* 6 minute read *
Occasionally I hear a story in passing of people that I know, that reveals a hidden struggle or challenge that they’ve been facing. I experienced one of these moments yesterday and it reminded me once again how often people can appear to have it together on the surface but in the background be dealing with great challenges and struggling to just hold things together.
The older that I get and the more that I experience life, the more I come to the conclusion that the meaning of life is to connect.
Now, whether you believe as I do that we each share physical and spiritual elements or whether you just acknowledge that we are all made of the same “stuff” (carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms), it’s apparent to me that as Anita Heiss says, we have more in common with each other than we do in difference.
One of the great skills that I’ve been able to develop in the last three years, since I’ve invested in personal growth, has been the ability to connect with people at a deeper level. I owe a lot of this deeper connection to my experiences through Real Education. In this learning environment I’ve been able to share in the deeply personal stories of men and women from diverse backgrounds. The beauty of this environment and hearing the stories of others is the phenomena that occurs when I start to see a little bit of myself in every person’s story. It’s become apparent to me that we each share so many of the same fears and desires for security and love. We have each experienced forms of trauma, have been hurt, have made mistakes and have had to make big decisions.
Travel has also been a wonderful environment for finding connection with strangers from diverse backgrounds. Through travel, I’ve been able to meet with people from all over the world and share in our common desires for connection and exchange and to also observe the importance of love, family, friendship and play across all different societies.
Several months ago I had one of my occasional weird epiphany moments when I was catching the bus to work. The night before I’d had a great conversation with a close friend of mine and we had been talking about this feeling of being connected to everyone we meet and come in contact with. As I sat on the bus that morning I started to look out over the sea of different faces and as I looked into people’s eyes I started to see them as they really were. I saw behind those faces the many generations that had come before them and miracle of their very existence. I saw their hopes and aspirations. I saw their regret and disappointment. I saw each unique individual but I also felt the commonality that connected us all.
Everyone has a story.
This is something I am constantly amazed by. Everyone! I have to remind myself sometimes if my initial instinct is to judge someone on face value or dismiss them. But everyone has a story and I challenge you to find that story with everyone you come into contact with.
One great example in my life has been my connection with the security officer at work, Pat. Pat’s a pretty quiet guy and at first I found him to be a little serious and intimidating. But gradually I started to ask him questions about his life and experiences and he continually amazes me with his life experiences, like how he trained a professional soccer team in Malaysia and ran marathons when he was younger. There is so much reward when we are willing to go deeper into our human interactions.
When we begin to acknowledge that everyone has their own unique story and that each of us is in some way facing a struggle or a battle we can change the way we choose to interpet the behaviour of others. We can start to see people’s behaviour more objectively. Most of the time, if someone overreacts or behaves in a way that makes us uncomfortable, it’s usually not about us. More often than not, this kind of behaviour is a sign that cracks are appearing on the surface and they are stuggling to hold things together.
Do you wish that people could really see you and accept you for who you are? Do you want to live in a world where we unite in our commonalities and share our vulnerabilities?
We can choose to be that change ourselves, but it must start with us. We must choose to be kind, to have empathy, to be patient. We must choose to look others in the eye and find the connection. We must offer our unconditional approval to others first, if we want to feel approval.
But it is completely worth the effort! When we start to connect with everybody in our life at this deeper level our life becomes richer, more meaningful and fulfilling. We all deserve this level of connection.
So, this week I challenge you:
- For the next seven days, to make eye contact with 5 strangers every day. If this is something you’re not accustomed to, it will feel a bit weird and creepy at first but it’s worth pushing through the pain barrier. Also, practice connecting with people you already know in this way.
- If you experience some “interesting” behaviour from a work colleague, friend, family member or complete stranger, before you judge this person too harshly, ask yourself “I wonder what battles or struggles this person is facing and what is going on beneath the surface for them”
- When you are in conversation with someone, practice saying “you have my approval” in your head. This was something that was passed on to me a while ago that I’ve find really useful. By offering our unconditional approval of others first, we attract that same unconditional approval in return.
Til next week, Be Awesome and connect!
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