The language you use to describe something represents your thinking about the topic.
The importance of this principle comes through when examining how you approach creating positive changes in life.
If you’re unhappy with your work, you might say you’re trying to get a new job.
If you’re single, you might say you’re trying to get yourself a girl/guy.
Or if you’re looking to grow your business, you may say you’re trying to get more clients.
You may notice a pattern here: it’s a mindset of acquisition. This mindset prevails in today’s society, but can actually lead to added stress and worse outcomes.
That’s because anything involving relationships with others is not about acquisition. It’s about connection.
The Difference Between Acquisition and Connection
With acquisition, one party is active and the other is passive.
For example, when you buy a new pair of shoes, the shoes don’t care who you are or what you do. They won’t object when you put them on your feet. They’re passive!
But connection is fundamentally different because it involves two active parties that both care about the outcome. Whether you’re looking for a job, dating, or trying to grow your business, you can’t just acquire the people involved in those decisions…You need to establish connections! This means creating a direct link between you and another person, where both sides are all in.
The Upside of Great Connections
Great connections fuel excitement and joy on both sides!
This energy is the result of clear alignment of value, and an understanding of what each side represents and is bringing to the relationship.
This happens when:
- You understand who you are and what you’re interested in
- They understand who they are and what they’re interested in
- You both act and share with openness, honesty, and candor
But since you can’t control how anyone acts but you, all you have to focus on is:
- Understanding yourself clearly
- Expressing yourself authentically
Of course, this is easier said than done.
The Challenge of Understanding Yourself Clearly
If you are unclear of what matters to you most, it’s difficult to know what a great connection with someone else looks like.
That also means it’s hard for you to express yourself authentically. Which makes it hard for the other party to understand you.
Developing self-understanding takes place over the course of time. It’s a dynamic process, because you’re always developing, learning, and growing!
To understand yourself more clearly over time, make a habit of:
- Paying attention to what lights you up, and what brings you down.
- Experimenting with and trying new things.
- Writing and journaling about your life. Identifying your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and opportunities.
- Practicing meditation to see your thoughts and feelings as they are, without judgment.
- Prioritizing time for structured reflection on what matters most to you. What are your priorities in life? What do you value?
The Challenge of Expressing Yourself Authentically
It’s one thing to understand yourself clearly.
It’s an entirely different thing to put that self out in the open, and live as your true self! Doing so is a vulnerable act. By putting yourself “out there”, you open yourself to rejection and criticism in all shapes and forms.
To avoid feeling vulnerable, many people choose to never share their true selves with others. They ignore their natural inclinations in an effort to fit in, and avoid rejection.
This path feels “safe” at first…if you never share your true self with others, nobody can ever reject you! But in reality, this is the most dangerous path, because you close yourself off to making authentic connections.
You can move past these fears by doing two things:
- Staying focused on the big picture
- Focusing on what you can control
1. Optimizing for the Big-Picture Goal: Authentic Connections
The goal of creating authentic connections is bigger than any one individual connection.
Staying focused on the big picture means letting go of the desire for any one connection to come through. Do this by embracing that there will always be more opportunities out there for you. The world is abundant!
When you feel attached to a specific outcome (e.g. I need to get this client…or, I need this to like me!) it shifts your focus from connecting to acquiring.
Instead of acting authentically, you’ll feel pressured to shift your actions. You may act out of integrity to get some short-term benefits.
2. Focusing on What’s in Your Control: Your Actions
You can never control how someone will react to you. So why not express your truest self and give them a clear understanding of who you are and what you’re about?
In the moment, when you’re face-to-face with someone, get present to the experience. Know that putting your best foot forward is all you can ever do. Just focus on that.
Worrying how they’ll react means you’re overdosing on the future. Come back to the present and be your awesome self.
Align Your Mindset
It’s fine to have an acquisition mindset while shopping. But when you’re doing anything that involves other people, align your mindset to match the situation.
When you bring an acquisition mindset to a connection opportunity, negative concepts are likely to surface:
- Ego: “It’s all on me. If I don’t get this, it must mean I’m no good…”
- Scarcity: “This is my only chance…”
- Attachment: “I need this to come through or else I’m screwed…”
- Control/Deception: “I’ll do whatever it takes to get this…”
But aligning your connection mindset with the situation grounds you in positive forces:
- Clear-Seeing/Ownership: “It’s not all on me. If it doesn’t work out, it might be because I have incomplete information about their side of things.”
- Abundance: “There will be many other opportunities!”
- Non-attachment: “If this doesn’t come through, I know I’ll be 100% okay.”
- Freedom: “I can’t control them, so I’ll just put my best foot forward.”
By taking steps to develop greater self-understanding, and overcome fears of vulnerability, you can set the stage to create authentic connections.
With a connection mindset, the process of “putting yourself out there” becomes much less stressful. And it sets the stage for much better outcomes: mutually-beneficial relationships where everyone involved is all-in.