I went for a walk this morning in a nearby park and ended up in a lively conversation with an 87-year-old man who was walking his Shih Tzu. Alan talked at length about Marcy, who had entered his life six months ago after his previous dog had passed.
Keeping It Real
About ten minutes into the conversation, he shared “I never had a dog before him. As soon as he passed, we found Marcy.”
“Love comes in many forms,” I said.
“Like second wives,” Alan replied.
After I stopped laughing, he talked about his penchant for one-liners. “Sometimes they are inappropriate,” he smirked.
“They are always appropriate for me,” I assured.
Also wanting to pony up a joke for the moment, I said, “My greatest lesson since getting married is that in every marriage there is always one person who is right … and the other person is the husband.”
Not missing a beat, Alan added “Yes, as long as you’re still happy. I could only do the ‘Yes, dear’ for so long with my first wife.”
“And after that it’s World War III,” I offered.
“More like the Cold War,” Alan retorted matter-of-factly.
If you are falling into the glorify-marriage-and-denigrate-my-own-ability-to-find-my-life-partner mental quagmire, go hang out with Alan and Marcy for a while.
The reality is that each of us is on a path toward understanding ourselves and others. The relationships we develop along the way—including our relationship with ourselves—determine our quality of life.
Is Your Loneliness a Victimizer or a Catalyst for Growth?
Our relationship development abilities notwithstanding, all of us experience loneliness at some point or another in our lives—over 3 in 5 of us are experiencing it now—and how we experience it is unique to each of us.
Whether loneliness generates more meaningful relationships or depression in your life depends entirely on your capacity to identify it as a wake-up call for change.
In other words, you can transform your loneliness by altering how you relate to it. Walking around with no-one-will-ever-love-me thoughts that compound the distress you feel is not only inaccurate but also not what will cause others to migrate in your direction.
Apologies for the call out, but such thoughts are actually the carrying card of narcissism: a hyper-sensitivity about what others think of you that can easily lead to toxic and often abusive behavior toward others. After all, if other people are not giving you what you deserve, why treat them well, right? Narcissists end up derailing their lives because they abdicate their true power.
In its true form, power—as Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner convincingly argues in his book The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence—comes from love and helping others. The day you shift your thinking toward how you can love others, starting today—including how you can design specific behaviors that transform your love into action—is the day you claim the power that is rightfully yours.
If you are feeling lonely and doubting your ability to create the relationships you desire in your life, believing that you can is half the battle. Why? Because the stronger, more resilient you that will emerge when you truly internalize this belief will attract others who want to engage with you. The word “confidence” comes from the Latin roots for “with” (con) and “trust” (fidere). For others to have “trust with” you, you must first have trust with yourself.
In addition, being optimistic about finding your life partner is healthy. Consider the alternative: a UK study found that pessimists experience over three-and-a-half times more daily emotional distress than optimists.
As I highlight in my course, Managing Loneliness: How to Develop Meaningful Relationships and Enduring Happiness, you can make the decision today to rebrand your loneliness by allowing it to impel you to reassess how you will develop more robust, meaningful and sustainable relationships in your life. In so doing, your loneliness will serve its purpose. Thought of in this way, your loneliness is a distressing emotion that has emerged in your life as a call to action to help you transform your life for the better.
About the Author:
Anthony Silard, Ph.D. is a world-renowned leadership educator and coach. He has coached G-20 cabinet ministers and the CEOs and senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, IBM and GE and the world’s largest nonprofits such as CARE and Save the Children. He has taught leadership at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, California State University San Bernardino, Claremont McKenna College and IESE Business School and has lectured on leadership at Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown. His new book, Screened In: The Art of Living Free in the Digital Age, was just released in March 2020. You can find more articles on his weekly blog The Art of Living Free.