I’m mindful that what you are about to read will not be 100% of society’s experience. It is written from my own observations of late.
Look around you. We are spending more and more time online and less and less time making true and meaningful connections with our fellow humans. Now more than ever, the world needs deep connections and meaningful relationships. The thirst is real. We were not born to be alone.
I wanted to pen some of my observations for several reasons. One, because my greater purpose is to do whatever I can to positively contribute toward the mental health of our nation. Two, my recent research about the meaningful connections we seek, triggered memories of decade old experiences with my own vulnerability and self-sabotage. I identified how quickly I could become my own worst enemy because it was so easy to isolate. Yet I could still appear to the outside world that I was a confident and happy member of society. I posted enough online that no one suspected I was going through a rough time. Easy, but lonely.
That led me to research even more the idea that our lack of meaningful connections is harming us. If this article makes one person reach out to their fellow humans in a meaningful way, it was worth chancing judgement.
WHAT TRIGGERED MEMORIES
About nine months ago, I designed a group program called the Confidence Reboot because I was increasingly surprised at the lack of confidence in people generally. I saw more people than I care to mention negatively impacted from the tone of an email or the avoidance of difficult conversations.
One client was a woman in a management role who was typically strong but left distraught when a redundancy was not dealt with very well. In being advised via email, the ensuing meeting that she attended still feeling shock, saw her told to toughen up and stop being emotional and that her emotion showed that she might just have to go out and get a more junior job so she can cope with it better! True story.
Another example is a General Manager I coached who despite his many successes was being micromanaged by his CEO. He was not trusted to make decisions within his role and was often made to feel inferior in front of his team. Over a prolonged period, this had a disastrous impact on his mental well-being, so much so that he started to take anxiety medication, often had the shakes and sweats and found the most basic of tasks difficult.
In many others, so much of what I saw that left people with self-doubt and shattered confidence was their perception of what others thought about them, misunderstanding communications, mostly email, and their fear of approaching others to have difficult conversations.
THERE IS ALSO A LOT OF GOOD NEWS
I have to say though; I’ve also seen the flip side. Just this week I met with a Director of 30 staff who makes a point of getting out from behind her desk and amongst the workers; showing she cares by staying connected with what is happening not only in their work world, but at home as well.
Through ongoing research with people and teams, it became more and more evident that while on one hand we seek deep connections, most of us are shutting down and relying more on technology, social media and especially email, making us fearful of true connections and meaningful conversations. Meaningful connections and conversations are decreasing; aloneness is increasing. Could this have anything to do with our increasing issues with things like addiction, self-harm and mental instability?
In the work I do with teams, the most common evidence of disconnection I see is:
- Sending emails rather than phoning each other
- Sending emails rather than meeting up in person; often with people in the same office
- Commenting on each other’s social media posts rather than catching up and sharing the experiences
- Spending time gaming rather than out playing team sports
- People sitting in lunchrooms in silence, all looking down checking their mobile phones
- Then there is the behaviour we see at restaurant tables with couples and groups mesmerised by mobile phones
I continued researching and started to look deeper. All I saw was more and more evidence that we are misunderstanding each other due to lack of meaningful connection.
In the year 2000, Gallup first started reporting on engagement the workplace in the United States. Since then, it has repeatedly found that fewer than 33 percent of workers are engaged in their jobs.
It sounds obvious, but Gallup has found that people whose managers meet with them regularly are three times as likely to be engaged. That is, face to face meetings. Connecting!
The truth of the matter is that we all long to connect with the world around us in a soulful and truthful way. We all crave for deep connections. It’s in our DNA. We were not created to live a life of aloneness and loneliness.
Here are just a few of the ideas I share with clients that are also relevant to developing deeper and more meaningful connections to steer us away from aloneness, confusion and self-sabotage.
KNOW YOURSELF TO DEVELOP CONFIDENCE
It is sometimes a lack of confidence that sees us default to sending texts and emails rather than reaching out personally to our network. You can develop confidence by taking the time to go within and explore what your true values are, what you are passionate about and what your greater purpose is in life. If you can’t do this yourself, consider engaging a coach to help you. The information is all inside of you. It may just need a little bit of coaxing out. I truly believe and have seen evidence that self-awareness is the catalyst to gaining confidence and making positive change.
CREATE NEW PATHWAYS
In my work I often refer to neuroplasticity which is the brain’s ability to change itself constantly by creating new neural pathways and losing those which are no longer used. Scientists have studied the brain for centuries but it’s only in the last 15 years or so that they have discovered one of the most fascinating things and that is that your brain changes every single day. As you read this article your brain is changing in response to my words. Changes are happening in response to the environment you are in. Your experiences and the people you affiliate with shape the way your brain ultimately develops.
By challenging yourself and taking on new habits, like reaching out and connecting to others, you can grow more neurons and create new pathways, which leads nicely into my next suggestion.
BE AWARE OF YOUR THOUGHTS
We are what we think, literally. Scientists say we have 50-70,000 thoughts per day, common knowledge I’m sure you’d agree. But did you know that 90% of those thoughts are supposedly the same thoughts as you had yesterday. The problem with that is, that the same thoughts create the same emotions, which in turn means you behave the same way leading to the same result. If you are too busy to make meaningful connections or lack confidence in picking up the phone to talk to people, those thoughts will quite possibly be running around and around gathering momentum.
How does your thinking set you up for each new day? What are you broadcasting to yourself, about yourself? Are your thoughts about yourself complimentary, critical, doubtful or do you not even know? The same questions can be enlightening when focusing on your work or other relationships.
THINK OF OTHERS
I put this in here because not only does helping someone else enable us to forget about problems we may be having and feel grateful for what we have; it also keeps us connected with others. Being able to make a difference for someone else is one sure fire way of maintaining meaningful connections.
Instead of focusing on your own weaknesses, volunteer to mentor, assist or teach another, and you’ll see your confidence and connections grow automatically in the process.
This is one of the most powerful exercises I’ve learned for attracting abundance into your life and will work just as well for attracting meaningful connections. The best way to tell you about this is to encourage you to try it.
For the next seven days, start your day by writing down 10 things you are grateful for, preferably relating to your associations with people. Then write down the energy you want to attract into your day. For instance, you could write Abundance, or Clarity, Peace, Joy, Fun, Calm, stillness, connection, humour, mindfulness, insight, magic.
Gratitude really is the magic ingredient to attracting all you want into your life.
As a human race we are designed to connect. We crave deeper connections and more meaningful relationships. We were not born to be alone.
How much is our increasing isolation impacting on the way we think about ourselves and our mental health in general.
It is through meaningful connections that we feel needed, feel like we are contributing and that we have a purposeful place in our world.
Do one thing this week to reach out and connect in person with your fellow humans; your colleagues, family and friends. Let’s all make a choice to make a change, for the better.