On day 191 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I focused on connecting.
Simply put, connections are links between two or more things. And when we think about connections in terms of relationships, quality certainly trumps quantity.
On Day 2 of this self-care challenge, I chose “connection” as my mantra for 2016. It was my intention to create new connections throughout the year, as well as make an effort to nurture existing ones.
Part of the reason I chose that intention is that I’m not what you might call an outgoing person. I’m an introvert, and I enjoy spending time alone reading, writing and contemplating. But that’s not always a good thing.
Social events and networking meetings tend to be pretty uncomfortable for me, but because I understand the value of supportive relationships, I realized that I needed to do something different. I had to find a way to create meaningful connections while still being true to myself and honoring my need for solitude.
Soon after leaving my job in 2015 to take a year-long sabbatical, I realized that I had done a poor job in the area of making connections. I had gotten trapped in the cyclical, time-demanding work-week that by the time the weekend rolled around, I used that time to recharge my batteries rather than reaching out to make new friends.
I mean, that’s the reality for most middle-aged adults (and even more so for those who are raising families or caring for ill family members), isn’t it? In some cases, we reach a point where we have nothing left to give; I get it.
Since I had the time, I’ve made connecting a priority. I’ve sent hand-written letters via snail mail. I’ve scheduled lunches and get-togethers with friends that I hadn’t seen in years. And I’ve traveled across the country to spend quality time with family. It’s hard to put into words how nourishing that was for my soul.
That is the kind of connecting I’m talking about – not the passive exchange of business cards that happens during many professional networking meetings. I’m talking about authentic connections. The kind that doesn’t involve multi-tasking or glancing over your shoulder while you’re talking to one person, while you’re simultaneously deciding who to chat with next. I’m talking about the kind of connections that enable us to truly give something of ourselves to others–even if it’s just a friendly ear.
My self-care activity for the day focused on both of those areas: making new connections and nurturing existing ones.
Honestly, it isn’t all that easy anymore. Social media has allowed us to make more casual acquaintances than previous generations. And I admit it: I’ve never even met some of my virtual connections on LinkedIn face-to-face. Some are friends of friends, and others are folks who share a common job title or personal interest. Some I interact with; some I don’t.
Making new connections has required me to be outgoing – not something that’s necessarily in my wheelhouse. It has required me to have conversations with strangers, and to ask my existing network for introductions to those in their network.
Making real connections with others requires our full, undivided attention. A real connection isn’t as simple as clicking an “accept” button to add a virtual friend to our virtual network. These real relationships, whether they are just beginning or have been nurtured over a period of decades, make our lives richer.
How rich is your network?