3 Ways To Make Connections That Will Bring More Meaning To Your Life

Quality is far more vital than quantity when it comes to friendships. Here's how to make them, and how they can improve your life.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | May 31, 2024

Many consider purpose and passion essential stepping stones to creating a meaningful and fulfilling life, yet both prove equally elusive. People often find themselves asking:

  • "What's the purpose of my life?"
  • "Where do I matter in the grand scheme of things?"
  • "Can I create my very own place in this world?"

These questions can often lead some people into an existential crisis while, for others, they present an opportunity to discover something unique in their lives and serve as the beginning of a fulfilling quest.

While the idea of cosmic significance can be compelling, research indicates that finding purpose and meaning in life from people we love and care about can be equally, if not more, fulfilling on a personal level.

According to a recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, life gains deeper meaning when individuals know that they are supported, valued and matter to their loved ones. The researchers suggest that interpersonal mattering consists of three components:

  1. Awareness
  2. Reliance
  3. Importance

"Awareness means that people notice you; you don't feel ignored. You experience high reliance when you know people depend on you and can turn to you for help. Last, importance means you have people who are deeply invested in your life and are there to support you when you need it," explains Devin Guthrie, an existential psychologist and the lead author of the paper.

Being noticed provides some comfort, but it's insufficient on its own. Feeling needed without being valued doesn't foster lasting connections. True fulfillment comes from being significant to others, demonstrating profound empathy and being ready to support and make sacrifices for one another.

Here are three effective, yet simple, ways to create human connections that make life truly worth living.

1. Get Out There

Step outside your familiar surroundings and explore places that pique your curiosity. Engage with like-minded individuals and new acquaintances beyond the confines of digital screens, work meetings and online forums. Most importantly, try to actively avoid retreating to the seclusion of your room.

If you look around with an open mind, you will find communities that can elevate your life experience. The key is to embrace diverse experiences and interests, stay curious about others, and show commitment by both offering and seeking support.

For some people, putting themselves out there might seem intuitive and even obvious. In contrast, for others, it may be their greatest obstacle. The reluctance to seek new connections and form fresh relationships is often intertwined with intricate psychological burdens.

This may stem from a fear of emotional pain, underlying insecurities or a profound fear of rejection. Past experiences of challenging relationships might lead people to believe that it's safer to remain guarded. At the same time, the weariness of potential hurt can reinforce a deep-seated sense of disappointment.

If you relate to this, it's essential to recognize that life has its share of difficulties alongside its joys. While we all face painful experiences, building resilience through self-compassion is achievable. Which brings us to:

2. Be Willing To Experience Pain

Genuine and enduring relationships, while they may be built on hardships and suffer through wear and tear, always bounce back from a challenge. They not only remain intact but get stronger and deeper over time, and like all good things in life, they take effort, time and energy.

"Often, the most caring relationships are the ones with the most potential to be painful. Deep relationships are reciprocally vulnerable, and that opens us up to being betrayed or disappointed. We need to be able to sit with the pain of not only being hurt by but of having hurt others. Then, instead of trying to shove that pain down and forget about it, we need to talk about it and work through it with the people who hurt or were hurt by us," says Guthrie.

It's impossible to simply close off one aspect of yourself and experience others. Pain is an essential element of life, and it's one that serves a purpose. If you close yourself off to pain, you also close yourself off to other, more positive, emotions that give meaning to life, such as love and happiness.

3. Be Yourself

Research suggests being true to yourself and not letting others dictate your actions leads to greater happiness and well-being, while feeling disconnected from yourself and being influenced by others negatively affects your overall happiness and mental health.

"You can be as involved as you want for as long as you want, and you will still feel alone if you're pretending to be someone other than yourself. Not everyone will vibe with you, and that's okay. Even fewer will click with you deeply, and that's also okay. The opportunity cost for fulfilling relationships is steep. So, be discerning," Guthrie insists.

"Find people who like the version of you you're happiest being, and get involved in experiencing the delight, frustration, joy, sorrow, wonder, grief and silliness of meaningful relationships with them."

For example, if you enjoy fitness, consider joining a gym or taking yoga classes. If cooking or reading is your passion, seek out clubs where you can connect with like-minded individuals. The idea is to build an aura of authenticity about yourself that will then attract others who "get" you.

A full interview with researcher Devin Guthrie can be found here: New Research Reveals Why 'Interpersonal Mattering' Is Essential For A Meaningful Life

Unsure if you're being truly authentic in your relationships? Take the Relationship Authenticity Scale to learn more.

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