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“5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic” with Fotis Geogiadis & Daniel Folk

Develop a “fear of regret” mindset. How many times have you hesitated on an opportunity? Or how many times have you laid awake at night replaying a situation where you felt you could have done it / said it / or reacted to it better? We’ve all been there before, and it feels terrible! To me […]

Develop a “fear of regret” mindset. How many times have you hesitated on an opportunity? Or how many times have you laid awake at night replaying a situation where you felt you could have done it / said it / or reacted to it better? We’ve all been there before, and it feels terrible! To me the feeling of regret is far worse than the feeling of embarrassment or failure. I would way rather be shot down by the cute girl at the bar or told “no” by a potential client than to never have even tried! Start framing situations from what you have to lose if you don’t rather than if you do, and see what you can motivate yourself to do.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Daniel Folk. Daniel is the founder and CEO of Hundred Life Design, the premier online life & career coaching platform. He holds an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon, has been a clinical researcher, behavioral interventionist, and an organizational development consultant for Mercedes-Benz Germany. Based in the US, and Canadian by birth, Daniel has committed himself and his business to helping others achieve higher levels of personal control and satisfaction in life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of the human mind and individual capacity to take total control over life & circumstances. It was always amazing to me how some people, when faced with adversity would flounder, while others could persevere and come out ahead. How could this be?

My curiosities about motivation, willpower, and positive change drove me to become a psychological researcher, earn an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology, pursue a consulting position for a Fortune 500 company, and eventually start Hundred Life Design. And throughout my experiences, the answer to my question became clear: coaching and mentoring.

I’ve noticed the biggest difference between those who are happiest and get the most out of life and those who don’t all boils down to positive support. However you choose to define success or happiness, having the right support and tapping into the power of coaching is paramount! I’ve seen it time and time again throughout my life, and it’s something I’ve had the privilege of experiencing myself.

But receiving this type of support shouldn’t be a “privilege.”

My experiences had shown me that there are people out there who want to make positive changes in their life but don’t want to feel pressured. There are people who want to invest in themselves, but want to do so at a reasonable cost which will yield real results. And that there are people everywhere who want to talk to a neutral third party about a challenge, but without feeling like they’re flawed or inferior.

I created Hundred Life Design to make the awesome, transformable power of coaching affordable and accessible to all. And as I’m finding out, others feel the same way I do.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’m going to answer this question from the perspective of “once I started my own business.” And I say this because before then, I consider the positions and experience I had as simply “work.” Like many, I was told from a young age that getting a formal education, securing a white-collar job at a respectable company, and settling down was the key to happiness. This narrative is not unique to me; most of us are told this to be true.

However, despite doing it (minus the settling down part) and going through the motions, something felt off. My catalyst for change is a different story in its own right, but suffice it to say, going into business on my own was the tipping point of self-discovery. The most interesting tale since starting my career is truly finding myself.

Perhaps a cliché coming of age story, the choice to go my own way and bring to life the visions in my mind was a journey of mixed emotion. Indeed, there was, and still is, a huge degree of uncertainly and daily volatility. Though ironically, while many of us would find this to be terrifying and mentally crippling, I have never felt happier and more comfortable in my own skin.

I’m not one to normally use banal truisms about life, but in this case, I cannot deny the fact that the pursuit of happiness is truly rooted in the idea of following one’s heart.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Like all new startup owners, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. That’s just the harsh reality of being a new business. While you’re living through the screwups, it’s never fun. But keeping a sense of humor, a sense of self-deprecation, and a healthy perspective got me through the embarrassing moments.

Sharing them with friends and laughing at myself, as opposed to retreating in shame and isolation, has always been therapeutic. Maybe someday I’ll write down all those experiences, then take it on the road as a stand up comedian.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes. And while it may not directly relate to loneliness per se, it’s something that is professionally and personally significant for me. We have begun partnering with police departments across the nation to offer a new kind of support to some of the bravest men and women in our communities.

As was alluded to in my introduction, there are millions of people out there who want to improve their lives in some way but don’t know how to put their ideas into action, and don’t wish to work with the traditional mental health resources. I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement personnel and can only imagine the career and personal stress these individuals must face on a daily basis.

We at Hundred Life Design are working with police departments to offer an alternative to the standard support available to active duty officers and civilian employees. I believe this is a group of people, nationwide, who should be better taken care of. And I am proud to do our part to contribute anyway we can.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

Absolutely, and my response stems beyond my own personal experience in the field of behavioral intervention. As the premier online coaching platform, we have a team of currently 50+ coaches who work with people on a wide variety of topics, nearly all of which are rooted in human connection.

Often when we think of loneliness, we think of someone literally alone. But that’s rather unrealistic. More often than not, the term “lonely” is actually referring to our inability to communicate and foster genuine connections with others.

Whether it’s getting along with colleagues, building intimacy with a partner, or just making new friends, our capacity to relate to and build rapport with each other is paramount to our sense of belonging, acceptance, and connection to the communities and subcultures to which we subscribe.

But don’t just take my word for it, you can ask any of our coaches (or any decent life coach in general for that matter!), and they’ll tell you the feeling of social isolation or incompetency is not only detrimental to our immediate emotional and psychological state, but has cascading and compounding negative effects on other aspects of life as well.

In our experience, many personal or professional challenges our clients face often stem from an inability or a lack of confidence around connecting and effectively socializing with others. To put it simply, we’re very familiar with loneliness in all its forms.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

I’m a big believer of evolutionary psychology. The research is compelling and makes good common sense. When we think of humanity from an evolutionary perspective, it’s obvious that we are social creatures. And as a species we’re not alone. Our ancestral primates also rely heavily on the communities they build as a means of survival.

Throughout human history, the ability to build trusting communities based on reciprocity has allowed us to delegate tasks, share the burden of labor, and advance our progress exponentially. Relationships and human connection have been paramount in our survival and prosperity. But where does this notion come from?

Well no one really knows, but from an evolutionary perspective it’s argued that it’s an instinctual drive, much like hunger or sex. So, with that in mind, it can also be argued that a lack of social interaction is a deprivation of one of our most basic needs: the need for human connection.

Beyond the overly intellectualized approach, consider the social extreme of solitary confinement. Your own opinions on the topic aside, there is no denying the fact that a primary reason for solitary confinement existing as one of the most cruel and harsh forms of punishment is rooted in the fact that it’s just that: solitary.

We as a species know instinctually that isolation is bad. The fact that we resort to it now as an extreme source of punishment only highlights that fact.

And finally, on a more positive note, let’s talk about happiness and longevity. I’ll save the statistical and scientific rhetoric for now, but suffice it to say, the research shows healthy social relationships significantly increase our feelings of happiness and lengthen the lifespan. It should go without saying then, that being disconnected from each other has both psychological and physical negative health outcomes.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Going back to the evolutionary perspective, if we as a society or even humanity as a whole, become disengaged from each other, we are doing ourselves a massive disservice. Without a communal level of trust and understanding, society will breakdown and revert back to small, isolated groups of skeptical people who fear the unknown.

I can only speculate, but I imagine this lack of overall trust would cause primitive clan or gang mentality on a global scale, result in higher levels of prejudice and violence, and ultimately lead to a serious reduction in human advancement.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

Just because this technology exists does not mean we are more connected to each other by default. A question I always ask my clients is “what are you doing to engage?” What I’m getting at is, sitting passively and watching the lives of others, or living vicariously through others via social media is not the same as actually living. Perhaps you comment on what others post, or chime in on forum discussions. And that’s great. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that you’re still sitting at home alone.

My advice is simple and obvious, go out and engage with the world! Whatever your interest may be, if you’re part of an online community or interest group, get out and actually meet the others who share your interest. Engage in that activity for real, don’t just talk about it! The same goes for online dating: the purpose is to actually meet in real life, not have a virtual pen pal.

When it comes to social media, another thing we see with our clients is a hesitation to engage in the first place. This hesitation often stems from a fear of inadequacy when comparing ourselves to the “perfect” and “wonderful” lives we see others having online. On the surface it seems intimidating. There are all these people out there with thousands of followers going to amazing places and doing interesting things. How could you ever be so fascinating? Might as well just stay at home…

We fail to look beyond the thin veil of superficiality that has become social media. But if we did, we’d realize its mostly all contrived and embellished. If we allowed it to stop distracting us and consuming our free time, we’d have more mental energy and confidence for interacting the old-fashioned way.

And finally, I can’t tell you how many people end up resorting to technology as an excuse for not building new relationships. What I mean is, we can trick ourselves into feeling we’re connected to others despite having very little real face-time. We see it in clients all the time. A common example is when someone moves to a new city, they resort to lengthy phone calls with old friends, or constantly checking in on their life at their previous home.

There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but when your Friday nights are spent on the phone with old familiar faces instead of seizing the opportunity around you, well that’s a problem.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I do greatly support and appreciate the technology we have. But we need to be careful about how we use it.

Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

(1) Get real with social media. Recognize what it is and what it isn’t. The sooner we’re able to develop a healthy relationship with it, the sooner we’ll begin to feel comfortable engaging in the things we love for the sake of enjoyment, not for how many likes a photo of us doing it might earn. And this is key because when we do something out of genuine passion, and not some narcissistic drive, we become authentic. We become comfortable with ourselves. And that feeling attracts others who operate the same way.

(2) Take it offline. Technology is wonderful for bringing us together, finding likeminded individuals, and sharing knowledge. But many of the apps and sites that can do this are ultimately designed to convert online users to real life connections. Take any dating app for example. A general rule I tell people is, if you match with someone, you get up to 10 back and forth messages before you should propose to meet in person. The attraction is there! Go explore it for real. Otherwise what’s the point?

(3) Seriously consider a networking group. Seriously! I get it though, they sound lame and I used to cringe super hard at just the idea of them. But I recently moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. Perhaps a little out of desperation, I’ll admit it, I joined a few. One was for business, another for cars (my two interests). I forced myself to go and the whole drive there feared it would be the most awkward cringefest of my life. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth was, it was refreshing and exciting to be among the company of others who not only shared my interests, but who were actively looking to meet new people just like me. So seriously, anyone reading this article, consider a group in your area.

(4) Develop a “fear of regret” mindset. How many times have you hesitated on an opportunity? Or how many times have you laid awake at night replaying a situation where you felt you could have done it / said it / or reacted to it better? We’ve all been there before, and it feels terrible! To me the feeling of regret is far worse than the feeling of embarrassment or failure. I would way rather be shot down by the cute girl at the bar or told “no” by a potential client than to never have even tried! Start framing situations from what you have to lose if you don’t rather than if you do, and see what you can motivate yourself to do.

(5) Work with a coach. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of coaching, have seen the research showing its efficacy, and have experienced it firsthand. I’ve had coaches in my life who have helped me work on my social shortcomings and it has done wonders for my personal and professional life. But be cautious! Look for a life coach who will take the time to understand your personality, general attitude, and then give you constructive and tangible feedback.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Staying in line with the topic of loneliness, I would propose something similar to Keith Ferrazzi’s concept of Never Eat Lunch Alone. The challenge would be to approach 1 stranger every day and strike up a conversation. And no, talking about the weather doesn’t count!

Rather, give a stranger a compliment, say hi and ask how their day is going, or offer assistance. The point is to create more sincere interactions among people who would otherwise normally brush each other off as just another random person.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to meet both Robert Kiyosaki and Tim Ferris. Their books, Rich Dad Poor Dad and The 4 Hour Work Week, respectively, were fundamental in prompting me to take full control of my own life, to think about success, money, and time from a whole new perspective, and to ultimately start my own company.

Beyond the personal gratitude and respect I hold for these two guys, I am a big supporter of the messages they preach and the attitude towards life they promote in general. I’m fascinated by people who go against the grain, take risks, and inspire others to do the same.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @hundred.life.design and search for us by name on Facebook.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!

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