What do you reckon is one of the bigger challenges facing our society today? Drugs? Social Media? Violence? Lack of moral leadership? Whether Labuschagne should continue to bat at first drop?

All are important issues that deserve our focus and attention. But given my work experiences dealing with community resilience and wellbeing as well as doing numerous executive and leadership coaching assignments, I can’t help but agree with recent findings that some of our greater challenges is loneliness and disconnection!

I have been really taken aback by the number of people I have worked with this year – of all ages, genders, cultures and locations, that are suffering from the fundamental challenge of feeling lonely and disconnected.

If these feelings of loneliness and disconnection underpin a person’s soul, a whole range of behaviours can result. One of the hidden dangers created by these feelings is violence – in the form of break-ins, domestic violence and even terrorism. This loneliness and disconnection results in a lack of empathy between people – as I feel disconnected to you, I have no empathy for the effect of my behaviour on you and therefore, it’s OK (and even makes sense) that I can do things that both threaten and hurt you..

What caused this loneliness and disconnection? Obviously, a wide range of reasons including careers, family dislocation, social media, low emotional wellbeing around feelings of shyness and anxiety.

Please don’t confuse yourself with people who are always busy or are surrounded by people for most of their day. “You just have to keep yourself busy Dennis” is the wise advice I can hear people already saying. Some of the most popular, well liked and busy people I know are also the loneliest. Only recently talking to a client, he expressed feeling lonely as all the people he interacted with were the partners of his partners best friends – all lovely people, but none of whom he felt a real connection with.

Overcoming these feelings of loneliness and disconnection is a two-way responsibility. If I have these feelings, it is my responsibility to get off my rear end and connect. Through an understanding of my purpose in life, my strengths, values and motivators I can use them for the benefit of my world – through volunteerism and being involved in activities I enjoy. Don’t complain if you are not prepared to take action!

Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done for some people. This is where I think we all have a responsibility for building this connection. I believe it is my responsibility when I see someone who looks a little disconnected or lonely, to reach out and check in. Live your life with your eyes and heart open. What do you see? What do you feel? If you see someone a little disconnected, spend time with that person. Listen. Be curious about their story. Show interest. Let them know they are valued and are of value. Let them know that they have been heard! Isn’t that what we all want?

The festive season unfortunately does create feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Some of us build a wall around us as a form of protection. How about you buy a ladder to climb that wall to make lasting connections. Merry Christmas and all the best for the year 2020!