“I am feeling very lonely and very bored!” said my coaching client.
‘Why?” was my response.
“Because I have no friends and nothing to do!” was the reply.
“Then find some and do something!!” was my challenge.
My lost and lonely client had made the mistake many of us do sometime in our life and that is confuse “being alone” with “loneliness.” They are two quite separate things. I define being alone as being comfortably with yourself. I define loneliness as not having a fulfilling purpose.
Being able to be comfortable with yourself is a gift. It allows us to recharge, recalibrate and refocus. Being comfortable with ourselves allows us to focus, contribute, be productive and re-energise.
Feeling lonely can lead to all types of dysfunctional behaviour – from unproductive habits and even high risk behaviours. Loneliness is a killer – no question – emotionally, mentality and physically.
Being with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be lonely. Ever been with that group of people who were all very nice and accommodating and feeling absolutely alone? Ever been by yourself focusing on something that is important to you and being absolutely focused and energised?
Why the difference?
Because you experienced the difference of being alone and loneliness. So how can we help ourselves and others move from experience loneliness to being comfortably alone?
I think it all comes back to having a positive self-image and a purpose-filled life.
Having a positive self-image is more than thinking happy thoughts. And just thinking happy thoughts is not enough to have a happy purposeful life. Recent research has showed that if you have a high self-esteem, then having such positive self-talk will achieve a happy and productive outcome.
However, if you lack this self-esteem and self-image, no amount of positive self-dialogue eg “just think happy thoughts” will contribute to a happy purposeful life.
In fact such thoughts may be a significant threat to our productivity, energy, focus and well-being. I note that “trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle” was one of the top five reasons for stress for Australians as recently reported in the “Stress & Wellbeing – How Australians Are Coping With Life” report recently released by the Australian Psychological Society!
One of the first steps to finding our self-image in order to avoid this loneliness is to get to know and love ourselves. Self-love (or self-care) is an expression I have often used before. Unless and until we realise that we are all the love we need, I don’t think we will ever find that place where we can be alone but not loneliness.
How do you start to love yourself? How do you start to love anyone? – get to know yourself!
To help my clients to know themselves, I ask the following types of questions;
– What are you values?
– What do you stand for?
– How, at the end of the day do you want to be remembered?
– What will be your legacy?
Note that none of these questions around what you do. Rather they are about who you are.
It all starts with our values! Values are the core of our being. As Dr Russ Harris (the Confidence Gap) says, values are “your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being – and using those values to motivate, inspire and guide your actions”
If we can articulate our values they become the basis of the pathway to finding our purpose.
Once determined, how are you applying those values? Another way of asking the same question and a great way to define your purpose is to think about your legacy. When it’s all said and done – how do you want to be remembered? What contribution do you want to be leave? It doesn’t matter how great or small – but it has to matter to you.
Once we find this purpose, whatever it is, we are on the path. I believe if you have a value based purposeful life, you never be truly lonely. You always have something “to do”.
So what’s your purpose? How do you find it?
I don’t know if one day we wake up with the purpose in our head – nor can most of us expect a “road to Damascus” moment where it is revealed to us (if only it was that easy and simple!!).
I think more likely it will be a “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” moment where Frank Spencer turns to Betty, his wife and says ‘Everyday, in every way, I am getting better and better!!”
By all means remain connected and involved with your family, your network and your community. But keep your focus on your purpose!
So, start love yourself. Start to really enjoy the person you are or the person you are becoming (after all, we are all works in progress – regardless of our age!).
Start to love and live your values and behaviours and seek them to achieve a real purpose and direction in your life. Of course, having the values mean nothing unless you are prepared to sustain them. This is the role of willpower and persistence – but that’s another topic!
Focus on your values and legacy, develop action plan and do (either by yourself or with the help of another person) and maintain the path.
And channel Frank Spencer!!