Coping With Loneliness


There never has been, and cannot be, a good life without self-discipline (Count Leo Tolstoy, 1828 ~ 1910)

Today's article is in a Question and Answer format. The questions are raised by a third year Asian college student and are followed by my answers.

Q: "I found your article on loneliness interesting, because I felt like one of those people you described. Some days I feel great and don't worry about loneliness at all, but most of the time I feel bad because I feel nobody understands me."

A: Loneliness is so common on college and university campuses that most schools have counselors on staff to help students deal with it. So, the first thing to do is to visit administration and find out if your institution has a counselor. If they don't, they probably can recommend an alternative solution. Your suspicion that people don't understand how you feel is true because they are not mind readers. Unless you share your feelings with others, no one will know how you feel, so speak up.

Q: "I live far away from my family. I try to make friends with people at my school, but they always seem so busy. My closest friend now has a new boyfriend and rarely has time for me. I tried to get involved in different activities but I couldn't blend in with them either. I have a boyfriend who is from back home, so we only talk on the phone. He is really busy with his job as well. In short, I feel that everyone is so busy taking care of their lives, and I am here, wondering why they are so busy and focused and I am not. I can't concentrate on my studying. I always think about how lonely I feel. I wish someone would reach out to me."

A: The reason you don't blend in with some of the activities you tried is because you went for the wrong reasons. You see, if you are very interested in a particular hobby or sport and joined such a group, you would feel right at home. But if you wish to use a group as a diversion - a way to avoid your studies and forget about loneliness - you will feel out of place. The bond experienced by members of most groups is that of a common interest, so if you don't share that interest, you won't fit in.

The exception to this rule is a group that is purely social and is designed to help people get acquainted. If you attend such a group, you will always win friends when you go with the intention of lessening the loneliness of others by welcoming them into your heart. When we fail to make friends at a social group, it is usually because we went to take from the group instead of give to it. In other words, we want to be accepted, welcomed, encouraged, and listened to by the group rather than accept, welcome, encourage, and listen to them. You see, it is only by giving that we receive.

Your loneliness is not your main problem since it will end. It is a temporary state. But your lack of self-discipline is a serious problem because it undermines your goals and contributes to your loneliness. How does it contribute to your loneliness? Well, because you are procrastinating, neglecting your studies, and avoiding your responsibilities, you don't like yourself. That's why you feel uncomfortable when you are all alone. Also, don't allow yourself to feel like a victim, as that, too, contributes to your feeling of loneliness. Instead, accept responsibility for your own life. Don't wait to be rescued, but be grateful that you have the opportunity to prove yourself and develop self-reliance.

Q: "I have a goal, and that is to have a good job after I graduate. But I can hardly think about studying anymore. This has been going on for the last two years. I did talk to some of my childhood friends, but they just tell me to be happy. I try and try, but keep falling back to this point, where I feel everything is pointless.

"I know that I should spend time with myself, but I just don't enjoy being alone. I know that I think too much. Sometimes I just want to relax, without anything on my mind, but all I find is a cluster of confused and negative thoughts.

"Do you have any suggestions?"

A: Yes, I have five suggestions.

1. Be grateful for what you have. How lucky you are to be a college student! Are you thankful for what you have? Before you say you are, think about it for a moment. If I give someone a book as a gift and they throw it away without reading it, would you say they were grateful? Of course not. How can you be grateful If you squander your time in college?

Before we can achieve success, we have to lay a firm foundation. Part of that foundation is the sense of gratitude, for when you appreciate everything you have, you will use it wisely. By the way, even your sense of loneliness is something to be grateful for because you can use it to empathize with the pain others are feeling and therefore become more compassionate.

Carefully consider the wisdom of Melody Beattie, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." (http://www.melodybeattie.com/)

2. Develop self-discipline.
Self-discipline is an essential ingredient in the foundation for success. It's not enough to go to school. Attending classes without self-discipline is like going to the gym, sitting down, and listening to the music without doing a workout. That doesn't make sense. Why go to the gym if you're not going to work out? Why go to school if you're not going to study?

Important as your studies are, your success at work will flow, not from your education, but from your skill of self-discipline, so the time to master it is now. Once mastered it brings great happiness because you will feel in control of your life. Self- discipline is not something to dread, but something to joyfully embrace for it is the key to reaching your dreams. What exactly is self-discipline? It is the wisdom to understand that some things are too important to ignore just because we don't feel like doing them and it is the power to do what needs to be done even when we don't feel like doing it.

Here's what American Olympic champion Jesse Owens (1913 ~ 1980) thinks about self-discipline, "We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort." And here's what American success expert Napoleon Hill (1883 ~ 1970) said, "self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward."

Because of its importance, be sure to read this article on self-discipline: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/learning-self-discipline.htm

3. Learn how to overcome bad habits. Since you have been neglecting your studies (and your future) for two years, you have developed a bad habit that is holding you back. To learn how to overcome it, read: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/badhabits2.htm

4. Make your goals as specific as possible. Imagine getting lost in a large park on an extremely misty day. Should you turn right or left, go forward, or turn completely around? You have no idea because everything is veiled in mist. When our goals are vague, they, too, are obscured by mist. How can we become passionate, excited, and enthusiastic about a goal we cannot clearly see?

Here's what I mean. You said your goal is to get a "good" job. That's far too vague. Learn to be precise and you will get precise results. Go after vague goals and you will get undefined results.

Ask yourself, "How much money do I want to make? What kind of education do I need to earn that much money? Where do I want to work: in the city, in the suburbs, in the country; in an office building, school, hospital, or government office? What area do I wish to work in: administration, clerical, accounting, sales, marketing, personnel? The more clearly you define your goal the better you will be able to prepare for it and the more excited you will become. Or, as Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote, "Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what he loves."

Finally, as you work on developing self-discipline and clarifying your goals, don't be surprised if your loneliness begins to fade!

5. You wonder why your boyfriend and others are so focused and you are not. But that is an incorrect assumption. Actually, you are just as focused as they are, but