Here’s a framework I’ve been using to think about life. I’m going to call it “The Connection Framework,” or CF for short. Think of this framework – or any framework, for that matter – as a pair of glasses. Put it on and see if it shows you something worthwhile.

This framework addresses the question: What is the purpose of life? Or, what brings a sense of meaning to a person’s life?

CF asserts that meaning in life comes from connection.

When do we feel the most alive? When do we feel the greatest sense of purpose and fulfillment? When we are connecting.

According to CF, there are three ways a person can connect:

  1. We can connect with our inner selves

  2. We can connect with other people

  3. We can connect with nature, with God, with a greater cause, with the infinite, the divine, the beyond – anything larger than self and society

In anything we do in life, meaning comes from these three types of connection: intrapersonal connection, interpersonal connection, and extrapersonal, transcendental, or spiritual connection.

Life is circular. We think we’re going to be happy when we reach certain goals on a linear timeline. Actually, we feel fulfilled to the extent that we keep connecting in each of the three pathways. Connection is an active process. We don’t do it once and finish. The more we continue doing it, the more fulfillment we experience.

According to CF, if we want to experience a greater sense of fulfillment in our lives, we can achieve that by giving greater priority to connection, valuing it more, savoring it more, and giving it more time. 

To see how to do this, each of us can go through an exercise:

STEP 1: Consider the things you’re doing in life. These are your “action areas” or pursuits. Make a table and list your most significant pursuits in the leftmost column. Then write the three kinds of connection along the top row. Finally, look at each cell and make a note about how you experience that type of connection in that pursuit, if you do experience it there; otherwise leave the cell blank.

How do I connect to my SELF in this pursuit?How do I connect with OTHERS in this pursuit?How do I connect with the INFINITE in this pursuit?
Pursuit 1
Pursuit 2
Pursuit 3

STEP 2: Repeat the exercise but now make a note where any kind of connection seems to be blocked or impeded in a certain pursuit.

At this point, you’ve considered the way each kind of connection might “flow” or might face an obstacle in each pursuit.  If you want to summarize all this in one table, the format could look like this:

Pursuit 1
Pursuit 2
Pursuit 3

STEP 3: By now you’ve taken stock of how you’re connecting or struggling to connect along each pathway, in each pursuit. Having observed the current state of affairs, make a new table. For each pursuit and each type of connection, think of a way you could 1) add more breadth to that type of connection, and 2) add more depth to that type of connection. This could mean expanding on an area of flow, or overcoming an obstacle, or trying something new altogether:

Pursuit 1
Pursuit 2
Pursuit 3

STEP 4: Now circle the opportunities you are most excited about. And draw a box around the ones you are most afraid of.

Set some goals based on what you’ve circled and boxed. A goal might be to do even more of something you’ve circled, or to take a first step at something you’ve boxed.

STEP 5: Finally, look down each of the columns and see if you can consolidate. You don’t need to experience all three types of connection in each and every pursuit, but ideally you’d experience each type of connection in at least one pursuit. If there’s a blockage in one cell, maybe you can just ignore it, as long as you’re getting that kind of connection somewhere else?


OK, where did this framework come from?

Ever since I completed my album Meteorite in early 2022 I’ve been thinking about my goals a musician: why do I create music? What am I seeking? I worked with a coach in 2022, and attended two music retreats, and also experienced two deep family losses. After all of this, I emerged with an answer to the question of what I’m seeking as a musician. The answer is: connection. Three types of connection – personal, social, and spiritual. I realized that this answer is not specific to music but really applies to the broader question of what I’m seeking in life. 

But 2022 wasn’t the first time I had thought about any of this. I’ve been trying out “frameworks for living” for much of my life. I’ve gone through therapy three times. I’ve spent thousands of hours journaling. I’ve practiced yoga and meditation. I’ve walked around the streets of Boston in the early mornings playing a Himalayan singing bowl. I’ve gotten really high. I’ve gotten really drunk. I’ve struggled with coming out. I’ve dropped out of grad school and mostly come to terms with it. I’ve learned to sing as an adult, facing one of my biggest fears. I’ve taught myself how to compose music. I’ve had an experience that might have been a panic attack. I’ve attended a mindfulness course that changed my life. I was once hired by a tech investor to help him formalize his ideas around intention in entrepreneurship. I’ve mentored young folks. I’ve helped a nonproft that’s dear to my heart write its strategic plan. So… the theme of “personal development” is a big theme in my life.

But also, I’m kind of plagued by frameworks. I come up with frameworks willy nilly – they pop into mind, too many of them to try out, almost like weeds, distractions. But CF is a framework that has some staying power for me. I’ve been thinking about CF and trying to apply it in my own life for many months now, so I can recommend it to you with the confidence that it’s already done some good for me. If it helps you too, I’ll be glad. ■

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