Yesterday was one of those days, just filled with deep connections where I got to be vulnerable and share with a colleague on his and my personal growth edges. A day where my conscious co-working compadres and I discussed the real friction and sadness of balancing kids and entrepreneurship.  A day where I was able to participate in a passionate and personal neighborhood action committee around ending local pesticide use by vineyards. 

It was a day of many meaningful connections. One that gave me so much regenerative energy it was impossible to get tired.  And so when I was asked this morning,

“How do you manage to create deep and meaningful connections in your everyday life?”

I realized the need to properly articulate the key ingredients  I have found to be useful; a way to reorient how to look at the alignment of our intentions, actions, and values to create more authentic connections, and ultimately live a more authentic life?

A Framework for Meaningful Connection & Social Well-Being

I like to think about Social Wellness as an overarching structure that holds all the needs we have as humans for connection (not to be confused with “connection”  from texting, Instagram likes, casual chat about the fall feeling like summer or last night’s game, etc.) Meaningful connection. One that gives us energy and sustains us during difficult moments. One that makes us feels that we are part of something and not alone in our feelings or tribulations.

Most of us don’t know how to address the need and desire to have such meaningful connections or feel too trapped in the current commitments, workday busyness or poor daily habits of disconnected behavior (read phone, TV, headset on our walk).

Yet, it is possible.  Very possible to re-orient toward those every day satiating connections. It takes a little time but there are a few small steps you can take, along with a slight shift in mindset. Here’s the framework that you can use to create a meaningful connection:

Pillar 1:  Connecting to Self – Grounding & Presence

Connection happens when we feel calm, confident and grounded in our own being.  A place where we don’t enter a conversation or interaction with any need. A place that has deep-rooted self-love.  A sense of self-awareness that can feel when things are off and explore the whys openly, without worrying about what will be found beneath the surface. For many, this happens with a mindfulness or meditation practice: a way to start, end and break up our day with moments of checking in and breaking free of the things happening around.  A time to ground and find our own self.

The Challenge:  Overcoming and Naming Our Blocks

Part of the journey in becoming more grounded and present is to identify what is holding us back from being in that place of great ease and flow. For many, it usually means there is something they need to process and get through, as well as let go. The act of surrendering to something greater and letting go of the need to control an outcome or blame someone/something is very hard. But so many times, when our minds race on a particular situation or when we find ourselves continually falling back to the same thought over and over again, we actually have a block that needs to be openly discussed, processed … and simply let go of.

Pillar 2:  Deepening our Capacity for Connecting to Other – Caring and Opening

One of the biggest challenges I had as a business leader was to develop the capacity to care: so many times my eye was on “the prize” and on the desire to  “growing the company”. As if that was the noblest and heroic thing I could do. How utterly false that was. Is. And always will be. After running 5 companies, I assure you that such a mindset puts your quality of life, let alone connections to others, in a very bad place.  Regardless of monetary outcomes. 

We need to build the muscle of compassion and care. One that prioritizes time getting to know and connect with a co-worker or new friend. This is not about creating small 30 minute windows on our calendar to talk at or feign listening to the other. Transactional exchanges (wanting something from someone) are unfortunately how so many of our interactions go. We must enter each conversation or interaction with an open and curious heart. If we don’t go in open we won’t be authentic:  we will just be acting out a role and protect our ego. Be open to vulnerability. Let go of the need to be the person who is always right and who makes no mistakes. Have NO AGENDA. Be open, curious and caring. It takes time.

The Challenge:  Prioritizing Connection over transacting or being right

If we are able to observe our thoughts (aka what Eckhart Tolle calls “watching the thinker,”) we will see how often we enter a meeting or conversation with the goal of our opinions to be heard, a true ego desire to be right,  and/or wanting something (even notice when we pretend to listen with care). Practice entering a conversation with an open intent to connect.

Pillar 3:  Sustaining Every Day Connection  – Build Routine, Ritual, and Community

This is about creating an everyday routine that puts you in places, spaces and moments that allow for meaningful connection.  Intentionality to who you meet with. How you meet.  The focus of your conversation or lunch together is also critical.  

We tend to wake up with our phone (non-humanoid),  and in our house (no outside connection), get in our car (no humans there either) and go to work where we say “Hi!” to a few folks and sit in out cube/office (another non-human box) and then wearily go home in our box (car), arrive too tired to connect with family/friends (with only desire of eating and relaxing) and then back to the phone, turn on the TV or Netflix and off to sleep.

Where’s the connection suppose to happen?  We are not giving ourselves a chance to do so. Perhaps you can think about 2 places or people you can be very intentional to connect today.  And then think about weekly and monthly rituals like neighborhood potlucks, taking a ride with a good friend or just a walk with a family member just to talk in nature. It can make all the difference.

The Challenge:  Overcoming modern-day orientation towards business, distraction, and non-human interaction.

How can we find the purpose of our own lives?  This question cannot be answered without having a conversation about the spiritual life ( this might scare away some of you so I’ll leave it for another post). But the lack of connection to the greater universe, as well as to our Earth and land we need to look after, is a large part of what is causing so much pain in the world and our individual lives. We need it to address it and pay attention to it. 

Stay Connected to others and the Greater. Your life and everyone around you depends on it.