the in-between

Unexpected Connections Can Have a Big Impact

Unexpected ConnectionsMost of our interactions with people throughout the day are merely casual exchanges. We expect little to learn or grow from these moments. However, unexpected connections can sometimes have a big impact.

In my journey to be a better human, I once dismissed these encounters. Yet, several stayed with me for years. As I transformed from someone obsessed with the macro to being in tune with the micro, unexpected connections were a jump start to reacting and responding in different ways. These stories are part of my book The In-Between: Life in the Micro.

The macro represents the milestones and goals we reach. The micro is everything else, a road map of interactions, connections, and experiences.

Unexpected Connections and Why They Matter

Unexpected connections lead to unexpected micro-moments. They matter because they open us up to experiences we would have previously shut down. They also allow us to enjoy the conversation.

One such connection was a simple discussion about migrating butterflies. It seemed like a far-fetched story. Before, I would have rolled my eyes and ignored the conversation. I didn’t this time, and the exchange was lighthearted.

Another example was the connection I made with fellow travelers at my “home” airport club in St. Louis. I was wearing an Ironman shirt, and a woman asked me about it. Instead of that being the end of the exchange, I sat and talked with her and her partner. We actually became friends, seeing each other often at the club.

This was exposure to someone else living in the in-between. She saw something interesting about me and my shirt and translated this awareness into a micro-moment by asking me a question.

It was a big aha moment for me years later when I reflected on this connection. The awareness of others meant a lot to me. So, I began to realize something was missing in my own life because I wouldn’t make the same gesture.

Making My Own Unexpected Connections

After realizing I wasn’t giving the in-between much of a chance, I reflected and began to change. It allowed me to be the one who unexpectedly connected.

It was during an Ironman race. My previous mindset in these races was all about finishing. I encountered a woman who was struggling. Instead of running off again, I stayed with her, and we talked the whole time. We completed Ironman together, supporting each other to the finish line.

I’d never done this before in any previous Ironman races. I was able to use my own awareness to stay in the micro and help others versus being single-minded.

Now, I’ve been able to create those moments in everyday life. I don’t always live in the in-between. I’m a work in progress, as everyone is. However, now I know there is much value and reward in the micro. I take the time to permit connections, and it’s made me a happier and more present person.

If you’d like to know more about my story, read my book for more insights and guidance.

Indecision and Regret: The Inner Monologue

Wresting with regret and indecisionAlmost everyone has an inner dialogue. This conversation that goes on inside our heads replays a lot of indecision and regret. When we don’t do things that our gut tells us we should, we are left with these two things.

Much of the friction in this inner dialogue is due to only focusing on the macro-moments of life. These are the milestones and big-picture happenings in life. It would seem that most of us give more emphasis to the macro versus the micro. Unfortunately, it creates an environment where we ignore the present and obsess about the future.

My inner dialogues were filled with stressful lamentations centering around indecision and regret. Why didn’t I do this or say that? It wasn’t until I had time to reflect and reset my identity that I began to give the macro its due. My story of this realization is in my book The In-Between: Life in the Micro.

Why Are Indecision and Regret Such Constants in Life?

I would not characterize myself as indecisive. I’ve made plenty of well-thought-out and quick decisions personally and professionally. Were they always right? Of course not. However, there were many moments of indecisiveness. I just didn’t see them as such because they seemed trivial and insignificant in terms of the macro.

Regret has also been in the pattern. I’ve found the deepest regrets are those you don’t realize for some time. Then you can replay them in your mind a million times, wishing things would be different. But they aren’t, and you have to accept things for what they are.

I did not want to live a life of regret or indecisiveness regarding the micro. So, I embraced the in-between and all I could learn from it. I had to make a change, including my inner dialogue.

Inner Dialogues and the In-Between

Before I decided to evolve my focus and priorities, my inner dialogue at in-between moments was often about inconvenience or impatience. I would easily disconnect from the experiences if they weren’t what I wanted in terms of the macro.

Those thought patterns had to change if I wanted to live a happier, fuller life in the micro. I started doing things like setting informed intentions. An intention is an expectation, but when informed, it’s more flexible and allows you to adapt to the circumstances.

I also began to see the value in interactions with others. There was more to life than reaching some big goal or crossing a finish line. When those were my obsessions, my inner dialogue was stern and unyielding.

I needed to be more aware of myself and others to do this. I had to address the dialogue to move myself into a serving state, which also meant taking my ego out of the equation. It was hard work and not for the faint of heart. It was absolutely worth it.

Maybe it’s time for you to make similar changes so indecision and regret don’t consume your thoughts. Hopefully, my book can be a guide.

Focusing on the Macro at the Expense of the Moment

Macro and micro are descriptors we use to demonstrate the difference between something large or great and something small. In this instance, the macro represents milestones and the most significant moments in life. The micro is everything else. Internally, it’s hard to balance these two parts, and most give more emphasis to the macro as if they are what truly matters.

However, focusing on the macro and obsessing about it has disadvantages. You miss being present and experiencing the beauty of these moments. In the past, I was a hard charger who relentlessly pursued the macro. It allowed me to achieve many things, but it wasn’t a purposeful life. I realized I’d let too many micro-moments float by and wanted to change the balance. I write about this transformation in my book, The In-Between: Life in the Micro.

A Macro-Minded Life Damages Relationships

In many past scenarios, I focused too much on the macro and reaching some objective. I tended to think only of myself and saw any barrier to this success as an inconvenience. I wanted outcomes, not connections. As a result, I lost important relationships.

One instance of this that I describe in my book was reuniting with my partner in Denmark during the pandemic. There were issues with my paperwork and visa. Fixing this problem consumed me, and the micro was lost. The whole reason I was there was to be with her, but I ignored this when circumstances changed.

The macro-obsession caused me to lose touch with the moment, eventually ending with a breakup. I hit rock bottom, but there was some good that came out of it. I decided that I no longer wanted to lose out on the in-between.

Before I began the journey toward change, I started to see more evidence of choosing the macro over the micro. This mindset kept me inside my safe bubble state, and then I had the chance to really reflect during a health crisis.

Reflecting on the Past of Macro vs. Micro

During my recovery, I couldn’t be active and busy, which was foreign to me. I had a lot of time to think and process things from years prior. I thought of my grandpa and his last days. Because I was too worried about the macro, I didn’t say the things I really wanted to in those days. It was a deep regret. Looking back on it years later, I finally realized why I reacted as I did.

Embracing the Micro

During my reflection and rock-bottom moments, I vowed not to let the macro be in control. I wanted to embrace the micro and never lose relationships or interactions again. It’s not an easy transition, and I’m far from perfect. I relinquished the bubble state so I could cultivate awareness and authenticity. It was an important step that allowed me to venture into the in-between with a new perspective.

You can read more about the macro and micro in my book.