourdough. What drew you to this skill?

What made you wait until now to pursue it? How does the new skill affect your confidence and self-worth? Does it fit with your image of who you are and who you want to be? It's okay to work with an instructor, such as a music teacher, if you take up a new instrument. The point is to create the opportunity to reflect in solitude on what the new activity teaches you about yourself. Two, travel alone. Learn about yourself as you plot out a weekend trip that you'll take alone. You'll learn very quickly how independent you are. This is a great activity to do especially if you're scared of being alone. Are you indecisive or decisive? Light packer or heavy packer? Mellow or active?

Content or bored? Neat or messy? Organized or spontaneous? Do you have conversations in your head or is your internal experience quiet? Are you decisive or do you question your choices? Do you feel self-conscious or confident? What aspects of travel most appeal to you? Where would you like to go next? Three, take on a job you've never done before. This is hard to manage if you work full-time, but if you can swing it, try a new form of work. Volunteer at a library, sign up to drive for a ride share service, wait tables, babysit, teach. To be clear, many of these options involve interacting with other people, but the point is that you choose it alone.

You embark on it alone and you reflect on the experience alone. What aspects of yourself are consistent no matter what you do? What do you discover about yourself? Is this a job that you've been curious about or is it the extra money that matters most? Do you like to interact with people or to work independently? Do you prefer to be given clear instructions or to find your own way? Are you more likely to ask permission or forgiveness? Does work invigorate or exhaust you? Would you like to expand this new opportunity in your life? Knowing more about ourselves and what we enjoy helps us feel comfortable in solitude. We'll be more willing to spend time pursuing our interests without needing the safety net of a companion. The activities you choose and what you learn about yourself from those activities will expand your self-awareness and help you make the most out of the time you spend alone.

Confidence Once we're comfortable in solitude, we can work on our confidence. Oxford Languages Dictionary defines confidence as a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities. Confidence is important in a relationship because it helps us talk to the person we like without seeking their approval or hinging our self-esteem on their reaction. When we aren't looking for them to validate our tastes and choices, we can appreciate their kind words without being misled or distracted by them. Sometimes a lack of confidence makes us think we're not lovable. You are lovable, I promise. But having me say it doesn't help you feel it. We build confidence by making time for the things that matter to us. If there are aspects of ourselves that we don't like, we should do something to change them. We have a choice. We can either change our mindset or change what we don't like. We need to get in the habit of assessing ourselves and making efforts to improve our own lives.

When most people set goals, they do so around external achievements. They want to be financially free or to buy a home. But the goals we'll develop in this exercise center on growth, not achievement. Knowing our goals helps us prepare for love. Then, when they come up in conversation with a potential partner, you can explain why they're important to you. The other person might be supportive, dismissive, or neutral. If they don't take notice, you can flag it for them saying, this is actually an important goal of mine and here's why. You'll want a partner who respects not only your goals, but why they're your goals. In a relationship, remember that until you act on your goals, your partner won't know that they are truly important to you. Sometimes, you have to start executing to have full buy-in. But in either case, if we don't know what our own goals are, we have no way of knowing how well they intersect with another person. Try this.

Identify your biggest growth area. Let's take a 360-degree view of your life looking at these five areas. Self, financial, mental-emotional, health, and relationships. Choose the answer that comes closest to defining your relationship with these areas of your life. When you've completed the questions, look at where you are and think about where you want to be. Which is the area where you most want to grow? 1. Personality. a. I don't like myself. b. I like myself when others like me.

c. I appreciate myself despite my flaws and work to improve myself. Are you okay with where you are or do you want to change? 2. Emotional health. a. I often feel anxious and unsettled. b. I put aside my emotions to get stuff done. c. I understand my emotions and try to work through them. Are you okay with where you are or do you want to change?

3. Physical health. a. I disregard my body or I don't like it. b. I actively work on my body because it's important to me to look good or better. c. I take care of myself and feel grateful to my body. are you okay with where you are or do you want to change? 4. Relationships. a.

I'm insecure about some of my relationships. b. I rely on my relationships for joy. c. I invest in my relationships to help them grow. are you okay with where you are or do you want to change? 5. Money. a. Thinking about money makes me feel worried and anxious. 3. Thinking about money makes me feel excited and ambitious.

I envy people who have more money than I do. See, thinking about money makes me feel content. If anything, I want more to give more. Are you okay with where you are? Or do you want to change? Say the biggest growth area you've identified is financial. You overspend and it's always been a problem. Taking action in this area is something to focus on when you spend time with yourself. I could write an entire book on developing and achieving your goals, but a good way to start is to develop a growth plan using the three C's of transformation. 1. Coaching. We live in a world where experts and information are easily accessible online.

Start by looking for widely available resources to help you with this issue. Find a book, podcast, course, friend, professional, TED Talk, masterclass, or online video to help you. You'll find that most of these resources will help you break your goal into achievable smaller steps, bringing a challenge that once seemed insurmountable into focus. 2. Consistency. Use the information you've gathered to make a plan for how to address the issue in an ongoing way. Set a goal for the year's end. This goal should be tied to action items, not an achievement. That is, your goal shouldn't be make a million dollars, it should be committing to ongoing efforts that will help you grow in this area. 3. Community. Look for a community that might help support your efforts.

There are online and local support groups for everything under the sun. Find one where there is a mix of people who are in the same position you're in. People are in the process of making changes and people who have some measure of success in transforming their lives in the way that you wish to. Decide whether you prefer a community that is motivational, informational, or a mix of the two. Who knows, you might meet your future partner there. Research shows that not only does high self-esteem create a more satisfying work life and better physical and psychological health, but it also predicts better and more satisfying romantic relationships. You may be wondering, couldn't it be the other way around? Wouldn't having a great relationship boost my self-esteem? It's plausible, but the research says otherwise. In fact, when people with high self-esteem had a relationship that went on the rocks, their self-esteem was unaffected. They did not view the level of happiness in their relationship as a direct reflection of their self-worth. The rewards of solitude.

Once you're spending productive time in solitude, you begin to know your own personality, values, and goals. During this process, you develop qualities that prepare you for love at every stage of a relationship in several ways. One mind. We develop the ability to see and know ourselves without the influence of another mind. Frida Kahlo said, I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone. What is a self-portrait but a study of oneself? An attempt to visually portray self-awareness. Solitude allows us to understand our own complexity. We become students of ourselves. In her first apartment, my friend Mari and her roommate had an occasional problem with huge flying water bugs. I absolutely could not handle it, Mari confesses. Luckily, my roommate Yvonne was a champion water bug slayer.

If I came home to one, I just went out to get a drink and wait for Yvonne. But then Yvonne went away for the weekend and on Friday, the first day of her solo weekend, Mari came home to find a water bug in her room on her pillow. I called Yvonne in a panic. She told me to whack it, but I just couldn't. So I sat there and stared at the water bug for a long time. I thought about how unfair it was that I should hate it so much when I love butterflies. And then I opened the window and used a broom to gently usher it out into the world. This was a small moment with a small creature, but Mari learned something about herself that she never would have if she continued to let Yvonne handle the problem for her. When we're alone, we fully rely on ourselves, figure out what we care about, and learn who we are. We learn to navigate challenges on our own. We can of course welcome help if it comes along, but we don't expect or depend on it. As those of you who read my first book, Think Like a Monk, may remember, one of the texts I refer to most frequently is the Bhagavad Gita.

Part of the Mahabharata, which was written nearly 3,000 years ago, the Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between a warrior, Arjun, and the god Krishna on the eve of a battle. This may not sound like it as much to offer modern humanity, but the Bhagavad Gita is the closest thing the Vedas have to a self-help book. In it, Krishna says, The senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjun, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavouring to control them. In other words, if we're not careful, we can be attracted to something superficial or inauthentic. We have to train ourselves not to instantly like and trust the most attractive person in the room without remembering that we don't know this person or understand them. Solitude helps us master the senses, the mind, because in solitude, we're only dealing with one mind, one set of thoughts. These days, our senses are constantly overstimulated, not just by people, but by all the unfiltered information that bombards us. Everything competes for our attention, and amid the noise, we have no chance to identify what's important. They say love is blind because when we are overwhelmed by sensory stimulation, we can't see clearly. The senses attract us to the newest, nicest, shiniest thing without giving us a chance to reflect before we make decisions. Our senses don't make the best decisions. The Bhagavad Gita says, as a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence.

There's nothing wrong with attraction, but we're easily carried away by what looks appealing, feels good, or sounds right. In solitude, we learn to create space between sensory stimulation and decision-making. If we are constantly looking for love or constantly focused on our partner, we'll be distracted from the vital work of understanding ourselves. If we don't understand ourselves, we risk taking on the tastes and values of our partner. Their vision becomes our vision. We might choose to sign on to someone's vision because we admire it. Someone might be a skilled cook whose tutelage we gratefully accept. But we don't want to mold ourselves to someone else simply because we don't know ourselves. I've had too many clients who don't realize until 20 years into a relationship that they've lost touch with themselves because they've outsourced who they are. We can integrate our partner's tastes with confidence and autonomy if we bring our own to the table. Through choices we make in solitude, we set our own standard for how we want to live and love and be loved. With the space to write our narrative from our own point of view, we gradually overcome the influence of movies, books, our parents, or caregivers' model or our partner's wishes.

We clarify our vision of love. Solitude helps you recognize that there is a you before, a you during, and a you after every relationship, forging your own way even when you have company and love. Then, when our narrative intersects someone else's, we don't make choices based on infatuation or follow someone else's vision of love or passively let things play out without knowing what we want. Instead, we gradually express the standard we've developed to see how it fits with theirs. And when we're in solitude again, we reflect and evolve, self-control and patience. Two of the key skills we learn in solitude are self-control and patience. They're connected because the more we improve our self-control, the more patient we can be. Without these two skills, we become prone to following our senses and whatever attracts us. Self-control is the time and space you create between the moment when you're attracted to something and the moment you react to it. Buddhist teacher Rigid Shikpo writes, desire is something we project outward onto another person or object. We think it exists externally within the object of our desire, but desire actually lies in our own body and mind, which is why we relate to it through the feelings it produces. When we can separate our own feeling of desire from the person we desire, we begin to feel less controlled by it and we can take a step back and evaluate it from a more detached and less urgent place.

Instead of letting your senses lead the way, the gap that you create gives you the restraint to make sure the reaction is aligned with who you want to be. That ability to restrain yourself, to create the space, is enhanced by self-knowledge. Solitude gives us time and space between attraction and reaction. We ask ourselves, is this truly healthy for me? Will this nourish me? Is this good for me in the long term? We develop the self-control to pause and ask ourselves these questions and the patience to take our time answering them. We learn the difference between what feels good and what feels nourishing. Often if something is healthy for us, it seems hard before but great after. The clearest example of this is exercise but it extends into more complex decisions like giving up a Saturday to help a friend move or breaking off a relationship that you know isn't working. And that which is unhealthy for us seems great before but doesn't pan out well. Think about how great the idea of eating a big piece of chocolate cake seems before you do it.

But ultimately it's not good for you. The same is true for more consequential decisions like bringing a date to a wedding because you don't want to be alone even though you know it will give them the wrong idea, a whole self. We've been trained to look for our better half or someone to complete us. Does that make us the worse half? Does it mean we're incomplete without a partner? Even if those phrases are said lightheartedly, they set us up for dependency on someone else that can never truly be fulfilled. We look to our partner essentially saying I'm bored, entertain me. I'm tired, energize me. I'm angry, make me laugh. I'm frustrated, comfort me. I'm unhappy, cheer me up. We treat our partners like human Advil looking to them for instant relief.

We're not entirely wrong to expect this. Partners actually do co-regulate each other. Changes in your body prompt changes in their body and vice versa. Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes, when you're with someone you care about, your breathing can synchronize as can the beating of your hearts. This connection starts when you're a baby. Your body learns to synchronize its own rhythms by first synchronizing to your caregivers rhythms and it continues into adulthood. But as Barrett points out, the best thing for your nervous system is another human. The worst thing for your nervous system is another human. Sinking with other people can log us into their bad vibes as well as their good ones. This is why we need to self-regulate, comforting ourselves, calming ourselves down, or pepping ourselves up. If we're always turning toward others to help us tune how we feel, we'll stay more like that infant who is incapable of self-soothing and self-supporting. When you're sad, if you're lucky, your partner will know how to make you feel better.

People can and will help us. And that feels good, but it may not be what we need. If someone reassures us that everything will be okay, it's nice to hear and nice to have their love and support. But what we might really need is alone time to figure out how we can improve our situation. In solitude, we practice giving ourselves what we need before we expect it from someone else. Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you emotionally available to yourself? Are you supportive of your own efforts? You don't have to answer these questions right now. The more time you spend in solitude, the better you'll know how to answer them. People determine how to treat us in large part by observing how we treat ourselves.

The way you speak about yourself affects how people will speak with you. The way you allow yourself to be spoken to reinforces what people think you deserve. A relationship with someone else won't cure your relationship with yourself. Therapy and friendships and a partner might help us understand and address the sources of our sadness, but many people still feel like their partner doesn't understand them. Our culture often encourages us to put the responsibility to unpack our feelings on someone else. We expect them to understand our emotions even if we don't. Other people can help you, but if you're not trying to understand yourself, nobody else can do it for you. We've all had the friend who says, you're right, you're right, you're right, but you can tell they're not going to take your advice. They need to do the work themselves. Hoping a partner will solve your problems is like trying to get someone to write your term paper for you. You need to take the class, learn the material, and write the paper yourself, or you won't have learned anything. You might think, great, where is this class that will teach me how to lead a meaningful life?

Sign me up. But you're already taking the class. This is what solitude is for. When you come to a relationship as a whole person without looking for someone to complete you or to be your better half, you can truly connect and love. You know how you like to spend your time, what's important to you, and how you'd like to grow. You have the self-control to wait for someone you can be happy with and the patience to appreciate someone you're already with. You realize that you can bring value to someone else's life. With this foundation, you're ready to give love without neediness or fear. Of course, relationships do heal us through connection, but you are giving yourself a head start by making the most of the time you spend in solitude. You want to go on a journey with someone, not to make them your journey. This stage of life is designed to help us learn how to love ourselves. But if you don't learn the lessons of the first ashram of love, then you won't know how lovable you are and what you have to offer.

This is an everyday practice of preparing ourselves to be in a relationship while staying true to who we are. It is one of the hardest rules in this book and the most important. Any step toward knowing yourself in solitude will help you love others because in addition to knowing what you bring to the table, the very process of learning to understand and love yourself helps you understand the effort required to love someone else. The work it took to understand ourselves teaches us that even when we're with someone we care about, it will still be hard to understand them. Perhaps the most important lesson solitude offers is helping us understand our own imperfection. This prepares us to love someone else in all their beauty and imperfection.