My friend (and meQuilibrium chief scientist) Andrew Shatté has made a life study of the power of connection. Through his research, Andrew has consistently found that each of us have different levels of connection in our personal and public lives, which escalate from Level One, where the connection tends to be individual and somewhat mechanical (at work, some of us say we’re only in it for the paycheck and benefits; in life, we’re focused on our own needs and goals), to Level Two, where we take a broader view (at work, we enjoy what we do, the challenge, and the people we work with; in life, we increasingly connect with and take pleasure in our families).
According to Andrew’s research, by the time we reach Levels Three and Four of connection, we are interested in something much larger than ourselves: at work, we feel we’re contributing to the greater good; in life, we feel like we’re a part of something enduring – like our communities, our country, or even our faith. This may be ‘religious’, but it need not be in any orthodox sense. The importance of these escalating levels of connection, however, are clear in Andrew’s findings. People who are more connected in life report greater life satisfaction, and show much greater resilience, meaning that they bounce back from adversity more quickly and easily.
Last week, I had a powerful lesson in the power of connection when I attended the funeral of my wonderful Aunt Joyce. Aunt Joyce, who died suddenly and way too young a few weeks ago, was one of the most joyful, fun-loving, and caring people I have ever known. She’s always been that way — smiling, joking, laughing, hugging, helping. As a child, I remember saying to my mother, “It’s great when Joyce gets here, it’s like an instant party”. Had that been her legacy, it would have been plenty, because she was adored by an ever-larger circle of friends and family.
For the past 20 years, though, my aunt belonged to a charismatic Christian megachurch. Her church, housed in a handsome converted modern office building in Harrisburg, PA, couldn’t have been more different than the conservative Presbyterian churches my family has attended for the last century or more. Her new church suited Aunt Joyce to a T: expressive in many ways, with joyous music provided by a five-piece rock band on an elevated stage, a powerful but gentle lead vocalist who reminded us of a young Stevie Wonder. The lyrics to each song were projected on two big screens so everyone — everyone — could sing along. The congregation numbers over 2000 strong, and my first thought was, wow, even Aunt Joyce could get lost in a crowd that big. How wrong I was.
What was immediately evident from the stream of well-wishers who took the microphone was how Aunt Joyce had touched her community. As a leader in the church’s youth programs, she’d been voted the “most popular” by the children she cared for — by more than 1000 votes over the next nominee. Person after person stood up to share how Joyce had made them laugh, helped them in a time of need, or touched their lives in some deeply meaningful way.
I immediately saw two things: first, that my Aunt Joyce had truly found her place and connected on every possible level, and in so doing, had both found a deep kind of satisfaction in her own life, and had had an enormous impact on the lives of others.
I also could see something profound in the reaction of her mourners: they had found great comfort in their own connection, to my aunt and to their community, and that this connection was carrying them through a hard time. Like me, they would miss Joyce’s laugh, her simple joyousness — but they also were comforted by celebrating a life truly well lived that had touched so many others.
Andy Knight, meQuilibrium Product Team
People who are more connected in life report greater life satisfaction, and show much greater resilience, meaning that they bounce back from adversity more quickly and easily.