Happiness is only real when shared.
Sometimes I think I’m the only person who didn’t know what happened to him before seeing the movie…
I remember watching in disbelief at the end as Christopher finally realized he didn’t need to suffer in isolation to lead a good life. But when he tried to leave the wild he couldn’t get past the raging river. I was horrified! Tears streaming. And I remember thinking… where’s your freaking map! And GPS!! And satellite phone!!!
I can’t say that Chris selflessly sacrificed his life to teach the rest of us an important lesson…
But there is a lesson…
Isolation is not a recipe for success (and don’t venture into the wilderness unprepared)!
Life is meant to be shared.
… evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body. Some effects work subtly, through the exposure of multiple body systems to excess amounts of stress hormones. Yet the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.
And as entrepreneurs… solopreneurs… freelancers… it’s easy to feel isolated. While we sit in our home offices pecking away at our computers–alone–there’s a whole parallel universe filled with office water cooler chat, social lunch breaks and co-worker inside jokes…
That we aren’t part of.
Before you think I’m complaining that I don’t have to answer to a boss, can choose my own schedule and wear my pj’s to work… I’m not.
But as someone who not only works alone and has lived remotely, I can tell you the adverse effects of isolation are real.
And while solitude isn’t always a bad thing — it can offer you time to reconnect with yourself and the space to appreciate your life and the people in it… among other things — too much of it has serious repercussions.
Seeking out social interactions is essential. Aside from keeping you sane, it can help energize you and keep the creative juices flowing…
So before you spend too much time alone and go all Jack in The Shining… let’s explore what you can do as ‘preneur to avoid freezing to death in a snowstorm. Alone. Outside an empty mansion in the mountains.
3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO AVOID LONELINESS…
1. Join a group on Facebook
It might sound and feel counterintuitive to hop on social media for companionship, but it’s the reality of working from home.
You don’t have office buddies so your online cohorts can substitute as coworkers.
I get that the grass is often greener on the other side and coworkers can be a pain sometimes, too… but for the most part, an online group can offer:
People to bounce ideas off of…
Verbalizing your ideas (or in this case, typing them) can help you sort through your thoughts. And sometimes it’s just useful/helpful to get validation on an idea… or not.
The beautiful thing about the online world is typers tend to speak their mind more frankly. Which can be a good thing as you’ll receive honest feedback. Let’s just hope the people in your group are kind when they tell you they think your idea stinks. And are equally enthusiastic with their encouragement.
A quick and painless vent session…
‘Cuz sometimes you have a pain-in-the-ass client, and rather than fire off a snarky email, your online friends can empathize and talk you off the ledge. It’s better to get it out before you implode… and your homies online will get you because they’ve all been there.
Your closed group is closed for a reason (no clients allowed!).
Help you come up with solutions…
If you have a tech issue, a client problem or just need help organizing your office furniture… your online friends will be more than delighted to offer advice. Most of them enjoy the breaks in their day, and people really do love to help.
Learn new skills…
I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my online comrades. Sometimes I think I’d be lost without them! I use writing software that was recommended to me in a group, I now have a massive list of educational podcasts I can throw on anytime, my list of interesting blogs is endless, and I’ve read some life-changing books because of my online peeps.
I mean, wow! It’s like a live Wikipedia… people full of knowledge and experience just waiting for a chance to share it.
Offer emotional support if you’re having a rough day…
Yep. If you’re having a crap-hole of a day, your online friends care. You may not ever meet in real life, but it’s easy to create some meaningful relationship with people in your groups. I find it helps to stick to groups that don’t have thousands of members, but it’s still easy to get to know people if you put in a bit of effort.
And it’s important to remember to not just take from the groups you’re in. They aren’t meant to be your personal support group. You have to contribute as well, or you’ll quickly see your posts get less and less engagement.
Instead of running into the copy room to avoid you, they’ll pretend not to see your tenth post in a row that’s all about you.
2. Plan social time in your calendar
When you work in your pj’s all day, sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth the effort to get dressed and go out… especially in the winter (if you live in a cold climate like I do). Pj’s are just sooooo comfy!
But if you don’t specifically plan social time, two whole weeks can pass before you realize the only ‘real’ person you’ve hung out with is your dog or cat.
*And clients don’t count… they’re paying you.*
If you put it in your calendar, you’re more likely to commit and stick to the plan because you know it’s coming and people are counting on you.
But if you leave social time to chance, you’ll make excuses not to go out (because you procrastinated all day on getting that one thing done you really needed to finish and now you need to stay home and finish it). Or you’ll regret having too much flexibility in your schedule if you say yes everytime someone asks (this is a whole other blog post on keeping a schedule for maximum productivity).
Call your friends. Make a plan. Schedule it. And go.
3. Go work in a coffee shop or coworking space
Try this at least once a week if you usually work from your home office.
It’s not as much of a pain as you might think. And it’s actually invigorating to be around other people. If you’re in a slump, hanging around a space filled with people can help get the juices flowing again.
Observing people and being around the hum of chatter and background music is often the perfect remedy to get me feeling inspired!
And who knows… you might run into someone you know, and haven’t seen in a while, and have an unexpected and rewarding conversation.
And… I even surprise myself periodically and bang off a considerable amount of work in a solid two or three hour bout!!
It can be lonely at times being your own boss. And you’ll most likely go through some very uncomfortable personal growth… I think it’s inevitable and unavoidable as an entrepreneur.
So to avoid having too many existential crises and romanticise living like a hermit in the Alaskan Panhandle, reach out to… real people. Online and offline.
Your life kind of depends on it.
Have something to add to this? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments!!