It's better to be alone than in bad company

As George Washington, the first president of the United States, once said, "It is better to be alone than in bad company."

He of all people would know. He was constantly surrounded by them, from his days as general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution to his tenure as the nation's first commander in chief.

Washington was touted as being a great judge of character. You can only imagine the tough personalities he had to deal with in public life. Though he was unanimously elected to two terms as president of the fledgling nation, he had no shortage of critics who were quick to pounce on policies  -- like the infamous Jay Treaty -- that they vehemently objected to.

Washington had days where he probably felt the urge to tell his detractors to go fly a kite. Indeed, as the quote above suggests, he preferred his own company to that of certain people.

For whatever reason, many people have been led to believe that enjoying their own company -- being alone -- is socially unacceptable. They're under the impression that if you're not always craving others' presence, something is wrong with you.

I would take Washington's quote a step further and say that it's perfectly fine to prefer your own company to anyone else's -- whether good or bad.

Sometimes you need time to contemplate, to unwind, to disconnect from the world. After spending ample time in busy and noisy environments, I -- a self-admitted introvert -- can only recharge my batteries when I'm by myself. Without this critical "me" time, I wouldn't be able to function properly.

Obviously, good company beats bad company any day of the week, but sometimes you want no company other than your own -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

As I've stated in prior posts, being alone and being lonely are not one and the same. While people can desire to be alone following a tough day, they generally try to avoid or break free of loneliness, which can lead to depression and other adverse outcomes. Only the latter entails a truly negative mental state.

Ironically, a person can actually feel lonelier around others than by themselves. For example, if you find yourself among a large group of people you don't know, chances are you're going to feel uncomfortable or ignored. On the flip side, being alone may not always be fun, but at least you can count on receiving your own undivided attention.

This notion that enjoying time alone makes you weird should be put to bed -- once and for all. If you love being by yourself, never apologize for it!  Alone time is healthy and ought to be encouraged in this frenetic world we live in. And it goes without saying that you should never feel pressured into being around people who make you feel uncomfortable and fail to enhance your life in meaningful ways.

George was certainly on to something.

You weren't born to impress others

You see it at work, at the mall, and on Facebook.

People seem to have this unbridled compulsion to impress their peers, whether it's through their looks or material possessions.

Why should we care for others' validation so strongly? What ever happened to being comfortable in your own skin and not letting others dictate how you look and what you buy?

In reality, the only one we should be aiming to impress is ourselves. Instead of comparing ourselves to our coworkers and neighbors, we should compare ourselves to the person we were 6 months or a year ago.

That's how you assess whether you've made progress. That's the yardstick against which you should measure whether you've succeeded at whatever it is you've set out to achieve.

You are your best judge and critic, so why entrust someone else who's never been in your shoes with that power?

There's no harm in fishing for compliments at work or angling for a few likes on Facebook every so often, for it serves as positive reinforcement. But relying on others' approval to be happy with yourself? That's a different story.

Truth be told, there's nothing more empowering than not giving a hoot what others think about you. It betrays a sense of confidence -- you're comfortable in your own skin, you love yourself, and you don't apologize it. If someone has an issue with that, they'll either have to live with it or go fly a kite.

If you let others direct how you should live, you'll never please everyone -- least of all your own self. People will always want you to think and act in ways that validate their own decisions and experiences. But maybe such approaches don't work for you.

Impress yourself by challenging yourself to be better than the man or woman you started the year as. That could mean saving up more money to pay down your debt, losing weight, getting a promotion, or starting your own music band.

The bottom line is that they're your goals and aspirations, not someone else's. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself. If they want to critique someone, they might as well look in the mirror.

Love yourself. Challenge yourself. Treat yourself to a great meal or movie as a reward for your hard work. Never let anyone pressure you into giving up what makes you unique. There's only one of you in the world.

Strive to impress yourself, not others. Your opinion is the only one that should matter.

Why you shouldn't give up on finding love

If you're like many jaded people out there in the dating world, you've just about had it in your quest to find true love. You've lost track of the seemingly innumerable men or women you've gone on fruitless dates with.

A prospect seems promising enough in the beginning, but it all comes crashing down following an unsettling discovery -- she's been cheating on you all along, he isn't the thoughtful romantic that drew you in during the courtship and instead just wants to get in your pants, she's an unapologetic gold digger. You've grown tired of it all: the lies, the false appearances, the heartache, endless disappointment.

As tempting as it may be to throw in the towel, you'll never find that special someone -- however elusive -- if you give up.

Instead, take some time to assess your love life and answer the following questions:

  • What do you feel you've done right? 
  • What do you think you've done wrong? 
  • In which areas is there room for improvement on your part?
  • Are you only dating people that others fix you up with?
  • Are you being too selective in your choice of dates -- or not selective enough?
  • Are you making the effort to meet people in the right places?
  • Have you tried to maximize your opportunities by meeting suitors online?
  • Could there be something you're doing -- or not doing -- that is turning prospects off?
  • Do you think that perhaps it isn't the right time for a relationship in your life?
Once you've answered these questions, you'll get a better sense as to alternatives far superior to giving up on love altogether. Maybe it's a matter of being a bit more discerning when presented with an opportunity to go on a date -- or, on the flip side, being less picky about the men or women you go out with. 

As I've noted in prior posts, you should never change or give up on your goal if it's something you really want. What may warrant a few tweaks, however, is your strategy for getting there. Know what they say is the meaning of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Be positive. Believe that someday, you will meet someone who captures your heart, soul, and mind. Believe that someday, you will feel an intense physical, mental, and spiritual connection with a special individual -- the likes of which you've never experienced before. Even if you've been hurt in the past, you must never adopt the cynical mindset that all other potential suitors will do just the same. 

If you close your heart to love, you rob yourself of the opportunity to have someone enrich your life with their unique quirks, passions, wisdom, and experiences. (Remember, a partner doesn't complete your life -- they merely enhance it.)

No one said love would be easy; for goodness sake, there's even a song titled "Love is a Battlefield." But you know what? It's worth fighting for. As long as you continue to believe in the power of love, remain open to it, and make whatever adjustments necessary to boost your prospects, you're bound to find your special someone soon -- sometimes when and where you least expect it. Be patient, but most importantly -- never give up!

Live for TODAY

Albert Einstein once said, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." The vaunted theoretical physicist was not only succinct, but spot on.

By learning from yesterday -- and what's implied is really learning from our mistakes -- we can create a better, more fruitful today. But we must guard against the impulse to dwell on those things we did wrong. Instead, we should see the start of a new day as akin to turning the page -- the chance to start anew. Yesterday is no more. Focus on what you can do TODAY so that it turns out to be an even better day than yesterday was.

While no one likes to admit they've made a mistake, we're only human. As long as we recognize what we did wrong and aim to right the ship so that history doesn't repeat itself, we come out stronger and wiser in the end.

Moreover, life is a precious gift -- one that can be taken away at any moment. We really don't know when it'll be our time to bid this world adieu, which is why Einstein implies that tomorrow is not guaranteed. As cliché as it may sound, we most certainly ought to seize the day. Quit putting your goals on hold for that "perfect" time, whether it's losing a weight, proposing to your partner, or launching a new business. Start today so that you're one step closer to achieving them.

The quote echoes one of this blog's most popular topics -- the importance of practicing mindfulness. It is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Harping on the past and fretting about the future are no more when you're in a state of mindfulness. No judging, no negativity.

Why fixate on the past? It's gone. You can't change what's come to pass, but you can certainly influence what's happening in the present.

Why brood over the future? It hasn't gotten here and you have no control over it. While there's nothing wrong in planning for the future, the key is not live in the future. As with the past, if you're too focused on future events, you miss out on today.

When things aren't going too well, our minds have a tendency to wander to the past or drift way ahead into the future. Little do we know that the surest way to feel happy is live in the here and now. The past helps make us wiser, the future helps make us optimistic, but it's really the present that affords us the opportunity to enjoy life.

Be careful whom you push away...

Be careful whom you push away, as some of those people will never come back.

At some point, we've all felt taken for granted, whether it's by a friend who just entered into a new relationship, a spouse who's too swamped to tend to you and the kids, a relative who seems to care more about fantasy football than having a deep conversation, or a boss who fails to recognize your valuable contribitions to the company.

Or, maybe you've been the one to take advantage of someone else, only to regret it later.

Unfortunately, many people have this false sense of confidence that even if they make others feel neglected or unappreciated, they'll always stick by. What they fail to realize is that everyone has a breaking point. Once someone has had enough, they will most certainly bolt.

Sure, if luck is on their side, and if they can convincingly make the case that they'll change, the other person might just give them a second chance. But this is not a given, as many people aren't keen on putting their trust on the line again once it's been broken.

How do you avoid such a fate?

It's easy. Never take advantage of the people who matter most in your life. Make them feel as though they count, even if it's with an occasional hug, text, or phone call. No gesture is too small.

Picture what it'd be like if someone you love or admire were no longer in your life. By imagining that sense of loss, we're more likely to take steps to avoid such a scenario while there's still time.

While it's true that life gets awfully busy, that's no excuse to quit investing time and energy in a relationship that deep down you wish not to lose.

At the end of the day, we find a way to make time for the things and people we hold near and dear to our hearts.

Whether we push someone away in a fit of rage or because we have too many items to check off on our To Do List, we must live with the consequences of our actions. They may never come back, and we'll have to respect and accept that.