“Connections matter. Strong ties with family, friends and the community provide us with happiness, security, support and a sense of purpose.” - Beyondblue
As I’m sure is the case with everyone, I’ve experienced an array of both good times and bad times throughout my life; the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
During the bad times, I’ve always shied away from talking to anyone about what I was going through as I only ever wanted people to see the best of me. Despite having an incredibly strong bond with my parents, this even extended to them when I lived overseas for 3 years. For the most part, we would speak every weekend, but then there were other times when they wouldn’t hear from me for months, even though I knew that speaking to them about whatever was going on would help me to get through it and not hearing from me would have been worrying them sick. When we eventually did speak, they always put my mind at ease, and I regretted not reaching out sooner.
Equally, I’ve never been the one to organise catch ups, and have often avoided or flatly refused invitations from my friends in favour of doing my own thing, even when my own thing was often nothing. That being said, when I do actually spend time with my friends in person, I always have a great time and enjoy the laughter, companionship and connection that it brings.
Unfortunately, failing to take that first step, to reach out and ask for support or to even just to spend time together catching up, became a habit. A really bad habit that set me up to contend with all future struggles on my own. It was entirely unnecessary, and it meant that anything I went through was drawn out for longer than it could have been had I just asked for help.
And then 2020 came along…
(I know it’s the year everyone wants to leave behind, I’m sure we’d all like to firmly close that COVID-19 book!)
Working from home became the “new normal” (How many times did you hear that phrase?). Working from home had always been a dream of mine that I thought would never come true. Then my dream became a reality...
There I was, set up from home with my indoor plants watching over me, coming to terms with the likes of Teams and Zoom, while the world outside was seemingly falling to pieces. It took me all of about a week to figure out that working from home is not the dream I thought it would be. I realised that my energy, enthusiasm and excitement for life is born out of the interactions I have with the people around me (friends, family, colleagues, the people I smile at when walking down the street on my lunch break, and the unfortunate few that I start awkward conversations with when we’re stuck in an elevator together) that I had taken for granted for so long. To really drive this point home, I got to experience the extended, increased restrictions of living through stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, and I’m not ashamed to say that it nearly broke me.
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.” Albert Einstein
I learnt a lot from my experience throughout lockdown and I’m excited about the year ahead, filled with new opportunities and a much greater understanding of what makes me who I am. Developing and maintaining real connections with people is what I need to do to ensure my happiness and overall wellbeing. Last week I went on a meeting which really confirmed all the things that 2020 had taught me. As my colleague and I strolled through a park, sipping on our coffees, chatting to a client about how he spent his Christmas holidays, his family and all the things he’d been up to over the past couple of weeks. He explained to me that he goes to my colleague for his recruitment needs because of the connection they have developed over time, for my colleague’s understanding of not just his business but who he is as a person. Their connection.
So, while I still find it challenging to reach out when I’m going through a rough patch, I’m making this the year of connection. For me, it could be as simple as answering my phone instead of ignoring a call from a friend, accepting the invitations that come my way and putting myself out there a bit more.
Connection is at the core of our basic needs; it’s how we build strong relationships both in business and our personal lives, and it really is all in the 'how' you nurture those connections.
If this resonates with you when reflecting on your personal relationships, follow my lead, because the one thing I do know for sure is that life is less challenging, more meaningful, and much happier when you don’t try to do it alone.
by Leanne Ryan