The Power of Groups: Why doing things with other people benefits you as an individual
Whatever your current problem is, I can promise with you 100% certainty that there is a group of people who share that problem.
Overweight and out of shape? There’s a group for that! Want to learn how to crochet or play guitar or do play therapy? Other people want to learn that too! Struggling with something traumatic that happened in your life or feeling super-anxious all the time? Trust me on this one….you are one of many!
Our brains are really interesting though and when we are faced with a challenge, we often think either 1) we are the only person in the whole world with that struggle or 2) it feels terrifying to admit it out loud and ask for help from others for fear that they will judge or ridicule us.
And yet, groups can be a really powerful agent of change.
Finding a community can make a difference maker - it can be the reason that you are able to overcome the stress that comes with stretching out of your comfort zone.
I use the word community here intentionally.
What you often hear are things like “find your tribe” although there’s growing awareness about why using the word tribe is offensive. If you have a legitimate affiliation to an indigenous group, I have literally no room to speak on your use of that word and any positive meaning that it brings you and that is not what I am doing now.
But in a different context, in The Second Mountain by Robert Brooks (great book, btw and awesome summary on this SuperSoul podcast), Brooks distinguishes between tribes and communities.
“Community is connection based on mutual affection. Tribalism, in the sense I am using it here, is connection based on mutual hatred. Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on common foe.”
So, as we talk about the power of groups, I intentionally use the word community to stress benefits that come from finding other people that have similar passions, similar goals and ultimately, the habits that you are trying to cultivate.
Unique ways that groups help you as an individual
1. Social coherence
Heart Math Institute has researched and written extensively about the concept of social coherence. Studies have shown that the heart rates of audience members sync in positive ways when listening to a story or a music performance. And other research that synchronized movements among people increased our feelings of cooperation, social trust and feelings of group identity.
2. Your group can determine your success
I read so many completely random books. In a recent one called “We Should all be Millionaires” the author Rachel Rodgers shared this astonishing statistic from Dr. David McClelland that “95 percent of your success or failure in life is determined by the people with whom you habitually associate.” It seemed a bit hyperbolic but I googled David McClelland and links to his research pop up everywhere.
Actively seek out mentors, colleagues, friendships and communities where people are already doing the things that you want to do. Groups of successful friends hold you accountable - they expect you to be at the 6am workout. They want to see that project you talked about completed. They love the same things you do love so success is a win for everyone.
3. Groups create identity
More from James Clear (start here if you don’t know about Atomic Habits) about the power of groups to create an identity that supports good habits. He talks about how joining a group makes a behavior that you want to integrate into your life “part of the cultural norm.”
It’s so much easier to “be a reader” when you are accountable to a book club, for example. It takes the pressure off of me to choose a book when I am part of a group that says “let’s read this together.” As a member of a group, each person takes responsibility for creating the norms and standards.
4. Groups are good places to learn new things
We’ve been conditioned to loathe the group project because someone always ends up doing the lion-share of the work while everyone else sits around and gets equal credit. But, groups have special powers.
When training to become a therapist, then a play therapist, then an EMDR therapist and now a journal therapist - my experiences in supervision/consultation groups stand out as my favorite learning tools of all time. I love them so much, I wrote about play therapy supervision groups in this new book Implementing Play Therapy with Groups.
The great thing about groups is that you can learn from other people’s successes (and mistakes), you can normalize challenges and ways to overcome them and you can build confidence in strategies by seeing them work for someone else before you try it.
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