Being alone drives away that loneliness

A long-lost friend recently sent me an email. He said, “As you read this, I’m flying to Australia from China. Alone. While I was there, I ran a series of lectures to three university students. Alone. I stayed in three hotel rooms alone. I wandered around Beijing and Shanghai alone. I sat down to eat at the local restaurants alone. This is normal for me.”

“Sometimes, people ask me whether I will have more fun if I had someone to go with. And my answer is always both, yes and no. Travelling with a friend or someone close can be a really rewarding experience. But, I have just as much fun travelling alone. It’s a different experience, but no less enjoyable. When I travel alone, what I learn about is myself. I learn about my own strengths, and I learn about my own weaknesses and insecurities.”

After reading his email, it dawned on me that people today praise the extroverts - those who are with a vast network of friends and contacts. They think working in groups is more enjoyable and fruitful.

My experience

Personally, I disagree. I am an introvert myself and I don’t feel that way. I don’t see anything wrong when I don’t feel like going to big parties, or working with big teams, or being the centre of attention. My friends often wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I prefer to work alone.

For me, being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy going out or having friends or being the centre of attention once in a while. It only means, it’s not where I get the most value from my life.

Being “turned on” and in social mode is fun for me, but, I can only take it in limited quantities. When I organize an event, I purposely leave my calendar empty the next half day because I know I’ll need to rest and recover.

Of course, if you want me to come out with you and your friends, invite me somewhere quiet where we can talk. I get value from my relationships by getting to know you much more than just being around you.

Own rules

I have my own rules to live as an introvert. Whether you’re an introvert trying to make your way in an extrovert’s world, or an extrovert learning to become better at being on your own, I hope these rules will add some value to your life as well.

1. Value others’ opinions, but value your own more

Always, ask yourself for advice. If you knew the answer to the problem that you have, what would it be? That’s your answer. The more time you spend asking yourself for advice, the less you start to need input from others. When you trust yourself to solve problems, you become a much stronger and more confident person.

2. Learn to be an observer

To truly enjoy being alone, learn to look at ordinary situations in new ways. Go to the park and watch people play with their children. Go to the grocery store and watch how people shop for their groceries.

Everywhere you go, make an effort to understand the others around you. Learning how people operate when they think no one is watching will make you feel more connected to them.

3. Close your eyes in a dark room and appreciate the silence

Take a moment and sit quietly in a dark room. Listen to everything that is not happening around you. You can learn a lot about yourself in the moments when you’re least occupied - the times when there is nothing to distract you from the thoughts and feelings you deny yourself during your busy days.

4. Learn to talk to yourself

Every person has an inner voice that talks to them at all hours of all days, and getting to know that person and how to talk to them is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

When you fill your time with other people, it’s easier to ignore this voice, but when you’re alone, it’s your only company. This voice rubs off on you. It is you. The way that you talk to yourself when no one else is around will shape who you are in this world more than anything else.

5. Cherish every interaction

There is no such thing as a boring person. There is no such thing as a boring situation. If you’re ever bored, it’s because you’re not paying attention. This is a problem with you, not with your surroundings.

Take an interest in each person that comes into your life, even if for only a minute. Listen closely to what they say. Watch carefully what they do. Try to understand them as a person.

6. Make plans for the future

In a world that’s often filled with noise, you’ve been given the gift of being quiet. This is a time to reaffirm the path that your life is on. The purpose of your life doesn’t need to be complex or earth shattering. It doesn’t have to be big or overwhelming. It only needs to be present. Once it’s there, it gets much easier to make plans that you can take action on.

Are you happy and fulfilled at present? Should you keep doing what you’re doing? Should you make some changes? These are questions you can answer only when you take advantage of this gift of being quiet.

Maybe, you want to travel the world and understand different cultures. Maybe, you want to build a massive stamp collection. It doesn’t matter what it is - pick something you enjoy and go after it.

7. Create and create

When you’re alone, the only one stopping you from creating the art, the work, that you’re capable of, is yourself. All excuses are gone. When you’re alone, you can lose yourself in your work.

When you lose yourself in your work, you can be sure that you’re creating something truly meaningful.

Being alone is a stimulating experience. With no distractions, it gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. 

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