“Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your heart. Feel the connection with your heart.”
There I was, lying on my mat, after a long day at work. I was ready for a good yoga class. I didn’t expect it to be that good. This simple sentence was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.
Over the last few days, I’ve been feeling wacky. I couldn’t really explain why, but something was off. I was doing my usual routine, getting things done, being in fact even quite efficient. Why was I feeling like that?
This sentence, “Feel the connection with your heart”, put the finger on the issue behind this odd feeling I’ve been caring with me for the past week. In that precise moment, I just couldn’t feel it. Even if I was working on many great projects at the time, I still wasn’t satisfied. It’s not that I was unsatisfied with what I have, but being not unsatisfied is not the same as being satisfied.
That’s what Frederick Herzberg explains with its theory on the motivation to work, the two-factor theory. Some elements in our life are related to our dissatisfaction, or to put it in a more positive perspective, are hygiene factors, that are needed to make us not unsatisfied. If we take the example of work, these factors might include having a good salary, a great work environment, and nice benefits. However, these won’t bring us much satisfaction. We also need motivational factors, such as challenges, being recognized for our accomplishments, developing great relationships with colleagues, etc. , while others may bring us satisfaction. There are two separate things. As for myself, I know that to be satisfied at work, I have to be challenged, I want to develop strong relationships with my team, and I want my work to have some meaning. These things are related to a deep sense of satisfaction at work.
Often, I find that the things that will get us unsatisfied are external and material factors, while what brings us the most satisfaction is related to internal and evanescent factors, and we play a big role in how we define those elements. It’s all about how we choose to give meaning to our actions, and the intentions behind them. Whether it’s about choosing a job, a home, or a boyfriend, we have to go with our heart if we are looking for contentment. Things might look good from a rational point of view, but if your heart isn’t following along the way, then meaning will be hard to find, as well as happiness.
When it comes to real estate, they say that it’s usually about three things: location, location, location. Therefore, when it comes to happiness, I would say it’s also about three things: connections, connections, connections.
Connecting with your close ones
In the longest study on the topic (we are talking here about a 75-year-study!), relationships have been proved to be the one thing that brings true happiness. No matter how much work we do or money we make, connecting with people we cared about is definitely the best way to live a long, healthy and happy life.
That’s what I realize lying on my yoga mat. I was off-balanced. My life was slowly getting more and more intellectualized, as my head was taking over control. I needed to put some heart into my projects, but more importantly, I needed to reinvest myself into my relationships, because that’s what I value the most. When I take care of others, that’s when I feel the best, when then it becomes a virtuous circle. I feel aligned, united, and acting upon what I value makes me love myself more. It’s pretty much like the egg and the chicken: I don’t really know what comes first, loving others or loving myself, but I know that the two go hand by hand.
I have to admit that I’m not always good at it. Sometimes, as I get more and more excited about projects at work or in school, I find myself having trouble investing time in my relationships, even if I know that in the end, it makes me happy. As I believe that when it comes to relationship, quantity matters as much as quality, we have to be conscious of our choices, and realize that no matter how busy we are, if we do not take the time needed to develop strong and meaningful relationships, it will simply not happen.
Connecting with others
We also can benefit a lot from connecting with others outside of our closed circle of loved ones. As Gravonetter demonstrates with his work, there is strength to be found in weak ties. When you develop a broad and diversified network, you get the opportunity to connect with people with different backgrounds and expertise, which can later help you concretise your projects and reach your goals. In this area, the more the better. I believe it’s all about creating that positive momentum around you, a creative and inspirational movement that will not only help you but also help others achieve their ambition. In fact, it has to go both ways, it’s all about giving as much as you are receiving, and it is that idea of an exchange that will lead to the creation of a strong and creative community. A beautiful example of that kind of exchange is the heart-to-heart business model proposed by the Trust coffee shop in Amsterdam, which I fell in love with.
Connecting with yourself
And last, but not least, we often forget that one of the most important relationships we have to take care of in our lives are the relationship we have with ourselves. As I’ve mentioned, investing time into my relationships is one way to connect with myself as well, and feel great about who I am. However, in order to be able to give presence, I need to also take care of myself.
Practicing being better human beings is also about being able to eventually love ourselves as much as we love others, since it all starts from there. Then we can find a way to generate some compassion for all beings.
“In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.” – Pema Chodron, Tonglen: Bad In, Good Out
There is a lot of room from improvement in that area for me. I still need to figure out the sweet spot between the boredom I feel when I am under-challenged and the pressure I put on myself when I get into some projects. It’s all about developing a compassionate heart and an ease of mind to go through current and future experiences. What a beautiful practice, one that, for sure, I don’t mind being a student at for the rest of my life.