- Listed: April 16, 2011 10:38 pm
Your tribe. These are the people who encourage you, support you and believe in you. It can include your family, current set of friends, new friends, friends of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. And maybe complete strangers (who sometimes seem to understand us more than those who’ve known us all our lives).
As you set out on a new adventure or life goal, look around you and assess what—and who—will be most supportive, and spend your time and energy cultivating that network.
It’s our job to be aware of who’s in our tribe—who’s helping, who’s hurting, and who’s missing. If you’re looking to make a major life change (lose a lot of weight, get out of debt, run a marathon when you’ve never run a mile, start a business), it’s imperative that you have solid support. And that support needs to excite you and remind you it’s possible.
Making big life changes is tough. It’s scary and fraught with challenge. And it’s exhilarating, energizing and filled with really big events to celebrate (and the frequent, probably-even-more-important, really small steps that add up to those big milestones). We all deserve to feel worthy and able to create our dreams. To step out into a bigger life than we’ve previously dreamed possible. Who do you want with you?
Right. I thought so. A tribe that has your back.
I’ve broken out this post into four main aspects of tribe-building:
- Why is creating a strong tribe essential?
- How do you recognize your tribe (and identify those who don’t belong)?
- What’s important to remember when building your tribe?
- And finally, a reminder that your role and responsibility toward your tribe is as important as who’s there.
The Strength of a Tribe
When we set about to make big changes in our lives, we need to surround ourselves with a tribe of people who believe in us. Who are excited to see us grow and evolve. Who encourage us to follow our dreams—no matter how weird or hard it might seem to them. They’re the ones that ask us <em>how</em> we’re going to make a change instead of saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Our tribe will assume we can do it—even if we’re not there yet. The non-believers question us and tell us stories about how others failed, or why we won’t make it. Maybe it’s a story about why *they* failed. Our tribe cheers us on and celebrates our milestones. They’re genuinely curious about our journey and lend an ear (or shoulder) when we need it. So… who’s in your tribe?
Recognizing Your Tribe
I remember the first time I signed up for the Pike’s Peak marathon. It was a huge goal for me. I’d only just started running a few years before and had only one other marathon under my belt. I had a friend at the time who, when I mentioned I’d signed up, simply said, “wow, that’s a big goal. Do you think you’re up for it?”
As the race day neared, I mentioned it again and received the disbelieving comment, “wow, you might actually do it.” (As if up until then, that eventuality hadn’t occurred to her.) I felt as though—after over six months of training—my friend still didn’t truly believe I could do it. I was crushed. It became clear to me that I didn’t have her full support when I needed it.
I was changing and she wasn’t there. And unfortunately, our friendship began to suffer. We slowly grew apart and I finally came to the realization that I didn’t want her in my tribe.
It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. But one of the most important. And it was the beginning of yet another change for me: I started to build a new tribe.
The friends I’d made while training are the ones that asked about how I was going about training and what my goal time was. They were the ones that asked me how I was going to celebrate “when I finished.” These were the people I wanted in my tribe.
They never doubted for a minute that I could do it. I realized this was incredibly important and began to focus my energy on cultivating these relationships.
Knowing Who Doesn’t Belong
One of my current clients is training for her fourth marathon, yet is finding it hard in a new town. We talked a little about the differences, and it came up that one reason is she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about her training with new friends. She described an encounter while discussing a 5K she’d run earlier in the year. Her co-worker asked her what her time was. Upon hearing it, the response was, “why so slow?”
Really!!!?! Seriously? I was rendered speechless (and found myself pretty angry) at the comment.
Signs that someone will be detrimental to your goal and should NOT become a member of your tribe:
- They belittle your accomplishments (“Why so slow?”)
- They are surprised when you’re about to succeed (“Wow, you might actually do it.”)
- They guilt you into keeping the status quo (“Oh, come on. you know you won’t stick to your training schedule. Just come out with us.”)
- They who negate your efforts (“If you can’t run a marathon without walking, it doesn’t count.”)
- You start to feel like everyone around you is right, you really don’t have what it takes to succeed.
- You start to feel guilty for losing weight or being debt-free.
- You give up because you believe everyone else is right and your idea is stupid. Or too hard. Or too big.
- You stop believing in yourself and start listening to others.
We—as the people who want to make a change, who want to grow and evolve and do big things—have to be vigilant and aware of the tribe we create for ourselves. It takes great strength and discipline to surround ourselves with healthy and supportive tribemates.
Building Your Tribe
First, look inward. Be clear about your own vision for the change you’re making. Begin to cultivate an awareness of what makes you feel buoyed and excited. Then look outside at who’s there with you.
Characteristics of a solid tribe:
- Enthusiasm for your goal. Even if they’re not runners themselves, they’re excited that you’re running.
- Support for your goal. They don’t suggest going dutch at a 5-star restaurant when they know you’re on a strict plan to get out of debt. (Or, God forbid, make fun of you for not buying that new, cute-with-a-$200-price-tag handbag, or the latest iProduct.
- Unwavering belief that you can do it. There’s just no question in their mind that your goal is awesome, and you’re going to rock it.
- Experience in making changes. They’ve been through change. They know what the journey is like and how hard it can be. They cheer you on through the rough spots.
You want to surround yourself with a tribe of possibility—those people and experiences that believe in you and build up your successes. It helps to have people in your tribe who’ve done what you’re setting out to do. People who understand what it takes; who have experienced the challenges and have come through—that believe in you when you’re not sure yourself.
Your tribesfolk will teach you, encourage you and cheer you on simply because they want to see you succeed. They don’t have an agenda for your success. They want you to succeed for your own sake. These people know—on a deep level—that your success means a greater success for everyone.
Your tribe should also include those that have experience with making a big change. Seeing the possibility of success and knowing it can be done can help pull you through those moments of self doubt and fear.
I have found that when I state a goal, the universe opens up and opportunities abound. Tribes appear in the most random and unexpected places. Twitter. A blog comment. A stranger cheering you on across the finish line. An Internet forum or a story in the newspaper about someone else accepting a similar challenge. A tribe can include the environment around you. It doesn’t have to be people you see everyday.
When I quit my job and decided to start my own life coaching practice, I started reading blogs and posts dedicated to small businesses and living an unconventional life. I hung out in coffee shops and spent time with people that did that every day. These tribes taught (and still teach) me that even though I’d never run further than 26.2 miles, and I’d never owned my own business, that it’s possible. They don’t think I’m crazy. I’m not alone.
Having a Tribe Means Being in One
Laird Hamilton has the right attitude. I watched a video interview recently where he says (quite matter-of-factly):
“It’s amazing how, if you encourage somebody, how much strength you give them. […] It just brings up your energy and you can kind of, at times, do things that are superhuman.”
To encourage someone is to give them strength. We must act within our tribe, as we want our tribe to act towards us. We must be our own cheerleader and we must cheer others on. When a member of our tribe seeks support, we support them without an agenda. We must genuinely and sincerely wish success for them—even when we haven’t yet achieved our own.
And remember that you are in the driver’s seat heading toward your goal. Your tribe is there to support, encourage and help when you need it. But they don’t call the shots on your dream. You do. And the cool thing about having such a stellar tribe is that they know this, and they honor it.
So look around. Find your tribe. Support and be supportive. Encourage and be encouraged. Believe in yourself and the changes you are making. Trust that change is possible. Build your tribe and as Gandhi says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Amy Christensen is a certified life coach at Expand Outdoors
(http://www.expandoutdoors.com/), where she helps others create fun, healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes through the outdoors. She recently moved back to the mainland and can be found traveling around the country with her husband working, climbing, trail running and mountain biking (and very much missing the salt water!).
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