Updated: Mar 11, 2020
I've been reading so much about how we all need to find our tribe. It seems everywhere I look, in magazines, on TV there is stuff to do with finding your tribe. What is a tribe in the context of the 21st century?
What tribe for you? Is your tribe your family? Is it your friends? Is it your sporting team? Is it a group of people who love you?
For me, my tribe is a group of people are supportive and encourage the sharing of ideas without judgement. My tribe have a lifetime of experiences of their own that they share and help to open up opportunities for new ideas and growth. My tribe mentor me and provide me with challenging insights.
A while ago someone asked me who is in my tribe and I immediately landed on a particular group of friends. As I read more and learned more about what a tribe really is, I became aware that my tribe may not be friends. I asked one of my mentors his thoughts on tribe and he gave me the two questions he asks himself to establish someone’s eligibility for entry into his tribe.
After asking these two questions about the people I had considered to be in my tribe I discovered that I really only have one, maybe two people in my tribe.
Finding your tribe is a process which I like to compare to when you’re looking for a new car. When you are looking to buy a car you do research into the features, the performance and safety standards for that car. You should do the same level of research when you’re building your tribe (safety standards may not apply!!).
We'll talk about both the family tribe and the friend tribe as well as what I call my “true tribe” or my Inner Circle. Let’s first talk about the benefits of having a tribe. The main theme I see is that within your tribe is a no judgement zone, it’s a safe space to grow and it’s where you can be yourself, where you can seek guidance from others. Your tribe is your sounding board. They are people who are like-minded; they’re building a business, learning or honing a skill or on a self-development journey. It’s the sort of stuff you can’t do alone and your results will be so much better if you surround yourself with supporters and guides.
“You can’t do epic shit with basic people”
Your tribe has got to include some pretty special people but don’t start stalking Brene Brown, Bill Gates or Mother Theresa quite yet! The people you chose need to be able to stand on their own and be on their own epic journey and be moving towards living their own amazing life.
So, who are the people you are choosing to spend your time with? Do they build you up or shoot you down? Are the people you’re mixing with sharing your enthusiasm for change, do they share your hopes and dreams? Are they open to allowing you to grow?
I had a typical 1980s childhood, my sister and I rode our bikes around the streets, we were in and out of the neighbouring houses. Our parents were very loving and supportive of us and worked hard so they could give us a great education. The standards in our family were that we would study hard at school and immediately go to university to study the sciences and go onto to a successful working life. Both grandfathers were engineers, my mum was a pharmacist and my dad was an industrial chemist. I still remember their horrified response when at 17 I announced I would be dropping all science classes at school and I’d be focusing on languages and art. My goal at the time was to become fluent in Japanese and join what is now known as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or DFAT. Dad, in particular, was very angry and wouldn’t accept my decision. I think it was mum who finally gave her OK but I remember the pressure to conform to the family rules and their belief that an education in the sciences was the best and only education.
The best tribe for you might not necessarily be your family.
The tribal cycle is something we talk about a lot in coaching. It’s the passing down of beliefs, standards and behaviours that are accepted in that family group from generation to generation.
Have a think about your family, were there standards, ways of behaving, ways of talking that were part of your family life? Did you embrace them all or were there some that didn’t sit so well with you or some that you actively chose to avoid. Were there unwritten rules, dos and don’ts?
Many years ago, my husband was living and working in an aboriginal community in Far Nth QLD and as it was a ‘wet’ community there were plenty of alcohol-related issues; domestic violence, people drinking in the streets, fights and some pretty confronting stuff. He met a young guy who wanted to make a better life for himself and he had got a job with the council. He was doing really well cleaning himself up and getting on track.
One day, after not seeing this guy for a few weeks, my hubby spotted the young guy sitting by the road. He was drunk. Hubby went over and asked him what happened, why had he gone back to drinking and given up his dreams of a better life. Do you know what his response was? That his family had hassled him about his job and had they’d said things like why don’t you drink with us anymore, aren’t we good enough for you, don’t you love us anymore?
He stopped chasing his goal of a better life and went back to the un-resourceful, unhealthy actions just so he could be accepted by his family.
As a result, the tribal cycle continues and is passed on from one generation to another.
I have some great friends who are Indian and the last thing their parents would allow them to do is to marry someone from outside their culture. They will be married to someone approved by their parents, maybe not an arranged marriage in all cases but to someone approved by the cultural experts based on astrology (very important to Indians) and other cultural factors.
Back to finding your tribe. Is your family your biggest supporter and will they guide and champion you to your own goals? Or is their support on condition that the goal is a shared or approved goal?
How do you find your tribe?
In doing my Inner Circle research I started to observe the sort of conversations I was having with my friends. I noticed if the conversations were free of judgement of others, or bitchy and judgey. I observed how free we were to contribute or if there was a silent hierarchy in the group. Did I feel afraid to share ideas or give my opinion for fear of being ridiculed or shot down? I took note of who most often lead the conversation and if they condemned those who wouldn’t do it their way or didn’t share their same opinion of the world.
I discovered that a really good clue to the quality of the group is the number of questions that are asked and how the responses are received.
Conversations that are just statement after statement with everyone trying to one-up each other, seeking approval from others does not make for an environment for growth or support.
The 2 Inner Circle questions I got from my mentor of mine a were the clincher for me:
1. How much do I need to change myself to be around you?
When I heard this question, I was blown. Everything made sense! I had been twisting and contorting myself to fit in with the group of people I was spending most of my time with and this was making me anxious and so unhappy. I realised what the problem was; I wasn’t able to be myself. I wasn’t able to talk about my successes or my goals and these people weren’t feeding my mind. They were not my number one fans and in telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, bringing me down. If they were challenged by something I shared, they’d go silent.
If you apply this question to the individuals who make up your family, friends or others you currently call your tribe, how many would pass the test? Be honest. Can you really be 100% authentic with these people or do you wear a mask for protection?
It’s important to note that you don’t need to share all the same goals and beliefs with your Inner Circle but your Inner Circle must be supportive of your beliefs and challenge them if they are not sustainable or helping you to get where you want to go. This is important so you can refine and polish your beliefs until they’re serving you perfectly.
2. Is this person on a journey to improving their own life?
Just by reading this far means could become part of my Inner Circle. By reading this article you must be someone on your journey, where you’re at on that journey doesn’t matter. The people you seek out will be at different points in their journey; some many years in, some just starting out. It’s important for them to be clear about owning 100% of their results and that they don’t rely on others for their self-esteem? And they need to be someone you can you talk to about your journey and know they won’t judge.
Of course, you don’t just walk up to someone at a party and randomly start asking these questions. These are fairly intimate questions and require a reasonable level of trust to be established.
After reviewing the people I spend the most time through the lens of the Inner Circle Test, my Inner Circle shrunk significantly and I am super OK with that. I have a wide group of friends but now I have a separate, very special group of people who get to see the REAL me and I get a group to whom I get to give 100%.
So where do you find these fabulous and amazing beings?
Firstly you need to ditch the judgement of others and open yourself up to people from other walks of life.
You never know who you might find out there. Next, you need to open yourself up to new experiences and try new things. Go to networking functions, start a new hobby, walk your dog in a different park.
Social media can be great for this too. You can reach out to your Inner Circle by creating a Facebook page for people interested in your thing and meet your Inner Circle through that medium. If you’re not good with the tech there is already a Facebook group for almost everything known to humankind so join one already set up. Just connect with people and start conversations to find things in common. Engage and become part of that new community, approach people and start conversations, ask questions and be curious.
You’ll know when you meet someone who’s Inner Circle material.
Building your Inner Circle is a process and takes time. An Inner Circle doesn’t magically appear overnight, it takes time to build that level of trust. You may not see your Inner Circle all the time, you just need to know that they will be there for you and can go to them when you need them.
"Your tribe shows you sun when you can only see clouds"
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