Engaging with others is part of living a truly great life. After all, surrounding ourselves with others and building our connections is one of the ways we learn and grow.
Our connections to one another are ingrained in our very humanity.
As the saying goes, no man is an island. If we want to tap into our personal power and reach our highest potential, we need support from others. We need to become more engaged with our friends, allies, and the people we encounter.
But what does engaging with others really mean? We hear advice about becoming more engaged at work, more engaged socially, more engaged with our communities…but many people aren’t sure where to start. What does it really mean to engage?
To reach our fullest potential, we need to understand ourselves, our environment, our career, and our lives. To gain a deeper, fuller understanding, we must dive in and engage.
When we’re engaged, we’re more present, more aware, more mindful, and conscious of what’s going on around us. Engaged people are in touch with what drives them and propels them forward. They’ve identified their yearnings and are working to fulfill them.
No matter what we’re doing in life, we can explore the deeper yearning driving us. For example, I speak up because I yearn to matter. I go to school because I yearn for accomplishments. I’m expressing myself because I yearn to create.
There is a deeper why—a longing of the heart—propelling us toward most of our activities. As we explore those yearnings and deep drivers, we gain an understanding of ourselves. We also gain a deeper understanding of other people and their yearnings.
Engaging is exciting! In fact, engaging has a ripple effect throughout our lives—every area becomes more enriching and juicier as you become more engaged. You’ll face greater challenges, you’ll tackle new endeavors, you’ll reach for new heights. As you engage, you’ll discover new aspects of yourself you didn’t realize existed and you’ll find more joy and satisfaction in your activities.
This sounds pretty great, right? You’re probably thinking, “I want more of that!” So why do we get so much out of engaging with others and following our urges? How do we become better engagers?
To understand why engaging with others is so powerful, we should understand engagement exists on a continuum.
On one side of the engagement continuum, there’s the person who’s not listening at all. Imagine grunts, uh-huh, yup, nope, and yeah: the most minimal answers possible and extremely low to no engagement.
Then as you move across the continuum, you get the typical “small talk”:
What about all this rain?
Thank goodness it’s Friday, right?
Did you see the game this weekend?
Not exactly groundbreaking conversation, right? Small talk is simply words to fill up the silence. It is used when someone wants deeper engagement but isn’t sure of the approach. It may simply be used when someone isn’t comfortable with the situation, like in an elevator, on the train, at the grocery store…
As we get further across the engagement continuum we start to see where true engagement happens. These are the moments when we’re truly engaging with others. We’re in touch with them. We’re connected. We’re fully present and conscious.
On farthest end of the continuum is transformative engagement. This is when a person says, “I’m in touch with myself. I’m in touch with you. I’m in touch with the yearnings of the world around us.” You discover yourself in the engagement and recognize those around you. This true state of intimacy happens when you challenge yourself to know every single part of who you are.
Engagement and intimacy are intertwined. The more engaged we are, the more intimate and close our connection. Engagement gives us greater personal power and influence. When we interact with others, they feel seen, heard, and cared about.
If you want to get more out of your communication, start engaging on the deeper side of the continuum. Become emotionally and cognitively present. Tap into your yearnings and the yearnings of those around you.
Remember, activity and attention aren’t the same as engagement. You may feel very focused and engrossed in the latest Netflix series or as you spend hours on Pinterest. You may be busy in the kitchen, at the gym, even at the office. But these aren’t examples of truly engaging.
Similarly, engagement doesn’t mean making sweeping changes (like quitting your job or moving to a new town). Even though these changes may seem like a magical solution to your problems or a way to meet your yearnings, we often end up emotionally in the same unsatisfied place.
Engaging isn’t a single-minded focus or an obsession, either. Imagine training for a marathon or a bike race. You may be highly driven and focused on your goal, but how are the other areas of your life fairing in the meantime? Often, we become deeply engaged in one area of our life, like work or a hobby, but we’re completely disengaged in other areas like family, spirituality, or friendships. This kind of obsessive engagement masks as achievement, but often leaves us empty. We still climb the same hill (or train for the next race) wondering why we never feel truly fulfilled.
When we’re only engaged in one area of our lives, like work, the area itself may even suffer. We may find we’re putting in long hours at the office, but our career is stalled. This is because we need 360 degree engagement, following our yearnings in all areas of our life to continue taking appropriate risks, learning and growing.
Truly great engagers have developed their grit. They keep going and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They are willing to accept that growth is painful and hurts at times, and they still forge ahead. They seek novelty and new experiences. They explore their yearnings and the yearnings of others. They’re constantly learning and growing.
And what does all this engagement do for us?
So, if you’re ready to truly discover your connections with others and tap into your fullest potential, engage! Test it out—take a day where you focus on being more mindful, more deeply engaged in each interaction and conversation. See how often you can operate on the right side of the engagement continuum and watch what happens.
Engagement is a lifelong process, a key to our growth and transformation. If you’re ready to start living your best life, become more engaged.
For more on tapping into your fullest potential and personal power, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Explore the courses and great resources we offer on our site, to help you stretch your skills and connect with others. Join us for an upcoming networking event where you’ll meet and connect with others on their journey.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.