One time I was hanging out with a friend whose husband was away for the weekend. It was nice out so we went for a hike and out for brunch. We had a lovely morning, but once it came time to say goodbye, my friend’s behavior changed. She began questioning me for any excuse to continue hanging out. The conversation went like this:
Do you want to go shopping? I said no thanks, I’m trying to save money.
So then she asked if I wanted to get my nails done. I replied no, I can do that myself. So she asked if I wanted to run errands with her, again I replied no. I have my own errands. Then she suggested she could run errands with me.
Finally I asked her what was wrong; there had to be a reason why she was determined not to part ways.
She explained that with her husband was away for the weekend, her house was empty and she was uncomfortable being alone.
It turns out my friend isn’t the only person who is afraid of being alone. We asked our twitter followers if they agreed with this statement: “I am afraid of being alone.” Thirty-two percent of our followers responded true, which means at least a third of you struggle to be alone. If you struggle with this problem, I want to help.
I think that being alone is an incredibly important life skill that we are not taught. It means being able to amuse yourself, to be capable of bringing yourself out of a funk, and most importantly, knowing how to be alone means feeling comfortable in your own thoughts and the reality that you are strong enough to be independent.
Being alone can be amazing recharge, reflection, fun time if you know how to do it right.
Here is my three step solution to help you overcome your fear of being alone:
Step 1: Use the Carrot Method
It should be no surprise that psychologists have discovered that how much we want the rewards for completing a task determines how dedicated we are to success. If you want to feel comfortable being alone, you need to plan awesome things to do alone so you enjoy the experience.
Here are a few examples:
- Have a favorite netflix show you want to watch? Decide you can only do it when you are alone.
- Want to grab a special treat? Get it for a date night with yourself.
- Do you have a favorite band that your friends aren’t a fan of? Take yourself to a concert.
This way you look forward to the carrot (reward) instead of dreading the negative emotions you normally associate with being alone.
Step 2: Baby Steps
It’s nearly impossible to overcome any fear in an instant. To avoid creating more negative memories of being alone, you need to start by taking baby steps that are less likely to trigger your anxiety.
When you’re first learning how to be alone, don’t plan a whole day outing by yourself–that may be too overwhelming and may make you want to give up on learning to be alone. In the beginning, start small by doing things like getting a latte by yourself, then maybe an ice cream, then maybe a dinner. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend alone until you feel comfortable spending a whole weekend by yourself.
Challenge: Set one mini-date with yourself right now.
Step 3: Reflection is Powerful
Sometimes you come up with your best ideas and insights when you are on your own. Why? You let your mind wander. My challenge for you is to skip working, skip watching and skip social media on an alone outing. Just bring a pad of paper and a pen and see what pops into your head.
I got the idea for my latest book Captivate while taking myself on a solo hike. It literally popped into my head as I was walking and I stopped in the middle of the trail and was like, “Whoa, I need to write a behavior hack guide.” Just like people write computer programming guides, I wanted to write one for people and boom, a year later I had a book.
Bottom line: You never know when an idea is just waiting to pop into your head.