A FIVE MINUTE MISSION: Navigate holiday gatherings when you feel hopelessly alone

A FIVE MINUTE MISSION: Navigate holiday gatherings when you feel hopelessly alone

I had a dream. In my dream, I was single.

In the dream, a very brief romantic relationship I was in ended. Badly. Just like all other relationships in my life had done. It was a big disappointment to me (in this dream).

The next moment in my dream, I found myself at a big holiday party for singles. I was still disappointed about the break-up. I arrived alone. As I walked into the party, I immediately felt overwhelmed, disappointed and hopeless about love and myself.

This dream shook me. It took me back to the state of mind I was often in before meeting my husband Steve in 2004.

Before Steve, I was lonely. Relationships never worked out for me. There were only disappointments and heartbreaks. I had very little hope that the kind of love I wanted was possible for someone like me. The singleness I felt in this dream felt eerily familiar.

In my dream, I looked around the party.

Why did I even come? No one would want to talk to me. No one would notice me there. I felt compelled to go home immediately and pretend this never happened.

Have you ever felt that way at a party? If so…You’re normal. Sometimes parties just aren’t very fun.

In my dream, I decided that I should just resign myself to the fact that I don’t have whatever IT is. I am not lovable. I should just take whatever scraps life will give to me and try to be satisfied.

Then, all of a sudden, I remembered my real life. I became aware that this was just a dream. I suddenly knew that I had skills and that none of what I was thinking was true or useful. I knew that I could do something about my situation, but in my dream…I couldn’t quite figure out what I should do.

I woke up. I shuttered at how very real that dream felt.

The dream stuck with me all morning. I thought about being in a room full of people at a party, but feeling so alone.

I thought about my clients. I know this is a fairly common occurrence. I wanted a solution. What is the best way to get through overwhelming disappointment and loneliness when you’re in a crowd? I thought about it.

As I was walking my dog later that day, it came to me. I realized what the useful, empowered thing to do in that moment would be!

Instead of turning around and leaving with a feeling of failure, or turning inward and avoiding contact, here’s my idea, A FIVE MINUTE MISSION.

The definition of A FIVE MINUTE MISSION is this: Set a timer for Five (or so) minutes. In that time, you scan the room, scoping the party, looking only for someone who possesses ONE certain target thing. Perhaps a quality, characteristic or attribute. By any means necessary, you do what it takes to locate that person, before the time expires.

Instead of looking at the overwhelming crowd as a whole, you look for one person in it. The one who has the target thing. This “mission” helps chunk down the crowd into individual people. Instead of looking at the whole disappointing night as one big potential disappointment, you break it into a little segments that you have the power to navigate.

Potential Mission Target items: Find someone who is:

  • Kind,
  • Funny,
  • Smart,
  • Stylish,
  • Shy, 
  • Musical
  • into Marvel movies
  • into Star Trek
  • into Baseball
  • into College Sports
  • Winter Sports
  • Pickleball.
  • OR whatever floats your boat 

It doesn’t matter what mission you choose. Just pick something specific and find someone who has it or could lead you closer to someone with it in five minutes (or so).

A mission might look/sound like this: Feeling overwhelmed, I walk up to a friend or acquaintance at the large scale gathering with my mission in mind. Mission: Find the funniest person in the room.

“Hi Sally…I could really use a good joke or a funny story right now, it’s been quite a day. Who do you think is the funniest person in this room right now?” THEN…Sally responds and says, “That person over there said something so funny on facebook last week.” She points to someone in the room. Together (or alone) you approach the person, make a comment about how people enjoy their humor. Perhaps, ask a question about the funny thing they recently said. Or ask for their best joke, revealing you could use a good joke after the day you had. Boom! Conversation started and who knows where it might lead.

Even the act of sleuthing out this person brought you out of the fog of disappointing overwhelm. It created a conversation when there was none before. You chunked one big night and a big crowd of people into a bite sized piece you could chew.

The conversation will probably connect you to another conversation and so on. You’ll be engaged at this party interacting instead of hiding. Who knows where this will lead? I almost guarantee it won’t lead to miserable loneliness.

A FIVE MINUTE MISSION won’t solve the world’s problems, but it will help you make it through routine social gatherings. It will certainly bring you closer to building new connections and will fan the flames of potential relationships. You’ll show up looking engaged and ready instead of sad and hopeless.

Another Example:FIVE MINUTE MISSION: Find the shyest person in the room. You scan. Observe the room, looking for someone who is trying to blend in like a plant. Scanning for someone who is painfully trying to get through the evening wishing it was already over. People like that are very easy to miss (don’t ask me how I know). But…when you focus on your MISSION at hand, you’ll notice your subject. Then devise a simple little plan to meet them. Something as simple as a question or comment is perfect Your presence and attention will likely help them through their party anxiety. Who knows what could happen or who you might discover.

The whole point of the FIVE MINUTE MISSION is this: You have the power to influence and make decisions about your mindset. You can choose to focus on what you want, instead of what you’re afraid will happen. Research shows that what we focus on, we tend to get. So…be sure to focus on things that you actually WANT for your life.

Next time you’re overwhelmed in a room full of people like I was in my dream, put yourself on a FIVE MINUTE MISSION to find something besides disappointment. Focus on your curiosities and look for something specific in those around you. More often than not, you’ll be able to find it in the room full of people you’re with.

Challenge: Make a short list of things, qualities, attributes or characteristics you enjoy. Keep the list in a note on your phone. Next time you’re at a social gathering, put yourself on a FIVE MINUTE MISSION to find someone who has one thing on your list. Please contact me and let me know how this mission went for you. I’d love to write a follow up to this post with a success story.