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Here are four ways to create community when you need it— not just for others, but for yourself.

In the weeks since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of creating safe space for vulnerable communities, and how to be an activist in the every day. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes leaders need to seek support and safety, too— this time for ourselves.

Let’s not forget: many of us struggle in the age of social media with face-to-face connection. And yet, in moments where we’re afraid, angry or exhausted, sometimes one on one contact is what we need the most.

Here are four ways to create community when you need it— not just for others, but for yourself.

 

1) Open Your Home.

Too often these days, our homes become isolated locations to which we return at the end of a busy day to plug into our devices. It wasn’t all that long ago, however, that our homes were instead places to gather— to connect with our families, our friends and our loved ones.

 

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of opening one’s home from my parents. Once a quarter, they participate in a “dine-around” with all the neighbors on their street. Each household is responsible for one course of a meal, and the gathering moves from home to home over the course of the evening. My parents have been doing this for years, and some incredible long-term friendships have emerged from this simple evening four times a year.
If getting to know your neighbors isn’t your thing, however, consider how you could host a gathering for other women. Are you in the midst of new parenting? Host a playdate for kids and other moms. Are you committed to a cause or political effort? Offer to host an event for like-minded women in your home. Just after new girlfriends? Host a dinner where every woman has to bring a new friend.

Opening your home not just creates instant community but also makes the space that you live reverberate with good vibes and bonding long after the event is over.


2) Seek Out New Circles.

As we get older, we often get set in our social circles and means of connection. For that reason, and especially in times of personal or professional crisis, it’s important that we create new connections to create community that reflects our current needs.

 

For example, as my business has scaled in the last 18 months, I found I needed to shift the circle of women entrepreneurs in which I was circling to get advice from women who had scaled exponentially in a very rapid fashion. As a result, in early 2016, I invested in a Women’s Mastermind Circle for the first time in over five years. None of these women had been known to me before this time, and yet the support I received from this new circle professionally and personally has changed my life.

 

Similarly, a friend who is in the midst of a divorce recently approached me about her desire to meet other high-performing women who might be in similar circumstances. I made a few referrals, and before long she had a completely new social circle built from a support organization for women in the process of divorce, with the added benefit that these new friends didn’t have to negotiate “picking sides” between her and her ex.

As our lives change, our social needs do, too. Ask yourself what you most need right now from community, and go find it!


3) Consider Setting a Limit on Social Media Use.

This may sound counterintuitive, but limiting social media use can actually increase our creativity with regard to building community. Social media provides us with the dopamine hit of connection, but can leave us still feeling lonely when we’re not online.

 

I encourage clients who are craving connection to make an effort to pick up the phone or send a personal email to someone they’d like to catch up with, rather than logging in to social media as a default. As well, most of my clients struggle with overwhelm, and limiting time on social also helps us to feel more expansive generally and like we have room for more, in all things.

Get out from behind the computer and connect personally, by voice or live. Your experience of community will feel more richer for it.


4) Commit to a Cause You Care About, and Volunteer.

Especially given where many women leaders find themselves in the aftermath of the election, taking action with like-minded folks not only aids the world, but also creates a support network within which to vent frustration in positive ways. 

Whether you care about reproductive rights, equal pay, getting women to run for office, or Black Lives Matter, working toward a goal that is bigger than ourselves is ironically enough one way to feel safer in our world. Studies have also shown that giving to others also makes us feel better about ourselves and creates optimism about the future.


Now, perhaps more than ever, creating and cultivating community will save us as individuals as much as it will save our world. Shoulder to shoulder, we rise.

 


elizabeth-mclaughlinDescribed as a “celebrated career coach” and “fearless entrepreneur,” Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin is the CEO of Gaia Project Consulting, LLC, and the Founder of The Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership.  

Elizabeth has a storied track record of success as a Wall Street lawyer, serial CEO and entrepreneur, and high-powered executive coach. After a fifteen year career as a full-time Wall Street securities litigator and trial lawyer, Elizabeth founded Gaia Project Consulting, LLC, an executive consulting and coaching firm that serves senior executives across tech, finance, banking, law, fashion, healthcare, non-profit and consulting, propelling its clients to new heights of growth and professional alignment.

Five years later, she founded The Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership, offering virtual and live programming to grow New Paradigm Women’s Leadership worldwide.

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