In this fast-paced sea of distraction, we call life, staying focused on what truly matters can be a daily grind. Grind you say? Yes, grind, if you give what truly matters the same level of priority as you do every other mind-numbing activity and task that you feel responsible for. Even what truly matters can seem like a drudge. Are you busy? Why? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Why today, when we have so many time-saving apps, gadgets, processes, and programs do we feel more overwhelmed than ever before? I bet, if we take a deeper look and challenge our current lifestyles we will find a lot of waste and a chance to make things more meaningful.
This is a subject that truly speaks to my heart. Encouragementology is the practice of instilling hope. I created this idea and trademarked the name to make it stand out and I practice it daily to make it real. It’s important to me to connect with people and pursue my mission of helping others connect and receive the benefits of group dynamics.
I have been leading support-style groups for over two years. It wasn’t my first intention. At the time I was creating a way to help women get back in the workforce. I have been a professional person my whole career and knew I had the skills to create resumes, help with interview strategies, attire, motivation, and so on. I collected donations to build a professional women’s closet and I scheduled my first workshop.
That event and that day really set the tone for everything I’ve done to date. As I was taking one of the ladies home that night she got out of my car, turned to me and said, “thank you for making me feel so good about myself today”. That statement opened my eyes. What truly mattered was encouragement. Until that point, I thought I was giving them something they needed like technical help, knowledge, tangible resources, etc. But it was far more than that. We, myself and my volunteers took the time and poured into them what they needed, encouragement. They needed to know they were capable and that someone believed in them before anything else made sense.
We talk a lot about self-motivation, keep calm & carry on, just do it! But first, you have to be encouraged to believe that any of that is possible.
I wanted more. There must be other workshops to reach more people so I created Women Connect. The original intention of this group was to get women together to talk and see what else they might want to know or have help with. That first meeting we had 18 women and what I found was another revelation, they didn’t want anything, just a chance to get together and share with each other. Women Connect in itself is what they wanted. That was over two years ago and we still meet every other Tuesday like clockwork. Each meeting I create a through-provoking topic, deliver some ideas and then everyone has a chance to share. We don’t talk about the weather or politics or anything else that you might share on the surface. We share our goals, dreams, challenges, failures, and successes. When you are a part of something you feel a part of something with a purpose. This group is there for each other and even though everyone goes back to their own lives and careers during the rest of the week, you know you are a part of something deeper, a support system who genuinely cares.
I tell you all this not to toot my horn for such a great idea but to say connections are what matter. Not how many Facebook friends you have or twitter followers, but real-life connections. Your family, true friends, the people you encounter, your co-workers who you spend almost every waking hour with, your neighbors who boarder your daily life, the grocery store clerk who you’ve seen twice a week for a decade. These people all matter and you have an opportunity to reach them in a unique way. Just talk to them. Nurture your human connections and communication. Make it a priority.
Back in the day (I realize that term is so subjective but that’s part of the fun) we used to visit people. We would clean up the kids, bake a pie, load up in the wagon or car (whichever) and go visit someone for a day. The kids would play, we would catch-up on life, share stories, have plenty of laughter and after a good long visit, we would go home.
Then the phone was invented and we started viewing “staying in contact” a little differently. We called to check-up on a regular basis. Birthday calls, holiday calls, good wishes, sympathy, etc. We were missing so many of these important calls we created an answering machine to catch them.
Then we developed texting. Quicker communication that was less invasive. We went from catch-up to a check-up to a check-in. These messages used to be limited to 140 characters but that wasn’t long enough to express our true sentimental or aggressive meaning so now they are unlimited. To add more life and emotion to our string of acronyms, we developed emoticons and loosened our constraints on punctuation. Today a 140 character text message would feel like morse code.
My goal here is not to bash technology. I’ve worked remotely for my company for the last 6 years and couldn’t do what I do daily without technology. I have kept up with people I went to school with, worked with, and met while on vacation. I’ve shared ideas, important moments, support, and laughter that would have never reached as far. With all the positive, I’ve witnessed negative. I’m continually looking for the quick and the easy, I get annoyed when something takes a fraction longer, I skim instead of reading, I can’t stay focused on one thing for too long, I’m nosey worrying what others are up to, and I buy into this illusion that I’m SO BUSY.
I realize aspects of technology save me time, help me stay connected on the fly, and provide an endless data bank of information. I also know that technology distracts me, eliminates the need for critical thinking and problem solving, and makes me lazy. If it weren’t for auto-correct my emails would look like a third-grader sent them. I can feel my brain rushing through, knowing that spellcheck will pick it up if I can just get close enough.
Enough! A better camera and a faster network are not going to solve this, it’s only going to make it worse. How fast is fast enough? Isn’t life already zooming by at unimaginable speeds? How clearly do you need your selfie, you already have every possible filter invented? Enough is enough. We can’t accept this behavior and our impatience as normal or we lower the bar beyond recognition. How much lower can it go? I for one, don’t care to know.
You have the power to make a significant impact on the world every day if you step outside of yourself and look around. Every day we transfer our energy to those we come in contact with. This doesn’t happen through technology but out in the real world when you look at another human being, when you smile, and when you talk. Just as you can transfer energy, you can absorb energy.
What kind of energy do you want to share and receive? You wake up late, frustrated by your schedule and things that were left undone yesterday. You turn on the news or worse, scroll your social feeds and let yourself sink into a sea of negativity which just adds to your increasingly horrible mood. Now you go out and meet your first person, what do you think that energy attack will look like? They might have been one of those few who look for gratitude first thing and now they are infected with your negative energy.
Or…….you wake up with optimism ready to embrace the day. A new day full of new possibilities! You think about all the things you GET to experience today and it helps to fuel your positive energy. You avoid being pulled into gossip and negative opinions all the while harnessing your power. Your first encounter will look much different than the aforementioned. Your intentional and happy to connect. Your positive energy washes over them and no matter where they are in their day and how they feel, they are impacted in a positive way. You’ve changed the trajectory of their day. Now they have the opportunity to pass it on, and so on, and so on.
CHALLENGE: Push back when life seems out of control and lean-in to human connections. Make time for what truly matters in your life, nurture your relationships, and create space to enjoy the world around you.
I Know YOU Can Do It!
Technology Facts and Stats from Orleans Marketing
Emily Drago published a study on the Effects of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication.