I would never get bored. Really. I believe I could lock myself up at home for a year without running out of things to do. That is largely because of computers and the internet but even without technology, I don’t think I would ever run out of things to do. In this article, I would like to give you my thoughts on finding purpose even in the most mundane moments in life.

Finding purpose and a goal

I believe everyone needs a purpose. We can find the most adequate take on this in “Mans search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. The holocaust survivor describes how they could predict when someone would die in the concentration camps. Frankl said it happened 72 hours after they lost purpose and that you can see if someone lost purpose in life.

Now that’s the most drastic example, but I believe we can see it in many who retire. Even if a job is not fulfilling, it can provide a sense of being needed and useful. That’s something every one of us needs. I am sure about that. Therefore, I think it needs two things. Something to do and someone who enjoys whatever you do. In an ideal situation, you would make yourself useful enough to get paid for what you do. But not necessarily. We can also get a great deal of satisfaction from helping those in need.

First things first. When loneliness is crushing you

I am not an expert on psychological problems. There are imbalances that are very real and I most likely can’t imagine how someone in a deep depression feels. However, I had phases of depression and learned how to balance myself.

The first and most important thing I would do is move. Exercise releases hormones that make you feel good. Start slowly, gradually exercise more and you will get addicted to the released chemicals.

Personally, I do the Wim Hof Method. Breathing exercises and cold exposure. Deep breathing is something we forget about while slumped in our office chairs. The Wim Hof method combines deep breathing with breath retention. Breath retentions are the most peaceful, most quiet moments of my days. 1-2 minutes holding my breath. These exercises are followed by cold showers which also release feel-good chemicals and stop you from thinking for a second. In the cold, you won’t think about anything except for the cold. These peaceful moments will fuel your energy.

And then there is meditation. We often misunderstand meditation as a religious eastern tradition. I believe that the essence of meditation is simply to stop overstimulating your mind. You can practice it by doing nothing or by performing repetitive tasks. For me, it was walking.

There is a difference between loneliness and being alone. The word alone originates from “all” and one. Think about it!

In 2008, I walked for more than a thousand kilometers. I forced my mind to shut up and when your mind shuts up you reach a state of desirelessness. Being with yourself will also force you to accept yourself. Accepting yourself makes you less dependent on the judgment of others. Loneliness is a feeling of being rejected by the world. It’s subjective. The world is not rejecting you. It can’t if you don’t reject yourself. So that’s what I think. It all starts with yourself and never with the outside world.

Projects to keep you busy

Now that you are good with yourself, let’s find something to do. First, I want to tell you about my journey and the thoughts I had in the past two years and then we will explore some practical ideas of things to do to keep you busy and productive when home alone.

I always enjoyed learning languages. I speak Spanish, Dutch, French, and English along with my mother tongue German. However, I also took Japanese, Korean, Russian and Chinese classes. I played the flute, the guitar, and the mouth harp and learned to make electronic music. Guess what! None of the latter hobbies turned into perfection. Actually, they didn’t turn into anything. No one wants to hear a mediocre guitar player or cares if you can say a few words in Japanese.

So even if all of those steps were important to find out what to actually pursue, I spent a lot of time pursuing things that didn’t lead anywhere. I could have known before. Imagining my future I knew I wouldn’t be a professional guitar player or move to Russia. Learning language only makes sense if you can practice in work or live environment.

The best book to figure out what exactly to pursue would be Seth Godin’s “the dip”. It’s a book about finding out what to quit and what to follow. It’s the book that rationally made me understand what I was feeling already, anyway. The sooner you realize what to quit, the better you will become at what not to quit.

I don’t mean to be obsessed with success. Think about your job! Are you happy or do you want to do something else? If you are happy, how can you become better? If you are unhappy, what would you love to do for a living? Is there something you could learn to change your dedication? If not, how can you make the thing you do your passion instead of changing what you do? And then again. How can you become better? Becoming better almost always means making your work more meaningful.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King

Improve your Self Confidence

Noone believes 100% in him or herself. Until three years ago I would have been nervous when pushing the publish button on Facebook. What are my friends thinking about me? More nervous of course when pushing the button on a post like this. I hated speaking in front of people. I still hate it. But I am a city guide and by speaking in public repeatedly I realized I can do even if it’s uncomfortable.

Many of my friends don’t want to be photographed. They think they look bad. Almost everyone feels uncomfortable being on video. I started youtube half a year ago. I know that my videos are not good. I could practice more and put more effort into making better videos. But I am also aware of it not mattering what anyone thinks of me. Look at any famous YouTuber. Even the most successful ones have between 1-5% down votes. For the most famous ones that mean thousands of viewers pushed the thumbs down button. Is it crushing their self-confidence? Hell no, otherwise they would have never started.

To improve your self-confidence I encourage you to write, record videos, take portraits of yourself and try to improve your photography by doing so and then publish. Put yourself out there without caring what anyone thinks. You are good enough and by doing these exercises you improve not only confidence in yourself but eventually get better at a craft.

How to entertain yourself on the internet

The internet is a curse and a blessing. When I was living in Spain in 2009 and 2010 I had no job and nothing to do. That’s when I decided to learn how to create websites. I decided to do so because I realized that on the internet you are either a creator or a consumer. Most creators create to make money while most consumers waste their time most of the time.

Are you scrolling Instagram to consume other people’s content? How much of that content really enriches your life. You can create a website, a YouTube channel or an Instagram page. Learn something, practice photography, writing and web skills and put yourself out there for people to connect to you.

The internet changed how small businesses reach their clients but even if you are not wanting to start a business, you can connect to like-minded people or be helpful and god knows where that will lead you.

How to entertain yourself without electronics

As mentioned before the internet is not only a blessing but also a curse. Social media addiction leads to depression and we don’t know yet what the long-term health issues are. Smartphones have only been around for ten years.

If you are addicted to your phone and most of us are, chances are it’s hard to break that addiction. It’s boring to read a book when any kind of entertainment is available all the time. What I also learned when walking for weeks and months is you get used to it. Walk for two weeks and walking will become the most interesting activity. Walk for two weeks without music and the next song you hear will be more intense than any song you ever heard. Walk all day and the book you read in the evening is more interesting than any movie you ever watched.

Here we are again on meditation. Sit still for an hour in the morning when home alone and bored. Believe me, you will appreciate the book you are reading, the exercise you do and the meal you prepare a lot more than after watching Netflix or playing a video game.

Become a minimalist

The way I think about everything I have is that it either has to be useful or beautiful. I practiced minimalism for over ten years. During those ten years, I went through my stuff repeatedly to reduce material belongings. You can always reduce a little more.

If you prioritize the beautiful things you keep in your life, the things you keep become more beautiful. For example, the 40-year-old globe I keep on my shelf. It has no purpose except for shedding some light on my shelf. I got it from a friend a long time ago. If I would have ten souvenirs on the same shelf, the globe would not shine nearly as bright.

Long story short. When cleaning your apartment think about all the things you own. Are there things you didn’t use in years? Are you keeping them just in case? These practices extend beyond your material life. Think about it! Everything you do has an opportunity cost. For everything you do, you are not doing something else. How are you occupying your space but also your life?

Where are you heading to? What do you want?

And again, back to your purpose and your projects. What should your future look like? What will you enjoy? How can you help others? In my case, I know I need to become a better storyteller to be more useful. To be more entertaining and captivating. I know it’s not people’s responsibility to listen to my boring speeches while on tour, but my responsibility to not be boring. Learning Storytelling alone would be a life task.

What if you are a waiter or a supermarket clerk? You could enjoy better communication. Another life tasks. People don’t buy coffee. They buy the feeling they get at the coffee shop. And what if they come for the feeling you give them when visiting your cafe? Wouldn’t you become indispensable? That’s just an example. No matter what we do, we can become better and more useful to others.

Conclusion

That’s just my take on keeping yourself busy when home alone. I really think loneliness and boredom are a byproduct of not yet having or not searching for your purpose in life. Make lots of mistakes! The more mistakes you make, the faster you find what works and what you want.