So many lifequesters I’ve met and emailed with are placing a new priority on social interconnectedness—modern forms of what we used to call “community”—rather than pursuing the standard life approach of exclusively looking for romantic connection. Research shows that social interconnectedness—as much as and sometimes more than romantic connection—is a predictor of personal success, personal happiness, and contribution to the world. It is a big subject so I am going to give it to you in two chunks. This is the second.
Both chunks are taken from my new book How To Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind Of Happiness That Helps The World and you can find the first chunk–about building a vision for the personal community that works best for you–here. This second chunk is about the concrete to steps to take to build the community from your vision:
No Need To Reinvent The Wheel
From the vision you build in Part I of this post, you know what you want and you know what is missing. But there may be no need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe what you need has already been built and you can just plug yourself in. There is no need to go inventing new groups if there is one you might already like to be part of.
The question is, where are these groups? It used to be easier because the venues for interconnectedness were more visible— neighborhoods, clubs, and family groups. You could just join them. The new forms of interconnectedness are not quite so visible because they are based not on membership of organizations but on bonds of affection and shared values. So here are some hints:
- Go through your e-mail contact list and identify any friends you know who are really interconnected. Ask to join in on their community’s activities so you can become part of it, too.
- Tell your friends what you are looking for and ask if there is anyone they think you should meet.
- Consider going to whatever events you have been invited to on Facebook.
- If you want to be part of a save-the-world group, volunteer somewhere.
- If you want to be part of spiritual group, see who might be already practicing together and where.
- Use Meetup.com. Groups meeting within two miles of my house include: pickup soccer, neighborhood LGBT twenties and thirties “non-sceners,” ukulele players, and a real estate investment club.
Mine Your Existing Networks
Perhaps there is no existing group you can find or you want to build a community more personal to you. In that case, the first place to look is in your existing networks because, for some of us, the problem isn’t that we need to find new people. It is that we haven’t made space and time to build on the relationships we already have.
So, make a list of everyone who has ever been important to you, who is important to you, and whom you would like to be important to you. You might go through your e-mail address book and your Facebook friend list to help prompt you with names. It doesn’t matter if you only come up with three or four people. That is plenty to build from.
Use the list in two ways:
- To provide names of people you would like to build more interconnection with
- To help you see what kind of people you have enjoyed being interconnected with so that you can build similar connections again
Have Regular Gatherings
Research shows that people come to like and feel affection for those who are familiar. In one study, people were shown a random set of pictures of people’s faces. The number of times each face was seen varied. The more people saw a face, the more they liked it.
For this reason, having a regular gathering lowers people’s guards. It automatically builds interconnection. This is not to say everyone who comes to the gathering has to be part of your most intimate group. But it gives you a chance to meet people you might be interested in and for other people to do so, too.
Some hints for creating a regular gathering:
- Create a weekly or biweekly event. Aim to have between eight and fifteen people attend.
- Choose a low-value night when people don’t have a lot else to do, like a Tuesday.
- If possible, choose a public venue instead of a private home, so people with weak connections to the group won’t feel self-conscious about attending and so people can just stumble onto your group.
- Choose a venue that is cool and nice so people want to go to it, but don’t choose a place so popular that you can’t push your tables together.
- Invite more people than you want to come, say twenty the first time. You’ll learn how many to invite as you go along.
- Send an e-mail invite and then a reminder. Demonstrate high value. Mention the names of a couple of people who are coming and why they are fun. Maybe say that someone is going to perform.
- Just because people don’t come the first time doesn’t mean they won’t come the next.
- Send an e-mail afterward to everyone—including those who didn’t come—recapping all the cool things that happened. Remind everyone that the event will happen again the following Tuesday.
- Add new people to your invitation list as you go along.
Focus and Select
So now you have a vision for your personal community, an idea of what kind of people you need and what roles you want them to fill, and a regular event where people are showing up and you can get to know them. Begin to focus in on people you especially enjoy doing things with—dinner, the movies, game night. Have smaller gatherings.
Or, to save time, ask them to join you in something you have to do anyway, like going to the Laundromat or grocery shopping.
Choose people who show up to your event night regularly. People who give back by helping to organize. People who have invited you places. People who want to be involved and help. These are the people who will commit to a personal community in the long term.
The cool thing about all this is that it is not rocket science. The steps that are necessary are actually easy. What is hard is that none of us are actually taught to emphasize personal community as a means to success, happiness and service. But taking these easy steps will bring all three!!
To read the Part I of this post click here.
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