Connecting with Others Is Essential for Living a Meaningful Life

People are so focused on becoming the best version of themselves that they forget to pay attention to their relationships with others. Dr. Clark Chilson believes that the sense of connection gives people a sense of meaning. Thus, it's also vital to give importance to our relationships.

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Connecting with other people is fundamental

Clark: The way the world largely works, as I see it today is there's a lot of emphasis on the individual trying to make themselves feel good. And the ways that people try to do that are often not conducive to their well-being.

They try to make themselves feel good by just being around people who they like being around. Or doing things that make them feel good. There's this concept that's really kind of taken off, called self-care, right? 

And when I ask students, because my students are much younger than me, I ask students, what does self-care entail? Like, what are your self care strategies? And almost everything they tell me is like things they're going to do by themselves: I'm going to take a bath, I'm going to take a nap, I'm going to buy myself some really nice shoes or something.

And so they come up with all these activities which are very self focused. And maybe one way we can do better self-care is by being with other people in richer ways.

Nick: That really speaks to me the other day on a Twitter thread that got a lot of comments. It was this theme of self-reliance and the power of being independent, and it was getting all these positive responses.

I was pretty tempted to say, hang on, we're not as independent as we'd like to believe we are, and we're very much dependent on the service or help of other people. 

To pride ourselves and being I can do it all by myself, I don't need help; I'm not sure that there is some positivity to that we should be self reliant. But I actually love the Japanese word for self,  they have many words for self, but that word, Jibun 自分 , where you realise from the kanji, you yourself, but you're a part.

And you are a part of a community or a neighbourhood of community, a country, the world. And we're trying, as you pointed out, to be by ourselves thinking that's the answer to our problems. 

And just the other day, like, five days ago, I went to toastmasters for the first time. And so I thought, I'm being a bit vulnerable, I'm exposing myself to something new. I met all these people and had a fantastic time, and I can't wait to go back in two weeks.

It didn't cost any money, I didn't have to really do anything other than walk in a room and start talking to people and start learning something new. And that was probably the highlight of my week. So I think you're right, we need to spend time with more people and people maybe we don't know -- new people.

Clark: The sense of connection usually gives people a sense of meaning. And so connecting with other people, I think is really fundamental, even if it's only one other person, as in the case of your father, and I suspect that he may have had other relationships through work, even if they were not friends, but certainly we have to take care of other people through work and other things. 

But connecting with other people is fundamental to living a meaningful life. And if we feel like we're not connected with other people, if the only reason we're living for is to kind of feed our desires, we're going to feel pretty lonely, there's just not much meaning in that.