I'm guessing you'd like to thrive in life? Well, did you realize that your potential to become your best self is directly influenced by those with whom you associate? Our relationships and the 'tribe' to which we associate matter deeply.
As humans we were not designed to live in isolation, rather we were designed to live in relationship. When we truly care for someone else and our heartfelt actions contribute to the welfare of another, chemicals begin firing in our brains and we derive pleasure. As we give, we receive. When our focus shifts from what we get from a relationship, to what we give, the irony is that we receive more. This doesn’t mean that we necessarily receive anything tangible in return for a good deed, what this does reflect is that our wellbeing is instantaneously improved by our kindness. Paying it forward, showing kindness or love to another not only produces rewards for others, but enhances our wellbeing.
According to research performed at Harvard, “The more you connect with people – even brief exchanges with people you don’t know well, the more content you are likely to feel. Results from the large Framingham Heart Study showed that when people became happy, their nearby friends experienced a 25% greater chance of becoming happy, and their next-door neighbors had a 34% increase.” Their conclusion – “people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.”
In Dan Buettner’s research of the places in the world where people are living longer, better, one of the threads woven through every “Blue Zone” culture emphasized socialization with others who are also interested in health and wellbeing. When your mom told you to be careful in high school because “birds of a feather flock together,” she was right. We are more content when we are surrounded by people, but if those people are not encouraging habits and lifestyle choices that lead us to become better versions of ourselves, our wellbeing might not be optimal. If all my friends smoke, then I have a much greater likelihood of lighting up; if all my friends spend their time playing video games and never experience the beauty and wonder of the outdoors, then I have a much greater likelihood of spending too much time indoors. Having the ‘right tribe’ matters.
So what do we do about it? Tribes come in all shapes and sizes. We are born into a family; and frankly, there's little we can do about being a member of that tribe; they are ours, regardless. However, we don't have to adopt all the dysfunctional habits of those we love and of our family group just because they're ours by birth; in fact, our awareness and actions might even prompt the leadership needed to improve the interactions and behaviors affecting the health of our families. For example, if discussion of politics consistently causes hurt feelings and discord every Christmas, we may need to be aware that this subject should be off-limits within our family, instead fostering a sentiment that we'll agree to disagree and no longer try to sway one another toward a different way of thinking.
So what about the tribes we choose, those groups to which we are not born? Examples might include service clubs, workplaces, church groups, our neighborhoods, or affinity groups like book clubs, running clubs, Moms groups, boards on which we serve, etc. Recognizing that those with whom we affiliate will influence the way we think and either enable us to become our best selves...or not, how can we make great choices, or perhaps deepen our relationships with those whom we want to emulate, those whom we enjoy, those whom we would love to include in our "Tribe." Over a lifetime, how should we explore and build the 'right tribe'? Recognize that relationships that stand the test of time are never built quickly. In fact fostering and strengthening relationships is pretty darn inefficient, yet it can be the secret sauce to our health, wellbeing and joy in life. Start here:
1) Assess how you currently feel after you are with "your people." Do you feel energized, grateful, appreciative of their friendship, collegiality, and your time together? The number one reason employees stay with an employer is because they enjoy the people with whom they work. Organizations all over the world are endeavoring to foster environments that breed friendship and positive peer interaction. Having a work group of individuals who enjoy being together enhances performance, innovation and productivity. Your tribe should elevate your spirits, and help you become an even better version of yourself. Whether at work or at play, the people with whom you associate should ignite your energy and lift your day. When groups of people truly care for one another and are willing to give their best to one another, it feels good. Toxicity among groups of people compromises performance, fun and joy-filled living. Where does your response to this question lead you?
2) Be conscious of the groups and the people with whom you are spending time. I'm not suggesting you be judgmental; we are all flawed in some way. Just be conscious and discerning of those with whom you are spending time. If you and your spouse go out with a couple to a movie each week, and not a week goes by that your conversation isn't steered toward how awful another one of your mutual "friends" really is, before you know it, gossip and judgement will become folly and will be normalized as a part of your relationship. Is that who you want to become? Perhaps you joined a lunch club when you were new to the community; you were seeking friends and people of action, yet every time you mention a potential project or opportunity to improve the community, you are shut down and you leave lunch, not inspired to do great things, but frustrated with your fellow citizens. Do your needs really match those within this group? Is this a healthy place for you to connect; are these folks really "Your tribe?"
3) Listen to the lessons taught silently by your words, actions, and deeds; when you are with 'your people' are you the person you want to be and/or become? Is "the day after" painful and embarrassing, or is it filled with great memories that help strengthen you? Peer pressure is real regardless of at what age we find ourselves.
So how will you discover and appreciate your "tribe?" Your tribe can be revealed in surprising ways when you looking. Clearly, sitting silently at your desk with no interactions with others will not help you develop or explore relationships, nor will reading a book with yourself every Saturday night. If you really love to read, perhaps someone else you know enjoys the same thing; ponder how you might engage others in exploring books. When you see on the bulletin board that a group from work is going out this Friday, consider showing up. Showing up just may be the first step toward discovering your tribe, or a least a member of your tribe. Do you bake? If so, you'll most certainly be appreciated by your colleagues if you deliver cookies to the break room. Perhaps a grateful colleague will spark up a conversation that leads to a meaningful relationship. Just be creative, and watch what unfolds.
To build and enjoy the right tribe, you have to take actions to foster relationships with those you aspire to have as friends, colleagues and family. The actions you take matter; as you reach out to become a better version of yourself, not everyone will respond to join you, but some might. When you bring joy and possibility to interactions, the magic begins to happen. Set fear aside, and find your tribe. If you already have a tribe, just love them; as you love them, the bonds will be strengthened. Enjoy the journey!