We are living in a transformational moment in the history of our state, country and world. An inflection point.
Change is upon us.
For many, this change leads to fear and a need for greater control. The greater control is an attempt to create safety. Unfortunately, this approach does not work in the long-term. Like constantly swimming upstream against the current of change, the energy we expend resisting change exhausts us. This exhaustion can often be experienced as fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, scarcity and burnout.
This is what we are seeing in our state, country and world.
We see record levels of mental health concerns in our children, spouses, friends, family members and acquaintances. They feel unbalanced and unfulfilled. Our societal focus on seeking joy and fulfillment through power, money and possessions is driving us further from our roots. Even lottery winners are statistically less happy long-term than survivors of life-threatening illnesses or accidents.
The poet and philosopher Frederick Nietzsche described this as our individual and collective “will to power.”
In contrast, the Sufi poet Rumi reminds us, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” Rumi also wisely counsels us that, “The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself, everything that you want, you already are.”
The Dalai Lama adds that the only two paths to fulfillment and joy is in the service to others and in recognizing the deep interconnection between all things and all people.
The Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore said, “I dreamed that life was joy. As I awakened, I realized that life is service. As I acted, behold, service is joy.”
To further emphasize the Dalai Lama’s premise, the root word of heal, health, holy and holistic means “whole.” The word community means “together as one.” And our country’s motto, “e pluribus unum” means, “out of many, one.”
In other words, as we connect as one, we become stronger and healthier.
The power of connection has been true since we emerged on this planet. We survived and thrived in communities, tribes and groups. In fact, the impact of this drive to be connected is such a powerful evolutionary drive that the anthropologist Robin Dunbar even coined Dunbar’s number (150), which was the largest sized community one could have successfully constructed as we evolved – large enough to protect each other and small enough to sustainably feed each other.
To this day, Dunbar’s number (150) is about the most people you can know in a detailed way. Our evolutionary drives remain strong and reinforce the conserved impact of connection and community to our survival and thriving.
The roots of togetherness are strong.
In fact, the strongest attribute of people that live long and well is the strength of their relationships and connection to others, to purpose and to hope.
Being disconnected from these relationships and from a life purpose and a growth or abundance mindset is toxic to our health. Even from a perceptional standpoint.
As the poet Anais Nin reminds us, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
In fact, we see our lives through our individual filters and beliefs.
Individuals that lack hope and a feeling of worthiness live a shorter life than those with a high perception of optimism and worthiness (also known as social capital). Moreover, according to the company Google, the key ingredient for team-based productivity is the degree of psychological safety on these teams. As Abraham Maslow told us, second to physiological reflexes, the most vital human need is safety (psychological and physical).
This perception of safety is enhanced by strong connections to people, purpose and mindset.
As we approach our university graduation time, it is important to reconnect to our roots, our heritage and our traditions.
We follow many before us in celebrating the graduation of our senior students. We also reconnect to the root meaning of the word “doctor,” which means “to teach.”
It is also important at this time of change to recommit to our roots as people and as a community of healthcare professionals.
The privilege of service to others. The joy of teaching and mentoring. To the healing power of recognizing the deep interconnections of all things and to our own connection to purpose, to family, community, and to ourselves.
Remember airplane safety - place your oxygen mask over your nose and mouth first before helping others.
With this grounding, we can thrive in any environment, no matter how ferocious the storm. Instead of focusing on the storm, we focus on our compass, our direction has not changed. And after the storm passes or we take a diversionary route around the storm, we will get to where we are going.
A journey back to our roots.