Not everything can be fixed. Some problems have to be endured. Thankfully, loneliness doesn’t have to fall into that category. I believe it can be fixed. Better yet, I believe it should be fixed. We owe it to ourselves and the people who care about us to avoid falling into the abyss of hopelessness prompted by our loneliness.
Admittedly, there are many forms of loneliness. I’m not here to give you dating advice. I’d be more tempted to give you marriage advice. After 41 years of successful marriage, I’ve learned a thing or three. But it feels arrogant to go there. At least for today. So I won’t. Today I’m focused on professional loneliness. The kind of loneliness we feel when we’re operating our business, or leading our team and we feel all alone in the effort. There is a fix for that. More than one.
Understanding The Context
This is a universal problem with loneliness. Finding and connecting with people who really understand.
Watch and listen. To others. To yourself.
Isolation, even professional isolation, can become an easy habit to maintain. I’m reminded how late last year actor Jim Carrey talked openly about his intentional isolation.
Sometime earlier a quote made the rounds, attributed to Carrey.
“Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realize how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy.”
I tried to find out if he indeed did say or write it. I don’t honestly know, but I remember it got my attention. On a number of levels.
For starters, isolation can be dangerous. It’s not necessarily dangerous. We all need some time alone. Introverts need more of it than others. I know because I am one. I’m that rare personality that is introverted, but I appear extroverted. For me, it’s about energy. I have to intentionally withdraw and embrace some isolation in order to recharge myself. It’s not long-term sustained isolation though. And I know when it’s coming, or when I need to do it. That’s because too much interaction with too many people drains me emotionally and mentally. And physically.
For some, isolation may be more dangerous than for others. So it goes with the addictive nature of isolation. I’m sure for some of us this quote is true, but I know other people who would find it nearly impossible to enjoy isolation, much less to become addicted to it. One size won’t fit all. Which is why you constantly hear me admonish you, “You’ll figure it out.” As always, I’m here to help, but in the end…each of us must make up our own mind, and determine to do whatever it is we think is best.
For me, isolation can be peaceful and calm, but it can also – depending on what’s happening with me – be chaotic and filled with anxiety. It depends.
So here’s the deal. YOU have to understand YOU. And that may be the toughest order of the day. Self-awareness is very, very hard for most of us. We have a view of ourselves, but it may be inaccurate. Even grossly inaccurate. The best way to know the truth is to get various outside perspectives. How do others see us? It’s all part of unearthing the context necessary to understand ourselves better.
Loneliness isn’t determined by a majority vote though. We alone determine it. We feel how we feel.
Loneliness isn’t determined by the presence or absence of people either. We can be in a crowded room and be very lonely. We can be married and sleeping right next to our spouse, and feel isolated and lonely. Perhaps there no deeper loneliness than the loneliness of being a foot away from others, but feeling isolated and alone.
Doing Something About It
Recognition is paramount. You already know the truth. Now it’s time to come to grips with the reality of it. The depth of it.
We’re all lonely now and again. It’s normal. But is your loneliness chronic? Does it sweep over you and settle in for days at a time? Perhaps weeks? Months?
Professionally, based on my decades of leadership experience and my years coaching other leaders (or emerging leaders), fear is a major driver. We can easily underestimate the value of fear. Or I should say, the consequences of fear.
We’re afraid people will think we’re weak. Or that we don’t know something. Like what to do.
Ready to hear some irony? I’ll bet you proudly acknowledge that you’re not the smartest person in the room. You likely have no problem telling people that.
But here you are, driven to isolation by your own fear to demonstrate that to people. Meaning, you really do think you’re the smartest person in the room and it’s more important for you to continue fronting that, than it is for you to learn, understand and grow. Is that right?
See what I mean? Fear isn’t always rational. For any of us.
Self-doubt is real, too.
Voices in our head often grow louder and louder. While we get lonelier and lonelier.
I’ve got a 3-year-old grandson. He’s just about fearless. Over a year ago I nicknamed him Road Rash Roy because he’s so fearless he always had some minor scrapes. I know he’ll begin to doubt himself over time. Part of that will be wisdom he’ll learn. Discerning dangers is invaluable. The problem is seeing danger where none exists. Or seeing risk where it doesn’t really exist.
What if you could approach life like an adventurous 3-year-old? He’s confident. Gets lots of attention. Gets lots of encouragement. Okay, it helps that he’s pretty cute. 😉
Road Rash Roy is not lonely. He’s okay playing by himself, even though he’s the youngest of three. But he doesn’t lack much of anything. I’m pretty focused on doing my part to help him keep that momentum going.
I get that we’re not able to go back in time and become an adventurous 3-year-old filled with confidence and curiosity. If we could, we’d be unstoppable. But we’re quite stoppable…and yet nothing has changed except the noise we’ve bought into from all the naysayers who surround us. The voices which have been placed in our head and which we’ve let gain volume. They defeat us. Road Rash Roy didn’t have any of those 18 months ago. He’s got low-level noise in his head now. You can see it in how he behaves. And it’s mostly good. But not always. It’s manifested in timidity.
All this affects us and our loneliness. I know that “Roy” will battle the same things we all do because he’s living in the same world we are. He’ll be influenced by the idiots who surround him, the naysayers and doubters. All those folks who will judge his every move. But I’m optimistic. He’ll also be influenced by those of us who are wise. I’m battling hard to make sure he embraces the wisdom that surrounds him.
What does all that have to do with you fixing your loneliness epidemic? Courage. Just courage. Which is everything.
Courage to connect.Courage to communicate. Courage to collaborate.
I’m a guitar nerd of sorts, which is really super crazy because I don’t play. I’ve always wanted to, but evidently not enough to devote myself to it. And I’ve owned a guitar – that’s right, one at a time – for a long time. I’m 8 feet away from one right now, sitting over there in a nice hardshell case. I know way more about guitars than any non-guitarist should. Well, the other night I’m watching a YouTube video on a new guitar produced by Fender. The short video tells the remarkable story of guys who love guitars connecting, communicating and collaborating to create a guitar that’s never existed. Until now. Until they came together to build magic.
Maybe your loneliness isn’t epidemic. Maybe it’s off and on. But I can guarantee it’s problematic because when it’s on – when you’re most alone – it’s damaging. It’s holding you back. Sticking you. Eroding what could have been. Maybe even what should have been.
Greatness is the result of collaboration. I intentionally put two other C’s in front of it because without them you can’t get to collaboration.
All three C words are verbs. Action words. And that’s how you fix your loneliness epidemic. You take action. Meaningful, purposeful and intentional action.
All of these are preceded by that other C word I used. Courage. Without it, the others can’t happen.
The dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
Some think courage is fearlessness. I don’t believe that. Rather, I believe courage is the willingness to venture on in spite of fear. It’s the drive to do the thing, even though you’re afraid. Because the need is so great. Or because the desire is so strong.
It’s the ability to act like a confident 3-year-old. To move. Quickly. Toward what you most want. Without concern.
I know the next dilemma. Who? With whom do I connect? That’s for you to figure out. Look around at the possibilities. Aim at making a connection and give it a go. If it fails, then it wasn’t meant to be. Move on and try again. Road Rash Roy tries lots of things. He doesn’t succeed at first at all of them. Sometimes he does, and that fuels his confidence to try something else. Follow his lead.
Be purposeful and intentional.
Communicate. Share whatever you want to share. Offer whatever you’d like to offer. If you’ve connected with the right somebody, it’ll resonate with them. They’ll be empathetic. Helpful.
Collaborate. That doesn’t mean you do business together necessarily. It just means it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You give something to them of value, too.
I know how hard this is, which is why I’m launching The Peer Advantage by Bula Network, an intentional place where 7 entrepreneurs can come together online, using a video conferencing platform, to get to know each other, help each other, and grow great together and individually. Because they’re courageous enough to connect, communicate and collaborate. Because they’re curious enough to want to achieve more. In their business and their life. That’s somewhat easier to do when you all know THAT is why you’re there. And when you know everybody in the room is in a very similar position. It provides the common context we need for safety, security, and growth. Road Rash Roy feels safe. It’s largely why he’s got the courage he does. Here he was over a year ago! Proof that I’m not just telling you some story. 😉
If you’re a US-based entrepreneur ready to grow your business, your leadership and your life, then visit ThePeerAdvantage.com. I’d like you to join. I’ll be forming 2 groups of seven and you can read all the details at that web address.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!