I remember the old days of connecting to the internet via dial-up. I would hear the electronic sounds and wait, then wait some more, then viola' I was connected. (I probably waited much longer than that!) Once the connection went through, relief and some joy that I was able to proceed. It was a bit clunky and failed more times than not. It reminds me of connecting to each other, sometimes difficult to understand and how I may go about navigating a difficult situation. What's right for me, may not be right for you. Successful connections are what makes my life meaningful.
Let’s look at the definition of connection: “Human connection is the sense of closeness and belongingness a person can experience when having supportive relationships with those around them. Connection is when two or more people interact with each other and each person feels valued, seen, and heard.” I think this definition is so important.
I recall some of my work with homeless people and how we are to treat those asking for money on the side of the road. I found myself more times than not, trying to ignore them. Studies show that what they really want is to be seen, like eye-to-eye contact. These days, even if I have nothing to give, I try to make sure I make eye contact with them. It’s the least (and maybe most important) thing I can do.
I come from a privileged background. I never once worried about not having food. I never wondered where I would sleep at night. I always had new presents for Christmas and birthdays. I always seemed to have reliable transportation to get me around. I lived and grew up in a safe suburban neighborhood. I was able to afford college and graduated. I got a job and profession straight out of college. I knew I had things better than others. I still do. Age has its consequences, but I know I’m better-off than so many other people and I’m grateful. I’m not sure that defines being better-off defines my “success”.
I think my success is tied to what I want my legacy to be. What is the purpose of our lives. I grew up going to a Christian church every Sunday. Those values continue to define me. It’s about how we treat each other. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve failed miserably over the years in treating others the way I would want to be treated. I think my biggest regrets are my disconnected relationships with others. I go over and over what I did, and what I could have or should have done differently. For me, those are hard to move on from. My training in Emotional Intelligence and Neuroscience challenges me on the importance of meaningful connections. Neuroscience tells me how those connections are important to a healthy brain and EI advises me on how I can go about making and continuing meaningful connections.
These days, I pay attention to servers at a check-out line. Thanking them and calling them by their name. I want to make sure that they see that customers can treat them with respect. It makes a difference. I know because I work part-time in a major retail store and it matters to me when people take the time to find out my name. I believe my success lies in others. My co-workers know they matter to me and I appreciate them.
We each have our own way of defining success. It is my intention to leave people better than how I found them. Being kind is how I tend to start. Making sure people are seen, heard, and valued makes so much sense to me. It’s what I want from others, and I hope people know that their contribution to this world is important. If we can all help people become the best version of themselves, think of the power we collectively yield to make this world a better place.
I’m not about to think that I have the only or best way forward, but I know it feels right to me. If I can make someone’s life just a little better, I feel like I’ve been successful. What does “success” mean to you in your life?