Why Community MattersMar 28, 2022
If you know me, even a little, you’ve heard me talk about Core Values. These are those unchanging attributes or characteristics that function a bit like guardrails in our lives, keeping us moving in our preferred direction. I’ve shared many times that my #1 Core Value is “Community.” And by that, I mean “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals,” which is (coincidentally) one of the dictionary definitions of the word.
My last two podcast guests have each highlighted the need for connection and networking… which I can’t help but see as a means to grow community… so I’d like to share some reasons I think community is both vital to our ability to flourish, and achievable.
But let me start with a little background.
My parents were missionaries. We arrived in Seoul, South Korea on May 18, 1974. I was nearly 8, and remember some of that trip, our arrival and my life there with startling clarity. It’s also interesting the things I don’t remember. I know my mind idealizes certain memories, but somehow it no longer matters to me. I recognize it and allow it.
My memories of summers spent at Daecheon Beach (formerly spelled Taechon, but universally referred to as, “The Beach”), is an entire subset of those memories.
For those of us raised in that missionary world, The Beach is remembered as rest & recreation, but most of all, community. It’s a small strip of land about halfway down the west coast of South Korea that the “Taechon Beach Association” (made up mostly of missionary families) leased from the Korean government for something like “99 years.” The cabins were small, many had no more than 1 or 2 tiny bedrooms, none had hot water or phones, but by the time we arrived in ‘74, they all had electricity.
It wasn’t uncommon for the women and children to head to The Beach as early as mid-June and not return to their respective cities until mid-August. Partially because much of the work would stop in the heat of the summer, and it was a safe place for us to go.
Summer quickly became synonymous with The Beach.
What we created was a full, thriving mini-economy and international community, where the US Mid-Atlantic and New England leisure culture permeated the asian pines, shell based sand, and rocky hillside. Y’all, it is inexplicable, and irreplicable.
What I found there, however, was a place to be me. A place where the things we had in common were more important than what we didn’t, and we voluntarily banded together in our own little third-culture haven every summer.
No, it wasn’t all peace, love and butterflies. Yes, kids were still mean and adults still disagreed. But somehow, the community we built rose above all that normal, everyday noise, leaving all who were blessed to experience it with a kind of awed reverence for a thing that may never be recreated.
I was reminded by my guest on podcast episode 76, Michelle Tillis Lederman, that ALL of our happiness is improved through relationships. Everything we want to accomplish can be done better, faster and easier through connections and relationships.
Last week, we learned from Kelly Hoey, the value of having a network that can see things in you that you may not yet be able to see in yourself. As well as how important it is to have a good mentor, and then be a good mentor.
If these sound like familiar refrains, they should. These principles are the foundation of good Community. The type of community that’s intentional, purposeful, designed to help you grow.
Community is vital to your flourishing AND achievable on a personal level and in a structured or professional environment. Here’s what I mean.
Why is Community vital to your flourishing?
Personal communities - like your friend group - are voluntary. We gravitate to those with whom we share common attitudes, beliefs and goals… and that gives us a sense of calm. Knowing we are surrounded by those with whom we are less likely to experience conflict helps us settle and let our guard down. Inside these communities:
- We are accepted for who we are
- We are celebrated and lifted up
When we are intentionally in community for a specific purpose (like professional organizations or common cause organizations), it provides a supportive environment or atmosphere
- Shared camaraderie. We all know we’re on the same journey
- As the definition suggested, it provides a feeling of Fellowship - friendly association.
Community can also provide a sense of safety
- A figurative or literal barrier to threat or harm - social justice type communities
Community promotes good things in us
- A sense of belonging - helps us see we are part of a bigger picture, maybe see from a different perspective
- A better understanding of who we are (they see things we don’t)
- A sense of purpose and spirit of intention - knowing we’re all headed in the same direction
- A spirit of altruism, generosity - banding together for the greater good
Bottom line: Community is vital to your flourishing because it provides that particularly favorable environment that enables and promotes vigorous growth! (Flourishing! My 2022 Word of the year!)
Well, if that’s so, then …
How is Community achievable?
Grow it organically and with intention!
You and I can intentionally create that supportive community we need - one that ebbs and flows with our life circumstances, career choices and level of personal growth.
Be OPEN to meeting people and adding value to their lives.
This is what both Michelle and Kelly were talking about. They call it creating connections or networking. I call it building community! The nice thing is that there is no limit to this type of community - other than your willingness to make the effort… because I don’t think anyone is saying there’s no effort involved. However, the benefits far outweigh whatever effort is expended.
It can be as simple as asking someone for a connection on Linked In, or striking up a conversation with the other parents at the weekly soccer game. I’ve had both of those scenarios create new people within my own personal community that I am in touch with years later.
Live the tenets of Intentional Optimism - which fosters proactive and positive ways to do this without thinking “ok, NOW I’ve got to go create connections.”
- When I’m living Optimistically: I live in hopeful anticipation of meeting new people each day, that I can both add value to, and receive value from.
- When I live with Presence: I seek for the good and beauty in others, with kindness and generosity, knowing that others will be drawn to that attitude. Those are the people I WANT in my community.
- When I live Energetically: I’m focused on people rather than things, and I share my joy and creativity without reservation. Who’s not attracted to that?
- When I live Courageously: I share my vision, inviting others to follow, understanding that sometimes I’ll walk a more solitary path… and that’s ok.
- When I live with Wisdom: I desire to listen more than talk, and the words I do speak are respectful and gracious, with the understanding that not everyone needs to be in my community.
- And when I live with Intentionality: I set accomplishable goals and plans to engage with people who will help me to grow.
Every single one of those things get me outside of myself, my fears, my limiting beliefs… and into an others-facing mindset, which is automatically more engaging. This is how I can grow my own community organically - yet with intention.
Now let’s look at what you need in a Structured Community:
It's important to recognize sometimes we need a more structured and defined community to help us through certain stages of our lives and careers. These can be professional associations, membership communities, or even your job/career path.
Determine what you need, and go find it!
These types of professional communities create specialized atmospheres with a unique purpose in mind. Kelly Hoey’s experience with 85 Broads is a good example - and if you didn’t catch that story, check out Episode 78. It’s a great story!
But others are still structured but encapsulated… small sub-communities. Like the summer musicals I participated in at The Beach. The shared experience of working, not just toward an end goal, but in the pursuit of making something beautiful - the music, set, costumes, makeup and acting - it all played a role in teaching me that some things can only be accomplished when working in community and cooperation with others.
The best casts are made up of diverse, unique and talented individuals whose beauty is celebrated through their own expression, spotlighted when appropriate, and harmonized with the chorus to create one beautiful whole picture - a specific end goal.
Or, create your own with a purposeful design.
When I developed Intentional Optimism, part of that philosophy included how community has formed me, my message, and in turn, the community I seek to build. You see, that’s partly why I developed it in the first place. I couldn’t find the community I wanted/needed so I created my own.
Perhaps now, when you hear me say “Launch From The Beach” you might recognize that I’m referencing that special community I thought was irreplicable. But it’s not just a general, happy, feel good place - to be sure, it IS those things - it’s a safe, structured community for women who feel that pull, who know they’re made for something more.
My Community of Launch from the Beach:
Maybe you feel that pull. You’re ready to go, but you don’t know where to start.
You know you need a structured community, but just haven’t found it yet.
My Community - The Beach - is a safe harbor, where you can deconstruct, reconfigure, build and launch - all with the support of the community.
Deconstructing whatever it is you’ve always done - your job, career, belief system - you need a space of non-judgement, of welcome, and some scaffolding and structure so you don’t just do the deconstructing then walk away, leaving a battered boat on the sand.
For example, let’s say you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business and you’re pretty sure you’re at a stage in your life and career that could be your best option to do it. Or maybe you’ve climbed up the corporate ladder as far as you can and you’re ready to explore your options.
It can be easy to just up and quit your job one day… but then what?
You can start right here in this community where it’s safe to deconstruct whatever “boat” you’ve been on your whole life and say “I’m going to reconstruct in this safe place with people who will give me good ideas, encouragement and support. I’m going to start with the smallest goals I have, which might just be to show up every week.”
This is the community where you can explore your ideas and options, set some goals to see what works, learn from others on similar life journeys, and make decisions based on where you want to GO rather than where you don’t want to be.
It’s a community in which we focus on and live all those same tenets of Intentional Optimism as a way to ensure we’re building toward the future.
One step at a time.
Sometimes you just need to accomplish one or two small things each week in order to build your confidence muscle… which will, in turn, open the door to bigger things.
Building and achieving community is an intentional practice and I encourage you to set your intention on finding and building community personally, and if you need a structured place to find welcome, shared attitudes and fellowship, you can book a free, 30 min consultation, and we’ll strategize for your future, and see if Launch from the Beach might be that community for you.
Until next time!
Become an Intentional Optimist!
Newsletter: Optimistic Living
Daily Sharecast (1 min videos): Intentional Optimism Sharecast on Marco Polo
Collaborative Group Coaching Community: Launch From The Beach
Email me: [email protected]
LinkedIn: Andrea Johnson
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