by Michael Goodhart, Resident Director
Top 5: Connectedness, Input, Intellection, Individualization, Adaptability
The notion of Connectedness struck me suddenly during my junior year of college when I faced emergency surgery for a life-threatening condition. After the procedure, I was gifted with a week in a hospital room to freely ponder mortality, my place within the world, and the bonds I had formed with my friends, fellow student leaders, and family. That pondering became a life-long journey, one that intensified during graduate school when I researched the broad topic of spiritual development. I interviewed students about their conceptual frameworks of spirituality, religion, and philosophy. I reviewed the existing literature in scholarly journals. I wanted to know how others developed their unique perspectives of meaning-making.
A lyric from a song by the musician Sting demonstrates the complexity and beauty of Connectedness: “If I ever lose my faith in you, there’d be nothing left to do.” It’s an intentionally vague line – one that allows the listener to decide for themselves what the “you” is on which they focus their faith. From my perspective, Connectedness is a talent that harnesses hope and optimism in a being, idea, or a combination of both. It is a wellspring for personal strength and resilience.
My talent of Connectedness is focused upon two things: a collection of ideas based on meaning-making and the goodness of humanity. It is my strong belief in humanity that serves as my guide when working with students, staff, and faculty at BSU. I believe that good intentions are at the heart of almost any decision one makes. In those rare moments when those intentions are not “good,” I switch my focus to try to understand why that is for that individual and see if I can help them make better decisions in the future so that they (and the people they associate with) can be successful. I believe that every human being desires to be a valuable, contributing member of society; perhaps they’ve had negative life experiences, trauma, or an illness that have caused them to stray from that natural desire – but we owe our fellow human beings time and understanding to assist them in achieving personal success. This doesn’t mean I never get frustrated with others’ poor decision making. I certainly do on occasion, but Connectedness enables me to persist and move past that frustration. As a Resident Director, I work with students every day that might make poor decisions, struggle to communicate well with others, or face a conflict with a roommate who they don’t understand. I can use Connectedness to build upon the opportunity presented in these situations to make a difference. Conversely, it also strengthens my appreciation of the positive, dynamic relationships we develop with our student leaders.
Connectedness sometimes can be misunderstood as a talent based upon dogma or an unchanging point of view. From my perspective, Connectedness is actually based upon keeping an open mind and expanding one’s worldview by learning from other people and ideas. Life is full of contradictions; rather than feel threatened by those contradictions, we can strive to understand them and even embrace them. That’s what lends to the resilience associated with Connectedness.
I’ve invested in the maintenance and development of Connectedness in a number of ways. Foremost, I engage in photography on a near daily basis to connect with the natural world and interpret it in the form of art – it revitalizes me when I’m stressed and builds me up when I’m not. I’ll gaze at the stars, the planets, the Milky Way, meteor showers, or the moon – sometimes just for a few moments and other times for hours – because it reminds me of how beautiful and BIG the universe is and how amazing it is that we are a part of it. I frequently read books and articles related to spirituality, religion, and philosophy; it’s important to constantly open my mind to new/alternative perspectives – even if I don’t agree with them, I can at least try to understand them. I conduct family history and genealogical research (not just my own, but of others, too) – it helps provide context for individuals’ lives; it also reinforces my belief in how lucky we each are to be alive because the odds were overwhelmingly against us to exist today when you look at the infinite chance meetings our ancestors must have had in order to lead to our eventual births.
If you have an interest in learning more about meaning-making and purpose, I encourage you to read the book “Big Questions, Worthy Dreams” by Sharon Daloz Parks. It is perhaps the most inspiring book I’ve read that relates to Connectedness and the work we do in student affairs.
Goodhart, M. (Photographer). (2015, July 11). Connectedness [digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/131117806@N07/20151934042/