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On 11-12 October, I had a chance to participate in the Inner Development Goals Summit. The Inner Development Goals (IDGs) are a framework of skills that people should train within themselves to help humankind move towards sustainable life instead of forced growth and exploitation. In brief, the idea behind IDGs is that we need Inner Development Goals to reach Sustainable Development Goals. The framework has five dimensions, each containing a set of skills. The IDGs define 23 skills that each human being should embrace and train.

The IDG framework. Image from https://www.innerdevelopmentgoals.org/framework

In my course, Good Life Engine, I primarily teach the skills from categories 1–3, hoping that students will proceed with training categories 4 and 5 by themselves long after the course is completed.

What I took from the Summit, and what resonates with me the most, is that people are too disconnected now. To feel good, to do well, to make a change, we need to reconnect. We need to search for other people’s company, share experiences, and work together toward a common goal.  We have to remember and admit that we are social creatures. Social conventions should reinforce sincere connections between people, and when we started moving from face-to-face interactions to digital communications, we left something of ourselves behind.

IDGs in relation to the Good Life Engine course. Image modified by Lidia Rauramo, original from https://www.innerdevelopmentgoals.org/framework

Our ability to be together and cooperate has been one of our evolution’s primary architects. In his book Why We Help: The Evolution of Cooperation, Martin A. Nowak writes: “There is one group in which the effects of cooperation have proved especially profound: humans. Millions of years of evolution transformed a slow, defenseless ape into the most influential creature on the planet, a species capable of inventing a mind-boggling array of technologies that have allowed our kind to plumb the depths of the ocean, explore outer space and broadcast our achievements to the world in an instant. We have accomplished these monumental feats by working together. Indeed, humans are the most cooperative species—super cooperators, if you will.”

Now, our culture is far too individualistic. We connect with our elderly family members via Zoom instead of visiting them and drinking tea together. We take online meetings with colleagues because we are too lazy to commute, killing the culture of lunches and small talk by the coffee machine. Researchers of loneliness conclude that there is evidence of a correlation between loneliness and depression (Kraav, Siiri-Liisi, et al. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 75.7 (2021): 553-557). We are social animals and need others to feel fine, safe, and like we belong. Being lonely is dangerous for our mental health.

To feel good, to do well, to make a change, we need to reconnect with each other.

It is time to learn from the oldest people in the world. There are “Blue Zones” – geographical areas with the highest longevity. Three of them are islands where people are used to living in a close community because of the scarcity of resources. On these islands, people had to communicate with each other. “The moai, or close-knit group of friends, plays an important role in their longevity — Moai has its origins in hard times when farmers would get together to share best practices and help one another cope with meager harvests” (García, Héctor and Miralles, Francesc, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life). A key ingredient to residents’ happiness in Ogimi, the Village of Longevity, is their strong sense of community. They have been practicing teamwork and helping one another from a young age, which has instilled a deep sense of belonging.

A practical tip: if you have a rather lonely job (like some researchers have), try to find hobbies to do in groups. If you feel sad for no reason or lost in inner thoughts and dialogues, try to step out of your ego and meet a friend or loved one. Concentrating on a different person than yourself for some time does you good.