For most people, getting sent to prison would feel like the worst possible life scenario. For me, it was the most defining moment of my life.
Hear me out: I’m not recommending prison. But being forced into an adverse situation and spending months thinking about my past actions and mistakes encouraged me to take pause and truly consider what it was that I wanted out of life.
Judging by my own personal experiences and by the experiences of those I spent time with in prison, when an individual is on the wrong life path it is incredibly difficult to jump off it without the help of an outside force. For years I knowingly made mistakes, but I also convinced myself that I was simply playing the hand I had been dealt -- that I would never amount to anyone more than someone on the wrong side of the law. But getting arrested actually brought new freedom into my life and set me on a new path toward positive change.
Going to prison served as a physical and mental fracture point from my old life. In many ways prison wasn’t as much of a punishment as it was a second chance and a new lease on life. Here are a few ways my time in solitary confinement introduced stronger mental health and clarity into my life.
I sat with my thoughts.
One of the reasons why so many people struggle with solitary confinement is that sitting by yourself, with nothing to distract you but your own thoughts and ruminations, is punishing -- especially if your life has been fraught with mistakes. I can’t lie: the first few weeks of solitary confinement were agonizing. Somewhere along the way, however, I realized that instead of trying to distract myself from the discomfort of my own thoughts and judgments, I should embrace them and move through the experience, rather than around it.
Sitting in silence day in and day out forced me to develop a personal meditation process and enhanced my mental stamina. After a few weeks I no longer wanted to crawl out of my own skin, and instead learned how to find peace with myself and forgiveness for my past actions.
I practiced positivity.
When you are subjected to solitary confinement, you have two options: either let the silence and isolation destroy you, or let it empower you. After a few weeks of spiraling down, I made the conscious choice to grow from my situation. I told myself I would not let solitary confinement define the rest of my life and similarly, I would not allow my previous mistakes to dictate the entirety of my future.
It was at the this time, sitting in a mediation day in and day out that I finally found positivity -- for the first time in my life. I searched for things to feel grateful for and focused on those things over the negative ones. Today, choosing to see positivity over negativity remains an integral key to my daily success.
I explored new ideas.
To say that solitary confinement took me out of my usual routine is an understatement. For years, I operated with a destructive, one-track mindset and never took the time to explore new ideas and opportunities out of fear of failure. During my solitary confinement days, I spent my time writing and reading. Together, these these daily activities set me on a path to success.
Through reading I was able to explore new career paths and philosophical ideas. Through writing, I was able to effectively organize my thoughts and goals and devise a plan for success. Committing myself to these daily activities taught me a sense of discipline I had never known. Additionally, they also gave me hope to hang onto even in the bleakest moments.
Solitary confinement taught me that life is all about perspective and attitude. It would have been easiest for me to spend my time in isolation wallowing in my own self-pity and mustering anger for the world around me. Instead, I flipped the switch and developed new habits and mindsets that have served as the building blocks to my entrepreneurial success.