By Jordan Gray | Jordan Gray Consulting
Do you consider yourself a lone wolf?
If you do, I have a message for you…
Our society is currently sick.
People are feeling increasingly isolated and alone. Our sense of community has been eroded.
We have been given the message that you have to look out for yourself, first and foremost. That you have to mind your own business, put your head down, work hard, and take care of your own needs. Don’t worry about others. Don’t ask others to worry about you. Go it alone. The weight of the burden rests on your shoulders alone.
And, as a result…
Male suicide rates are rising… and they’re the highest they’ve been since 2001.
Every day in the United States alone, 121 people kill themselves. On average, 93 of those (75+%) are men. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that that is an overwhelming majority.
While there are factors outside of the lone wolf mentality that contribute to suicide rates (less people are getting married, divorces are rising, the economy struggles, etc.), I see it as by far the biggest.
In 1984 when people were asked how many close confidantes they had (i.e. how many people they felt deeply safe sharing intimate personal information with) the average number was three. When the exact same study was done just a few years ago, the most common response was zero. In other words, people are feeling increasingly isolated and alone.
The Lone Wolf Mentality
The lone wolf lives by the beliefs that they have to do life alone… that no one truly has their back… that everyone’s just in it for themselves.
The lone wolf may feel like asking others for support is unnecessary, unfair, weak, pathetic, or dependent.
The lone wolf strategy is also commonly a childhood survival mechanism that served them at a time when it made sense (for example, their parents didn’t really raise them and so they felt like they had to raise themselves) but they are unwilling to let go of because their ego fears it’s own collapse.
By allowing others to support us, we must be willing to trust. To surrender. To believe that life is more than just about serving our own needs.
The health risks of living as a lone wolf are massive.
One study showed that chronic social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or being an alcoholic, or never exercising, and twice as bad as being clinically obese.
One thing is for sure, chronic isolation is a killer.
It shortens your life span, erodes the quality of your daily life, and negatively impacts your sense of happiness and resiliency.
How The Lone Wolf Life Looks
The lone wolf life is chiefly interested in it’s own needs.
Because no one else looks out for the lone wolf, they must spend an exhausting amount of time, energy, and resources getting their own needs met and fighting for what’s theirs.
Other people are often seen as an obstacle or threat. The lone wolf is always on the lookout for other people moving in on their scarce resources. The overarching mindset being one of, ‘Everyone’s just in it for themselves, so why should I trust anyone anyways?’
This hyper vigilant, threat-seeking way of living is exhausting. At a certain point, the lone wolf either becomes depressed, burnt out, suicidal, or just plain miserable. Either that or they build a bomb shelter and live out of it, eating canned beans until the inevitable apocalypse comes.
Benefits Of Being Deeply Connected To A Tribe
If you’ve been deeply entrenched in the lone wolf mentality for some time now, it might not seem as appealing to give it up (if you haven’t reached your breaking point of frustration or aloneness).
Here are a few benefits that come from giving up the lone wolf mentality, and allowing yourself to be in community.
– A thriving social life is good for your health.
In the now famous 75-year long Harvard study on what it is that makes people happy, the number one determining factor was relationships. More than any other single factor, the closeness and quality of your relationships keeps you alive longer and improves the quality of your life the most, day to day.
– You make more money.
People with a greater depth and breadth of social contacts make more money.
When you really think about it, money is born of relationships. People buy from people. People invest in people. Whether you run your own business, or you work in sales, or you’re a service provider of any kind… people work with you/hire you/pay you because of how connected they feel to you.
Regardless of what industry you work in, you can try this out. Double down the effort you put into your relationships, and you will see your income and career opportunities skyrocket.
– You are more resilient to the inevitable stressors of life.
Social connectivity serves many functions in your life… one of which is providing you a source of support during challenging times.
Challenging situations will arise in your life. People you love will die. You will get laid off from work. You might get kicked out of the place you live in. You may get diagnosed with an illness.
When these things happen, having a strong social support network will make you more resilient to the challenges being presented to you.
How To Overcome Your Lone Wolf Tendencies
The truth is that humans are a social species.
We thrive when we are in community. We thrive when we feel like there are people who see us, believe in us, and have our backs. We thrive when we are supported and loved by others.
Yes, everyone needs some alone time in their lives. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when someone begins to identify as the lone wolf and slowly loses any sense of connectivity with others in their lives.
Yes, you can get by as a lone wolf for a time. But without a tribe, it is impossible to thrive.
Here are three powerful ways that you can start pushing back against your lone wolf tendencies.
1. Fight like hell to create a social life
Step number one in giving up the lone wolf mentality is to allow yourself to cultivate a rich social life.
I wrote a whole post about this recently (How To Make Friends As An Adult)… but the long and the short of it is this: go to events, join clubs, join groups, invest in old hobbies that you love but have de-prioritized, re-engage with old friends. Simply put, extend a lot. Be kind to others. Share yourself vulnerably. Let people see you, and become deeply interested in the worlds of others.
This will likely require huge amounts of courage, effort, and time… and it will be worth it.
2. Extend to others and offer support
When you have a few friends on your roster, put in a genuine effort to continue to invest in those relationships. It’s akin to watering a garden… put energy into the relationships and they will give energy back to you.
One of the key things that you can do to keep the momentum in your relationships going is to regularly extend to your friends and offer them support.
If you’ve done a good job at understanding them, and knowing their needs, wants, and goals, then it should become easy to know or predict what they might need help with.
Maybe one of your friends is coming up against some money troubles and that’s one of your zones of genius. Or maybe you know that another friend is struggling with their spouse and you can offer some support by listening to them. Or maybe another friend has been taking their life too seriously and you want to help encourage them to play more often.
Whatever value you can bring to the lives of your friends, bring it. Love them hard. And the friendship will continue to pay emotional dividends in your life.
3. Extend to others and ask for support
The other key thing that you can do (for your own health and well-being, and for the strength of your relationships) is to ask for support from your social network.
We all need a little help from time to time.
Allowing yourself to be seen, witnessed, and supported by your friends will strengthen the ties of your social connection (for both of you) and give you the (true) sense that you do not need to do life on your own.
Friendships are not a one way street. And it is so common for the recovering lone wolf to tip-toe their way into friendships by being supportive of others but being deeply resistant to allowing others to support them. In other words, they over-function in their new relationships by putting other people’s needs first, while ignoring or denying their own.
Once you’ve cultivated the metaphorical garden of your friendships, you are fully within your right to tap into the fruits of your labour.
Lean on your friends. Call them or meet up with them when you’re having a challenging day. Report your mind to a close confidante when you notice your thoughts slipping back into a lone wolf type state of operation.
The Lone Wolf Recovery Program
It’s as simple as that.
To discontinue being a lone wolf, you have to give up the ‘lone’ element.
Cultivate friendships. Put yourself out there. Find your tribe and invest in them heavily. Make it your number one priority for three months and see what happens.
My bet? You’ll be happier, healthier, and feel more supported and emotionally resilient in no time.
Dedicated to your success,