This month, I am meeting up with a group of coaches to share notes on our respective practices and to collaborate. And it got me thinking about “community” and what it means to have a support group.
In the early 1960’s researchers found that a small town in Pennsylvania, called Roseto, had a rate of heart disease much lower than the national average. It also seemed more resistant to ulcers and senility. After searching for the reason, they concluded that the magic ingredient was a sense of community. Research has confirmed this. Doctors have found that relationships improve the health of people suffering from heart disease and that the lives of cancer patients are prolonged by support groups. Other benefits are more subtle – such as feelings of self-worth and dignity. Without support, life can seem like a constant battleground. That’s why Live community is vital for our own survival.
Communication in the age of the internet is easy and has tremendous value, but it can’t replace time spent with actual people. It is a very courageous act to share your life with others. A personal support group can be one of the most rewarding aspects of your life. If you are looking to organize one, it works best when a regular schedule and meeting place are established and the participants have a program or focus area for each meeting. Your support team might look like one of the following:
1. A person in your life with whom you can be completely open and vulnerable: your spouse, significant other, best friend or therapist.
2. Mentor(s) who can guide and counsel you. A professional board of directors.
3. A gathering of your peers. Six to eight individuals who meet regularly to talk about the most important and intimate issues in their lives.
A few suggestions: I. Seek advice from a diverse group of people with different life experiences who can offer you insight and perspective. Try to avoid choosing friends of friends. II. Begin with one another’s life story. You don’t know what it was like during each person’s journey. Be vulnerable and share your crucibles. III. Follow a prescribed program of discussion topics about your lives. Ground it in context, but allow time for some personal issues. IV. Sign a contract and make promises to do the things you outline. V. Learn to give and receive. As Ken Blanchard has said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” The most important things in making your group a success include mutual respect, openness, trust, confidentiality, honest feedback, candor and kindness. (Not just, “How are the Yankees doing?” type chatter). Your personal support group can help redirect you when you are getting off track. By asking for their insights about you, you can engage the members in helping you to stay on course. And you can do the same for them.