Have there been times in your life, when the lack of friend/companion to take part in an activity resulted in you not doing something you really wanted to do? Wanted to got to a concert, movie, walk, hike - but not having anyone to go along with stopped you from going?
From a young age I have been doing activities on my own. Some people find this odd. Movies, on your own? Yep. Music concerts? Yep. Holidays? Definitely. Walking through the woods? Several times a week.
My mother said some very wise words to me once (to be honest – it was probably a lot more than once) and they were to the effect of: "If you can't find someone to do something with, go and do it on your own".
As a sullen teenager I probably gave her the rolled eyes (never to her face of course – I was much to polite and I would have got into serious trouble) – and moped back to my bedroom thinking that life was so unfair.
As time went on, I decided that this advice was one of the best pieces she has ever given me. And I believe that my life is dynamically different and all the better for it.
There are many things I have done – that I would never have done – had I 'waited' for someone to go with. And some of those things have changed my life.
Let me give you an example.
Two years ago, I discovered that there was a TEDx conference being held in Christchurch – I live in Auckland. I emailed anyone and everyone who I thought might be interested in going. “No” after “No” came back in reply. And although I wondered if it was going to be much fun on my own, I decided to book a ticket, flight and accommodation and go it alone.
The day was awe inspiring. After the show, wine was served and still fizzing from the inspirational day, I hung about speaking to a few attendees and speakers. I was still milling around with the last of the stragglers, engrossed in conversation, when I was approached by the organisers and invited back to their house for beer and pizza. They didn’t know who I was, it was a kind offer, and since I had nothing better to do for the rest of the evening I accepted and spent the next couple of hours talking about the day's event with the organisers, hosts and a few of the speakers. I approached one of the speakers and complimented him on his talk, told him how inspiring it was. We began chatting, he gave me a challenge related to his talk and we swapped details. On a wee scrap of paper (all we could find at the time), he asked me to write three things that I wanted to achieve – with my email address. I wrote: ‘Job, Inspire, Travel'. I didn’t even know what I meant, but I handed it over, he shook my hand, looked into my eyes and said “Promise me you will do it”. I replied, quite feebly, “I promise”.
The rest, as they say is history (within two weeks I took extended leave from my job, then resigned, then travelled the world, then started up my business).
The speaker and I have become good friends since then – we spend a lot of time encouraging and coxing each other. Me usually getting him to slow down, him inspiring me to do more.
But, here's the thing. Firstly – had I chosen not to go because I had no one to go with and didn't want to go it alone, I would have missed out on an amazing experience. Secondly, I believe that that day would not have finished the way it did, had I gone with a friend or two.
Here's the thing about going it alone:
You get to do what you want to do. No excuses. I got to go to the TED talk and tick off a 'bucket list' item. I chose to go to a random persons house for beer and pizza. If I had been with friends – most likely we would have had other plans or not hung around to talk afterwards.
When you are on your own you are more likely to go out of your way to talk to strangers – and have strangers come and talk to you. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable to begin with – do it, amazing things can happen.
You're more likely to get looked after by others. I find when I am on my own, especially travelling on my own – people tend to look after you, check up on you. It's a great way to develop increasing faith in trust in fellow humans and get to meet people.
Sometimes you just pay better attention. Ever been to the movies with someone who talked / coughed who was otherwise making it difficult for you to concentrate? Not having someone else with you allows you to give your whole undivided attention to whatever is going on in the moment.
Going it alone makes you feel very brave – and the more you do it, the better you will become at it.
Here's things I've done on my own: Travelled (Europe, Asia), attended overseas conferences, ran in mud-runs, gone to beach clean-ups, I regularly go on bush walks, have been tramping (overnight), gone on holiday (Tonga, Niue), taken a random 'grab-a-seat deal', attended a number of TED talks, go to the movies, dined out (yes, even locally) and been on a campervan holiday (two actually!) All of these things done 'all by myself' - and you can too.
Don't miss out on opportunities because you are frighted to go it alone. Sometimes nothing more will come of it - it's a big lesson in bravery – but you are usually handsomely rewarded. If you can't find someone to do something with, go it alone.
If you are doing something on your own and suddenly feel lonely, embarrassed or even afraid - try and connect with someone, smile, make a conversation. Or just take a moment to connect with yourself -- and give yourself a pat on your back.
Go. And Enjoy.