7 Steps to Personally Experience the Power of Community
A recent study found that Americans now eat most of their meals alone, as families find it more difficult to find time to eat together. Additionally, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of single-person households. Some predict the trend will continue and even increase.
At first, we saw divorces emerge in society during the 1970s and 80s. Later, it was couples living together (gay or straight), finding it difficult to sustain civil unions even when unmarried. By 2003, the majority of people began to live alone. Single-person households became the most common living arrangement in the United States. Now, an increasing number even eat alone.
So in a world saturated with social connectivity, how do we find ourselves so prone to eat and live alone? Is it because we are battle weary of relationships by the time we return home from work and just don’t want another “needy” person distracting us from our agenda? Or is it that technology is so prevalent that we are socially backward today, unable or unwilling to do the work necessary to cultivate a healthy relationship. It appears we are overwhelmed by a thousand messages coming at us each day, and we simply want to “veg” when it’s “our” time.
I read a news story recently about a motorcyclist who got thrown onto a roadway after a collision. He lay on the pavement without moving for quite a while. All those who saw him simply glanced at him, then continued moving when the light turned green. It was almost unbelievable. After fifteen minutes, a driver stopped and rolled down their window to ask if the person needed help. The incident was telecast, as it was staged by a local station to see how responsive people would be at this busy intersection. Evidently, they failed the test.
So How Are You Doing?
I believe that human beings are designed for community. We are social creatures who thrive when we live among each other and experience relationship, support, accountability and personal growth. We are at our best when we are NOT alone, when we BELONG to a team or community. Let me suggest some personal steps you can take (if you haven’t already) to experience this. In addition, I suggest you encourage your students with this list:
1. Create a personal board of directors.
I started doing this twenty years ago. I recognized my talent and ambition was taking me further than my wisdom could keep up. I met with three other guys, and we each became a “board” for each other as we pursued our personal missions.
2. Pursue personal connections at work beyond 9 to 5.
It’s easy for me to see work merely as a category. I believe those we work with can become some of our closest comrades if we let them. Why not observe the needs of your colleagues and offer to help them or connect with them after work hours?
3. Request mentors to speak into your life on the areas you wish to grow.
I have six people in my life right now who are mentors for me in specific areas I want to grow this year. I asked each person because they were a step or two ahead of me in a category — and I always grow when I meet with them individually.
4. Invite at least one person you respect at work to hold you accountable.
I have one person I meet with monthly who’s my accountability partner. I chose him because I respect him and would not lie to him about even the darkest secrets of my life. We both offer unconditional support, guidance, connections, and tough love.
5. Celebrate something and someone at least once a week.
I don’t do this enough, but I know it’s important. We need to stop and celebrate both those in our lives and achievements we’ve made. It reminds us that while we may walk faster when we walk alone, we walk farther when we walk together.
6. Learn to ask questions that show interest and invite encouragement.
This is a learned art. I make it a point when I am with a group of people to enter the social gathering armed with 4-5 questions I want to ask them. These involve topics that will communicate my interest in them. It puts me in “host” mode, not “guest” mode.
7. Initiate or join a small group community on a weekly or monthly basis.
This is purely about friendships. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that as we age, we require fewer people in our life; we don’t like working at social connection. My small group is made up of other couples my wife and I meet with on purpose for growth and fun.
When I was in middle school, our track team would run everyday while the cheerleaders practiced their routines. I noticed something hilarious as we rounded the track and found ourselves in front of those gorgeous girls: we all took on our best form. We sucked in our stomachs and flexed whatever muscles we had. We did it for the girls. While I smile at this now, it reminds me of a timeless truth: We all perform better when we know we’re being watched.
A great example of this comes from my son’s recent college experiences. Just this month, our family dropped him off at college. He texted me after one of their early meetings to tell me of an experience his university hosted for first year students. The staff asked all their new students to sit down on the big lawn in the quad area. Surrounding them were the current students (upper-classmen), standing in a circle. Then, the president spoke about the power of community, suggesting that was what they intended to build among the student body. One by one, a current student would walk into the seated group of young “rookies” and grab a hand, lifting them up and leading them out to join the circle.
It was a little emotional for me as I heard my son tell me this story. Why? Because I knew he was already experiencing the power of community.
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