Why It’s Important To Find Belonging

“I want my real life to be as fun as the one I paid for.” ~ Doug Harris (Josh Gad)

Group Of Friends Enjoying Drink At Outdoor Rooftop BarI don’t know about you, but sometimes we rent movies that we think of as mindless entertainment. They can be fun, but often not enlightening. So, it always amazes me, on those rare occasions, when one of these movies makes a great point.

So it was with the Kevin Hart movie, The Wedding Ringer. In it Kevin plays Jimmy Callahan, a “wedding services consultant” who provides best man services for guys without friends. In the process he shows his client, Doug Harris, played by Josh Gad, what having a full life can be like! Not only does Jimmy serve as best man, but assembles a misfit group of groomsmen, throws him a bachelor party, and in the process shows Doug the best time of his life!

It got me thinking how important friends and a feeling of belonging are to living a full life.

Unfortunately, as Gad’s character discovers, keeping our relationships narrowly focused on work can be a big mistake. And too many of us are guilty of it. Often, we let an obsession with becoming better networkers hold us back from building longer and stronger relationships. [Tweet this] That is, the kinds of relationships that enrich our lives – even when a there’s no business or career advantage.

Make A Diverse Array of Friends

As I see it, we do well to recognize opportunities to make friends in a variety of situations, both in person and online. In some cases, doing so can mean stepping outside your comfort zone to put yourself “out there.” Yet, since most people focus mostly on building relationships related to business, let’s consider friends at work.

In his book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, business, health, and well-being author Tom Rath points out that people with at least three close friends at work, are 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their jobs, and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives. Think about that. Work friends bring not just job satisfaction, but life satisfaction! [Tweet this]

Add to these findings, the perspectives of his latest book, Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life, and you begin to see the impact of meaningful human interactions and relationships on the quality of your life.

Don’t limit yourself to work friends, though. Let’s face it variety is the spice of life, and this is true of relationships.  So, seek out friends from a diverse array of ages, genders, ethnicities, and locations. Interacting with people from around the world can broaden your perspectives, and enrich your human experience. [Tweet this] Fortunately, this is much easier than ever in today’s social media rich world.

It Comes Down To Belonging

Friendship comes down to belonging. Yet, although “circle of friends” is a well known metaphor, we don’t often think of the groups of people to whom we “belong.” Perhaps it’s because too many of us still cling to the distinction of friends and acquaintances. [Tweet this] While we think of friends as people who we can trust and rely on, acquaintances are “just” people we know. Frankly, this is not a helpful distinction.

A better distinction is one made by GirlFriendCircles.com founder Shasta Nelson, who sees five circles of friendship based on levels of consistency and intimacy. In her model:

  • Contact Friends are people we are friendly with when we see them in a shared context, say at a class, but with whom we share little intimacy.
  • Common Friends are people with whom share a common activity, but also with whom we make an effort to expand the relationship, and who make the common activity enjoyable.
  • Community Friends are people with whom we have expanded our relationship to include more activities leading to more consistency and intimacy.Three mature ladies smiling
  • Committed Friends are people with whom we have intimately and consistently shared our lives, and have a mutual commitment to be present no matter what.
  •  Confirmed Friends are people with whom we share intimacy and a history of friendship, even when our connection has not been consistent due to life changes (usually a move).

Looked at in this way, it becomes easier to see our various relationship circles. And when we can see that it becomes easier to enhance our belonging across multiple circles of friends.

Why Bother?

Studies show that belonging enhances your well-being. Yet, if you need a more pragmatic reason, consider this: When you belong, you don’t usually need to worry about getting help from others. You just ask. And naturally, you’re always ready to return the favor. So, imagine if this were true in every part of your life – from getting support for your fitness goals to finding new work. Whatever it is, the support of others helps you be successful at much of what you want to achieve in life.

So, as Doug Harris discovered, imagine how great your life would be if you enhanced your belonging across all your circles of friendship.

Why Making Friends Matters To Your Success

Make FriendsAh, networking and relationships! How well they fit together into a larger framework of success. And while it’s easy to complain about having to network, most of us want success. So, we work at becoming better networkers. I get it.

Still, I often feel an obsession with becoming better networkers can blind us to what it takes to build longer and stronger relationships. That is, the kinds of relationships that enrich our lives – even when a there’s no business or career advantage. Okay. Yes. I’m talking about friendship.

What Networking Often Lacks

If you’re like me, and a lot of other people, you know that having the right connections is critical to success. You also know that those relationships often come your way via networking. At a most pragmatic level, you realize that growing and tapping into networks opens doors. You may also be starting to see that the broader your network, coupled with your ability to navigate it, the more valuable you become.

Of course, while giving a passing acknowledgement that “relationships matter,” many people keep their eye on the prize. That is, they pursue specific new opportunities, such as qualified prospects and sales or job leads. In short, networking often becomes transactional.

This networking approach too often leads to shallow connections. What’s more, it’s typically transparent and off-putting. Nor is it a sustainable approach to achieving continued success. After all, there’s little long-term benefit in linking with people with whom you have only passing acquaintance. Most often, the people who think of you, when they see a relevant opportunity, know you well, and like and trust you. [Tweet this] Those kinds of relationships take time to build.

 Genuine Sharing, Genuine Caring

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers of the transactional mindset has been the common advice that networking is about “giving to get.” It’s not. So, approaching it that way is a turn off. Overall, I believe the sounder approach is to focus more on creating and nurturing bonds with others.

Traditionally, people have developed and strengthened their bonds via meeting up for coffee, meals, and other shared activities. Clearly, meeting in-person is a key part of cultivating relationships. These days, however, you also can take advantage of technology tools to support bonding. Used well, social media increases your ambient awareness and supports brief interactions over time. [Tweet this] As a result, you can interact more regularly, adding depth to your relationships.

Yet, however we connect, basic social niceties matter. When you begin to pay attention to the little things in other people’s lives, you not only get to know them better, but also may discover more areas of shared interest. And the more you do, the stronger your bonds can become.

A Lot Like Making Friends

Over time, as bonds become stronger, you may find you have the basis for true friendship. If so, it’s worth investing more in those relationships. For as Shasta Nelson points out in her excellent book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen!  Although making friends seems like it ought to be automatic, it’s not. In fact, she says, if you’re simply waiting for friendships to develop, chances are you may be well networked but lonely. [Tweet this]

So what’s it take to develop friendships?

Well, genuine sharing and genuine caring. And time. In Shasta’s words,

“The strength of our friendship isn’t as dependent on how much we like each other, but more on how much time we spend together developing our friendship in broader and deeper ways.  …two primary factors that create friendship…[are]… consistency and intimacy.  …consistency is regular time spent together, and intimacy is sharing that extends to a broad range of subjects and increases in vulnerability.”

Since these factors can change with time and circumstances, there are different categories of friendship. Yet, a key point to grasp is this: Making, keeping, and even changing friends is perhaps one of the most important skill sets you need to have. [Tweet this]  Especially if you want to enhance the overall quality of your life.

Friends Are Key To Life Success

An old saying reminds us that on their deathbed no one says, “I wished I’d spent more time in the office.” It’s a sad reminder that in the pursuit of success, people can miss out on life. Yet, if we measure success based on a better quality of life, then friendship is surely a critical element. In reimagining success, it’s clear that while networking is driven by self-interest, making friends is about enlightened self-interest. [Tweet this]

Cultivating friendships requires, among other things, a spirit of generosity. Friends and SuccessBeing a friend often means that we act in the interest of others. Yet, in the long run, we also serve our own interests. For what we create for our friends, as well as ourselves, is a brighter and more promising future with a greater sense of belonging, more happiness, and even enhanced longevity.

I will have more to say about friendships in future posts. Meanwhile, even if you already have friends, you could probably make more. Look for opportunities to make new ones both in-person and online.

###

What are your perspectives on friendship? How are you making friends?  What are some of the shared interests or activities that are at the basis of your friendships? Just leave a comment. I’d love to know.

Reclaim Your Future: 12 Practices To Help You Own Your Life

Note: This is the second of a two-part series about reclaiming your future. In Part 1, I described the increasingly surreal, matrix-like climate that government seems to be creating, and touched on some reasons for taking charge of your life. In this part, I provide an overview of actions you can take to begin to own your life, and exercise more control over your destiny. To go deeper on any point, just follow the links.

Reclaim Your Future (2)Have you ever found yourself saying about another person, that they ought to get a life? Yeah, me too. And if you’re like me, on occasion, you’ve probably found yourself admitting, “Man, I need to get a life!!” So, my question is, when do you say that? [Tweet this]  

Well, again drawing on personal experience, I’ll bet you’ve been most prone to feel a need for big change when:

        • You’ve felt like things were slipping out of your control.
        • Things beyond your control were negatively affecting you.
        • You’ve felt obligated in some uncomfortable way.
        • You faced too many competing demands, and felt overwhelmed.

Too often, people feel the biggest need for change when they’re trapped in circumstances that cause pain. And there’s no bigger source of pain, than a feeling of overwhelm that makes you feel helpless. It’s even more painful when you see things you can change, but you’re afraid to give yourself permission. [Tweet this]  

Well, stop it! Instead, get ready to take action!

I won’t claim to have an answer for your specific circumstances. Owning your life and reclaiming your future is ultimately up to you. [Tweet this]  Still, here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Journey Inward.

Since the time Socrates first uttered the injunction “Know Thyself,” countless others have chimed in with the same advice. So, I’m betting you’ve heard this. Yet, I’d guess you haven’t really done the kind of deep dive of introspection that leads to genuine insight. If not, why not give it a shot? And if you need an easy way to get started you may want to check out, Kerry Pastine’s nifty little book.

2. Establish Your Quest.

It’s very likely that one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced – or need to face – is making a conscious decision about what you want out of life. Yet, counterintuitive as it seems, you’ve probably been trying to achieve it for a very long time. You see, I believe we decide pretty early on, and often unconsciously, what we want our lives to be about. It’s a big reason, why I’m such an advocate of uncovering your story. I’ve coached lots of people on doing this, with great result. But I know for some, this retrospective exercise is tedious. So, alternatively, you may want to invest effort in some visioning work to figure out your quest.

3. Understand How Others See You.

Having worked with lots of people on their “personal brands,” I can tell you that many have only a faint idea about the real value they deliver to others. Maybe that’s you too. So, how do you find out? You ask. You can ask others directly, or you can choose to do an anonymous 360 survey. However, you do it, you’re likely to validate things you already know, but also to uncover a few surprises. Still, if you are opting for the red pill, this provides a unique reality check.

4. Be Authentically You.

As you probably know, we’ve crossed a threshold into a value-driven world. It’s no longer sufficient to define yourself in terms of a title or professional category. Instead, you need to answer a prospective employer’s question, “What can you do for me?” So, you need to position your unique value. Yet, who you are and what makes you worth knowing is a question that will be on the mind of everyone you meet, whether you meet them at a social function, at a community event, or at the gym. And when you meet others, it always helps you to connect when you’re being your best self.

5. Seek Belonging.

Of course, it’s easier to connect with others when you’re tuned in to the needs, wants, values, and beliefs of the communities you seek to belong to. People tend to gravitate to people they resonate with. And if you’ve ever experienced the magic of discovering shared interests and experiences, you already know this. Now build on it. Because the possibility of becoming known, liked, and trusted by others can often hinge on the perception that you’re “one of us,” and that you “get it.” So, find your people in all parts of your life, and make yourself visible to them!

6. Open Yourself Up To New Relationships. 

It’s said that variety is the spice of life, and this is ever more true of relationships.  So, seek out friends from a diverse array of ages, genders, ethnicities, and locations. Interacting with people from around the world can broaden your perspectives, and enrich your human experience. Diverse FriendsThis is much easier than ever because social media allows you to put yourself out there. So, jump in. And when you do, be a proactive conversation starter. Often saying hello and making a relevant comment often launches relationships! Do this in face-to-face meet ups too. In fact, forget the script, and dare to engage in conversations without a net.

While you’re reaching out to make new friends, don’t forget to cultivate relationships with people in your work-related communities. You probably already know lots of people who matter to your work life. Still, there is real benefit in growing that community beyond geographic and industry boundaries. Again, think variety! There is some evidence that you become more valuable as you grow a wide and diverse network.

7. Run Your Career Like A Free Agent.

The world of work has changed. Forever. While it’s true that there are still people who fit the traditional model of employee, the trend is toward free agency. Most often, this means you’re a contractor, and probably short-term. You make a valuable contribution to projects for as long as you’re needed. Then you move on. So, even as you deliver value to one client, you always need to be looking for that next opportunity. Being a free agent requires skillful self-management as well as clarity about what matters to you in finding happiness at work. Yet, more fundamentally, it means choosing yourself! Because if you don’t, you risk becoming a career zombie.

8. Learn New Things.

You probably already know that in a rapidly changing world, it’s important to keep up. Lots of people don’t, but it doesn’t mean you have to join them. If you want to reclaim your future, you need to do the learning that makes your career portable across time. Determine what you need to learn, then put yourself in charge of making sure it happens. And if you need a little extra motivation to start, see what one of the most challenging fitness systems can teach you about success.

9. Take Care of Yourself.  

Owning your life means you’re responsible for regular maintenance.  So, dedicate time to the self-care that will sustain your personal vitality. As you know, it means investing time in proper nutrition, exercise, and other wellness practices. Still, there are ways to fire up your resilience by adding other successful living practices.

10. Forget About Reinventing Yourself.

Many people, maybe even you, often face life’s disappointments with the resolve to reinvent themselves. It sounds pretty attractive, actually. Perhaps because of the promise of a fresh start. Problem is, self-reinvention is a myth, and can lead to an illusion of change. Better to engage in the kind of critical self-assessment and learning that allows you to bring out your best.

11. Decide To Be Happy.  

How do you attain happiness? Well, if you’re like a lot of people, you might be waiting for some magic event or set of circumstances that will make you happy. Decide To Be HappyThe truth is, though, happiness is less a matter of circumstance than personal choice and daily practices. And there is some significant happiness research to back this up. Turns out, there are eight happiness practices that work. Find out what they are and start applying them right now!!

12.  Give Yourself Permission To Keep Trying.

It’s pretty amazing how often people who need to make some positive change will announce their bravery or say they’re giving themselves permission. Declarations are great! But change only lives in action. And mastery only results when you move through feeble your first steps to eventual mastery. Sure, we all know what Nike and Yoda say about doing and trying. Forget all that, and keep trying. Let’s face it, you don’t learn, and you don’t get better, if you don’t try. On the road to reclaiming your future, you will stumble and fall. Yet, if you truly want to own your life, pick yourself back up, and keep trying.

###

Was this helpful? If so, do you want more? Let me know the challenges you face, and I’ll address them in future posts. Just leave a comment. Or, if you’d like to privately share a challenge for me to address, use my contact page.

Escape the Matrix and Reclaim Your Future

Note: I’m generally not a fan of two-part posts. Yet, in thinking about the time you may have to read, I felt breaking my nearly 3,000 words into two parts would be best.  In this part, I want to highlight the context for the strategies I will present in Part 2. In any event, I hope each part is a worthwhile read for you. So, let’s get started.

Living IllusionI don’t know how you feel about the current state of things, but it sure seems to me that increasingly we are living in some kind of Matrix-like world. Actually, I’ve written about this before. Yet, before saying much more, I want to share the definition of the matrix that inspired my first post:

“One way to interpret the movie is that we’re supposed to realize that there are lots of games out there, and many of them are designed to deceive you, to keep you feeling as if you’re running the show when you’re not.”

That observation comes from Chris Brogan who was discussing the premise of the movie, The Matrix.

When I wrote my original post, I was offering advice on job search to people feeling the heat of an economy that’s in pretty poor shape. It’s still in poor shape. And yet, the fact that the economy is in horrible shape, and only getting worse is not even the scary part. No, what’s truly frightening is the view, as recently delivered by some government officials, that the projected loss of jobs actually empowers people. [Tweet this] 

It doesn’t.

Earned Success, Happiness, and Longevity

Frankly, I hold to the belief that true happiness, optimal health, and longevity are tightly related to the idea of earned success, which economist Arthur C. Brooks discusses in his book, The Road to Freedom, as well as in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. Referencing the work of psychologist Martin Seligman on learned helplessness, Brooks states:

“People simply give up and stop trying to succeed…During experiments, Mr. Seligman observed that when people realized they were powerless to influence their circumstances, they would become depressed and had difficulty performing even ordinary tasks.”

In my experience as an outplacement consultant, I can attest to the fact that people without jobs are thrown onto an emotional roller coaster. And job loss has as much to do with harming sense of identity and relationships as it does with forfeiture of money and health insurance. Worse, the longer people are jobless, the less attractive they are to prospective employers. [Tweet this]  Over time, that sense of loss and helplessness can only become deeper.

Yet, this is about more than loss of identity and depression. Not working may even have an impact on how long you live. In their book, Successful Aging, John W. Rowe, M.D. and Robert L. Kahn, PhD, discuss a three-part model for longevity: (1) avoiding disease, (2) maintaining high cognitive and physical function, and (3) engagement with life. Significantly, engagement with life is determined by continued productive activity and maintaining relationships with other people.

[Read more…]

Belonging

BelongingI don’t know how you see it, but when it comes to careers, I think most people are overly focused on finding, getting, and having. Sure, doing, connecting, and serving are seen as important too. But almost always as an afterthought. The logic, it seems, is that after you get and have work, you then focus on what you can do for the people you need to connect with and serve.

Yet, what if we were to turn that logic on its head?

What if we made career choices not about getting and having work that pays the best or brings the most prestige? What if we stepped outside the logic, and first considered how we could use our talents to make a difference to the community we are naturally connected to?

[Read more…]