A reader asked for advice for people who are looking for love, trying to meet people, dating.

The “looking for love” part of life is definitely trying, and I have to admit I’m no dating expert. I got lucky with Eva, finding her relatively easily and somehow convincing her that I’m dateworthy. It must be my striking good looks.

Though I don’t have a lot of dating advice, there is something I’ve learned from experience: prepare yourself first.

Here’s the thing: you can put yourself out there, but you don’t know if you’ll find anyone soon, or who that will be. It’s unknowable, and uncontrollable, and uncertain. Those are difficult things, and if you have some ideal of a handsome prince or swoon-worthy princess coming along and falling into your lap, you’ll not only be greatly disappointed, you’ll be unprepared for when a good one does come your way.

So be prepared.

What does that mean? Here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Get good at uncertainty. There’s no guarantee of anything, and honestly it would be no fun if there were guarantees. Whether you find anyone to date you is unknown, and whether the person you just started dating is the right fit for you is also unknown. So prepare by becoming good with uncertainty, by practicing it a lot. Do things that have uncertain outcomes, like starting a business or traveling cheaply with no set plans or making it a goal to talk to strangers every day. You’ll get much better at it with constant practice.
  • Let go of your ideals. You probably have some ideal of who you’re looking for — I know people who have made a “man board” with all of their ideal characteristics, or an “ideal woman” list with a laundry list of how she’ll look and what she’ll be good at. Good luck with that. You’re just making it harder on yourself if you need to find the perfect person who not only meets all these ideals, but has the right chemistry and likes you. Instead, practice letting go of your ideals and being open to what emerges. Be curious instead of certain.
  • Become emotionally self-sufficient. Instead of hoping that some other person will come along and meet all of your emotional needs, learn to take care of them yourself. You need nothing than what you already have, sitting right where you are now. Read more.
  • Do interesting things. Explore the world. Start something cool. Go on adventures. Learn new skills and languages. Build stuff. Write things. Do things that are different than most. Challenge yourself. Scare yourself. Not only will you become a more interesting person, you’ll have fun, become better at self-sufficiency and uncertainty, and have a few good stories to tell your future mate.
  • Get your health & finances in order. Who wants to date a loser? Not you, and not your future spouse. So start exercising, and get fit. Start saving and investing and eliminate your debt. Be awesome.

If you do most of the things on this list (you don’t have to do everything), you’ll be pretty prepared for when love knocks you over and flattens you.

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Leo Babauta is the creator of Zen Habits. He's married with six kids and lives in San Francisco, California. He's a writer, an avid runner and a vegan.

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