I think a lot about what makes people happy, and what makes us unhappy. The Documentary Happy offers three basic elements of human happiness; learning and growing, contributing to the benefit of others, and collaboration/participation with others.
I'm particularly intrigued by that last one. What does it mean to collaborate and why does that seem to be diminishing in our everyday lives? In her book, the Soul of Money Lynne Twist writes about collaboration in a way that inspires me. She talks about collaboration vs. hierarchy. Collaboration means valuing what everyone brings to the table. Hierarchy includes judgements about better than/less than which leave a residue of ickiness on both sides. When people are helped rather than collaborated with it leaves them feeling less than, incapable and more dependent on others.
So much of our everyday interactions can be reduced to either hierarchy or a kind of transactionalism that reduces us to pure functions rather than people. We have all had the experience of buying something from a clerk with whom we did not get any eye contact, they were simply there to take our money and we were there to fulfill our function as a consumer. It can be a dehumanizing, though efficient, experience.
What are the ways to get healthy human collaboration and participation? Team sports is one. Social dancing is another good one. Theater arts like improv and acting is one of my favorites. Singing and playing music together. Projects done together like gardening, home improvement or preparing and eating a meal. Games of any kind. Discussions.
The HearMe app is a new and unique way to experience collaboration and participation. The peer to peer aspect takes out hierarchy. There is no expert in the room, we are simply two human beings connecting and it is one person's turn to listen and respond while it is the other persons turn to express and be heard. We participate and contribute simply by showing up and being willing to share openly with one another. Our contribution comes from trusting the fact that who we are, the life experiences we have lived through and the wisdom of our own interpretations has value. I don’t know about you, but that has been, as sometimes still is, difficult for me to really grasp and trust. I have to keep reminding myself and putting myself in the situations that affirm it for myself. It is vulnerable sometimes and takes a bit of a leap of faith.
Here’s what I keep discovering iIt’s like we are all walking around with a unique perspective inside of us that is a resource to someone else. Most of the time we can’t see the value of it. We aren’t qualified because we have been too busy living our lives and increasing the value of the asset that we are to see outside of it. To us, it is just what’s happening. We don't know anything different. I remember the first time I realized there were people in the world who had never seen snow. I grew up in Minnesota and snow was a fact of life, and not always a fun one. Sometimes it was a real drag - something I didn’t have a choice about but just had to deal with. Not until I realized that large parts of the world only ever see it on TV did I comprehend how magical snow would be to someone who had never experienced it. I think every individual is like that. The facts of our life which create our perspective, and our challenges, can be magical to someone else. They are seeing it with fresh eyes and it is brand new. It is easy for them to see the magic and wonder in our unique and precious life.
The thing that unites us is that we are all human, which means that on the most basic level, we can relate. What we have learned from our experiences is relevant to another human being because it has impacted us as a human being. What we share brings a fresh new perspective that can create a huge shift in awareness for someone else. The same goes for how we see one another. None of us can see our own face unless we look in a mirror. When someone reflects back to us how they see us, we get a new perspective on ourselves than the one bouncing around in our heads 24/7. Their reflection of us is valid and often much more accurate than the one we have inside. Especially if we have been open and honest with this person. Then we know that what they are reflecting back is based on our authentic self.
When we’ve had an interaction with another human being in which both parties have shared openly and honestly we are engaging in a kind of collaboration. We have a shared intention of lightening our load, getting a fresh perspective and feeling more connected. We come together as equal participants and leave being more in touch with the unique value of who we are as individuals. Creating that, in itself, is a contribution to the greater good. When we see our own value, we show up as valuable and we share what we have to offer wherever we are. And this creates more happiness :).