It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re single and looking. The world can feel like it’s full of happy couples as far as the eye can see while you’re still the Last American Virgin, doomed to die alone, unloved and unmourned.
Of course, part of the problem is that there are no shortcuts when it comes to meeting people. No matter what your spam folder promises you, hot singles in your area aren’t going to just fall into your lap. If you want to meet people, you have to actually go out and find them. Which, in many cases, is exactly the problem.
While it’s easy to say (as, admittedly, I do) “go out and practice your skills“, going out and putting yourself out there can be… well, really fucking frustrating.
Speaking from personal experience, maintaining the motivation to keep on working was one of the hardest parts of my learning how to be socially successful. When you’re out hitting the bars and striking out faster than a starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks1, it only takes a couple of polite dismissals before you decide you’d be better off going home and bingeing The Defenders instead. And while dating apps like Tinder are supposed to make getting laid a push-button exercise, swiping right while everyone else seems to be swiping left can make you feel like you’re the last guy picked for dodgeball… again.
And hey, who wouldn’t prefer to go back to a life of books, cats and fights on Twitter instead of dealing with all of that? Hell, even when you’re socially skilled, it’s still possible to blow your motivator; I’ve had times when I’ve been travelling when I’d been torn between “need to talk to people” and “Oh God do I have to?”
So how do you stay motivated to keep trying to find that special someone (or someones) when it feels like the entire universe is telling you to knock it the fuck off?
Glad you asked. Here’s what I’ve learned about staying motivated:
Warm Up, First
The first key to staying motivated while going out is simple: warm up, first. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to go out – whether they’re hitting the bar and club scene, a party or the late-night events at the con – is that they’re starting off cold. They’re going from a day spent mostly on their own or in their “work” mindset and then trying to shift straight into being a social butterfly with no stops in between.
This, needless to say, is like trying to take your car from first gear straight to fifth… and you’re only vaguely familiar with the concept of the clutch.
Social skills are, in a lot of ways, like a muscle and it can be important to treat them the same way. When you exercise, you don’t want to just leap into things. You want to warm up first; the process gets your blood flowing to the muscle tissues, raises your body temperature and helps get your body ready to move. This makes it easier to work your muscles in a smooth and controlled movement while helping to prevent injuries and soreness.
So it is with being social. Part of why we get so easily intimidated in those early moments of the night is because we’re still trying to shift our brains to social mode. When you’ve spent most of the day on your own or dealing with people on a professional level rather than a personal one, it takes time to get to a place where you’ve limbered up your tongue and brain.
This is why you end up with the verbal equivalent of pulling a muscle: you aren’t socially loosened up. So just like starting a 5k jog from a standing start increases the odds that your hamstring’s going to go “TWING!” in the middle, so does leaping into an approach mean that you’re more likely to choke or say something wrong by accident.
Much of this is because when you’re leaping into that social space, you’re too far into your own head. Since you haven’t relaxed into just talking to people, you’re prone to overthinking. You imagine all the ways this could go wrong and end up never making that first approach. Or you might end up so focused on what you’re going to say next instead of being in the moment that you don’t pay attention to what you are saying. As a result: you trip over your tongue.
Warming up before you go out, however, gets you over those awkward early moments. The best nights I’d ever had when I was out on the town were the nights where I’d spent time just talking to people before getting serious. Getting into that social headspace where I could relax and just connect with people instead of worrying about sending (or picking up) every possible signal made everything flow smoothly.
So before you go out: spend some time just relaxing and talking to people – in person if at all possible. If you know someone at the party, talk with them at first and then have them introduce you to someone. Have dinner with a friend or two before you go out. Grab a drink at a bar and make pointless small-talk with the bartender. Strike up a meaningless conversation with someone just because they’re wearing a nifty shirt or you both saw something absurd happen.
Taking the time to limber up your brain and your tongue will let you just lean into having a conversation with someone without feeling like everything is on the line, every single time. You’ll be more relaxed and, as a result, in a better place to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
But while you’re at it…
Emotions at Rest Want to Stay At Rest (So Get Active)
The other problem with making that sudden shift from “solo” to “social” is that it bleeds away your motivation. Emotions follow their own physical laws, and one of them is the law of momentum. Being at rest means you’re more likely to stay at rest… even when you’ve been saying that you need to go out and do shit.
Now it’s one thing if you just don’t have the energy to go out. That happens and that’s fine. But if you want to go out but find it hard to actually, y’know, leave? That’s a different story.
How many times have you had plans to go out – plans that you were excited for – but as the hour grew closer, you were less and less interested in actually doing anything? This happened to me a lot, especially when I was a regular on the bar scene. I’d had plans to go out that I’d been looking forward to all week… and I’d just get less and less excited on the day of before finally saying “yeah, but Fallout…”
One of the major reasons for this is that, well, you’re already just sitting around. It’s a lot easier to stay where you are, in the comfort of your own place, than to get dressed and head out into the night. This happened a lot for me because the local nightlife doesn’t start getting good until 10 PM at the earliest. That leaves a lot of time between getting off work at 5 and hitting the bars.
Whether you’re planning on going to a friend’s party or going out to see what the night brings you, you want to avoid bleeding away your emotional momentum. It’s tempting to find things to just while away the hours until it’s go-time, but those time killers are exactly why you aren’t leaving. The longer you’re just sitting around killing time, the more you’re setting up the groove that’s going to keep you from actually doing anything.
So when you’re planning on going out: start getting your social energy up. Instead of sitting around, get active. Make it part of your plans for the night: at 5 PM, you’re hitting the gym, at 6, you’re going to get home and shower and get dressed, by 7:30 you’re going out to get something to eat, etc. This often coincides nicely with doing your social warm-ups. If you can get together with your friends before going out, do it. Not only will you keep your emotional momentum high and shift your mindset, you’ll also be reinforcing your social bonds.
This isn’t just for extroverts, by the way. Introverts benefit from a slow boil, rather than starting off going balls to the wall. By getting the emotional ball rolling slowly instead of expecting to go full-tilt boogie as soon as 9 PM hits, you’re actually using your energy more efficiently. You’re easing your way in, instead of diving in head first. Instead of having to expend your energy getting started from a stand still, you can coast on the momentum.
Of course, there’s another step that makes staying motivated easier:
Find Your Team
Part of why it’s so hard to maintain your motivation when you’re single is feeling like you’re in it by yourself. When it’s just you out there, it can be incredibly lonely. We’re social creatures at heart and feeling like we’re stuck on this massive undertaking by ourselves is profoundly demoralizing. It reinforces the idea that you are literally the odd man out.
Worse, when you’re working on practicing your social skills by yourself, you can feel incredibly isolated. You have nobody to talk to, to bounce ideas off of or to just commiserate with.
This is why it’s invaluable to have your team. Your squad. Your posse. The guys who’re right there with you – literally and figuratively. While there were many things wrong with my time in the PUA scene, one thing that really helped was the sense of community. Feeling like you had people on your side, who understood you and what you were going through, was huge. When you were connected to the local scene, it meant that on any particular night, you had a group to hang out with, talk shop and just be.
Having people on your team is incredibly empowering. One of the most valuable aspects of having a wingman when you’re out isn’t about managing group dynamics, it’s about the sense of support. Going out with friends makes it easier to keep the mood light and fun, even when things aren’t going well. It’s easier to make a cold approach, knowing that you have people cheering you on and wanting you to do well. You have a home base to retreat to when you need to. You have people willing to joke and laugh with you and keep your spirits high. They’re the ones who’ll help motivate you. They’ll push you to try again, to push your limits and do things you never believed you could. If you’re starting to psych yourself out, they’re there to talk sense into you.
Yeah, you may have struck out, but having your buddies there to slap you on the back and tell you that you had guts to even try? That’s incredible.
Of course, it can be hard on occasion to find the people to support you in the way you need. Your best friend may be awesome, but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to be the person to go out on the town with. On occasion, it’s useful to sub-divide your social circles. Having activity-specific friends can be a benefit over having people who’re supposed to fill all roles.
But even if they aren’t necessarily out there with you, knowing that you have friends who’ll support you and cheer you on? That can help keep your energy up and your morale high.
Just as importantly though…
It’s An Adventure, Not A Trial
One of the reasons why dating can be demoralizing is in how we choose to look at the process. Reality is shockingly malleable; when we choose to interact with it in certain ways, we quite literally change the world.
As woo-woo bugnuts as that may sound, there’s truth to it. As I’ve said many times before: your attitude is literally your destiny. You program your brain to expect a certain outcome based on your emotional state. When you expect the worst, you’re going to get it because you’re on the look out for it. You’ll dismiss people who might be interested in you because you’ll explain it away as a mistake. You’ll take everything in a negative light because you’ll have decided that’s the only possible way it could be taken. Worse, you’ll be cold and prickly because you’ve decided you’ve been pre-rejected.
But when you expect the best… you get that instead. You find it easier to bounce back from mistakes and rejections because it won’t be about you. You’ll be assuming the best about others’ intentions and interest levels. It’ll feel like more people are into you because you’re actively looking for those signs of interest. When you see them, you’ll be in a better place to act on them.
How you choose to see dating, whether you’re using apps or going out making approaches, will utterly change how you feel about it. Which is why the best way that you can treat dating is as an adventure rather than a trial.
Allow me to explain.
When I was a pick-up artist, I would see my nights out at the bar as hugely consequential. My self-worth was intimately tied into my success or failure. If I did well, I was on the top of the world. But when I had a bad night, it was disastrous. Because I saw every night as a trial and a test, it meant that every person I approached was a make-or-break event. When the balance tipped towards more rejections than successes – as it often would – I was left feeling like what the barbacks were sweeping up at the end of the night.
Needless to say: this meant that I was far less interested in going out.
However, when I started to treat going out as an adventure, it all became far easier. I would start each night telling myself “Tonight there is a story waiting to happen and I just need to find it.” What story would it be? Who knows. One night it was a drunk girl who wanted to steal my New Rocks off my feet. Another night it was meeting an archeologist who uncovered a lost shipwreck while on vacation. Still another night, my friends and I ended up with a friendly “rivalry” with a group of women who kept showing up at the same bars as us. And some times the story would be about my getting a phone number, a date, or even taking someone home.
But because I put my focus on the adventure instead of how many women were into me, even slow nights were entertaining. Yeah, I didn’t get laid, but I did have fun – and collected stories in the process. By being open to any craziness I might encounter, my nights out were much more entertaining… and far less draining.
But sometimes there’s only one thing you can do:
Take a Break
At the end of the day, the truth is that dating can be difficult. Even for people who love the chase, it can be a grind. Hell, part of the reason I left the PUA scene was because I didn’t like how emotionally exhausted it left me.
However, admitting that maybe you need some time out of the game is hard. We’re taught as a culture that being single is a bad thing. The lesson we absorb over and over again from pop culture is that you need to be in a relationship. If you’re not out there, beating your head into that wall to get a partner, then by God something is wrong with you.
And that’s bullshit. But it’s bullshit that’s hard to overcome.
Even when you enjoy dating, there often comes a point where you just can’t fully recharge that tank. Trying to get motivated to talk to people becomes a chore. The thought of logging into OKCupid leaves you in a cold sweat. Your friends offering to set you up on blind dates sounds like a threat.
That’s when you’re staring down the barrel of dating burnout. And sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is just… stop. Put your “going out” outfits in the back of the closet and learn to love your sweats again. Suspend your online dating accounts, put dating on the back burner and just relax.
I know. It sounds like a paradox. But taking time away from dating and being social can be what makes you better at being social. Remember what I said earlier about dating being like exercise? Well just as in exercise, it’s possible to overtrain yourself, socially. Pushing yourself past the point of exhaustion is how you get injured. You aren’t doing any favors when you try to push past the pain. All you’re doing is making sure that you won’t be motivated to try again when you do have the energy.
So when the time comes that you just can’t face putting yourself out there again… don’t. Take a vacation from dating. Learn to love being single and the freedom it gives you. Reengage with yourself and invest in the things that feed your soul. Let romance take care of itself. Love will be waiting for you when you’re ready to come back to it.
And once you’re relaxed and ready to give the old town a wedgie again, you’ll be motivated to take it all on.
Take care of yourself… and you’ll be ready to take care of the rest.
- A reference that surely won’t be dated by this time next week [↩]