Let me pose a simple question – do you want to be happy?
Now, ask a few of the people around you the same question. My bet is that most, if not all, said yes.
This straightforward idea has been my focus all summer. It has been an incredibly divisive few months, filled with violence, continued prejudice, and polarizing political environments. Recent events and our more general societal realities seems to constantly pit people against each other. Debates ensue and it is easy to see how differences are twisted and amplified to drive groups apart.
Why do we spend so much of our time obsessing over these differences? How has the “outlier” become so increasingly explosive and problematic in public rhetoric?
Ultimately, no matter what opinion you hold on a multitude of topics whirling around lately, one thing remains true: everyone seeks fulfillment, happiness, and health.
It is the Shared Human Experience. It is proof that we are so much more similar than we are different.
We all want to be happy. We all want to protect and provide for those we love. We all want to feel pride and advancement in our endeavors. We all care for our parents, children, spouses, friends. We also have similar underlying insecurities and fears. Whether we fear rejection or death, universal insecurities exist on all levels. And it is only when we hit pause that we realize that our experience as humans is more parallel than it is divergent.
To switch perspectives, even biologically we are strikingly similar to one another. Riccardo Sabatini supports this claim in his Ted Talk in which he and his colleagues describe coding the human genome. To bring his results to life, he created physical pages of his work that comprise 26 books, each 1,000 pages long. The books total a mind boggling 3 billion letters! These 3 billion letters describe the scientific makeup of any given human being.
Do you know how many of those 3 billion letters separates you and I?
That is 0.17%
Other than this portion, you and I are absolutely identical. No different.
99.83% of our physical being is shared.
Why is it so hard for us to embrace this shared nature? How can we live out this biological similarity in both life and work?
In life, we fail because of many forms of prejudice, classism, racism, elitism, etc.
This can show up at work too. And an opportunity to start embracing the Shared Human Experience can start right here.
Why work? Because it is where we spend so much time, and if done correctly, we are productive and are able to work towards a better community.
However, all too often we bring a mindset that we are different from the people across the table, people that we must collaborate with to succeed. Imagine if we took an extra moment each day to remember that they, just like you, want to do well and excel at work. They want to be happy and impress their managers too. What if we approached co-workers as people with needs, wants, and hopes rather than objects that are different in some way, large or small. What if we took time to understand their values?
My belief is that at least two great things would happen
- Your happiness will increase because you will be building strong relationships with your colleagues. As the Harvard Study of Adult Development says, the single most important thing to a happy, healthy, and long life is strong relationships.
- Second, in approaching people with the mindset of the shared human experience, you will be engaged, have more compassion, and listen more effectively. Ultimately, this will lead to stronger collaboration towards a shared goal. This makes teams more effective and businesses initiatives more productive.
I have written about this before and I continue to see singular and separate mindsets create anxiety in people’s hearts and waste in organizations and teams. While I am not suggesting we all conform or remain content with the status quo, I am arguing that a mindset of unity, similarity, and togetherness can make a monumental difference in the performance and well-being of teams and companies. There is clear, factual knowledge of our similarity and it’s something we can embrace right now in working beyond micro-goals of success and towards macro-goals of fulfillment.
So many events in the world and at work are a result of a confluence of factors, most beyond my comprehension. My simple point here is that we are fundamentally more similar than we are different, and I believe we can embrace that more. In doing so, we won’t be solving all of the world’s issues, but I certainly believe that we will augment individual happiness, build a society that has more compassion and understanding, and lead businesses to be more productive.
So I encourage us all to embrace the shared human experience mindset – when you meet someone who is seemingly different than you in life or at work, remind yourself that you are 99.83% the same. I think you’ll find a new world of fulfillment in doing so.
Written by Prakash Raman.
* As always, a big thanks to Max Hogan for his generous time and help!