Dear Friends and Clients,

My clients often come to me because they want to address career challenges. They may be looking for ways to make a change, or perhaps they have taken on new challenges and want to step up their game.

Even when clients are focused on professional issues, however, it often is effective to take an early look at other realms of their lives. For example, their success at work may be greatly affected by their fitness and stress levels, so we will touch upon topics like exercise and nutrition.

Over my years of coaching, I’ve noticed increasingly that one critical aspect of life that clients may not actively manage is the degree to which they belong to supportive communities. As I’ll discuss in this issue, your sense of being part of a community can impact your stress level, your resilience, your health and your performance at work.

When you think about ways to assure that 2009 is a rewarding year, I hope that you will devote some energy to your involvement in supportive communities.

Warm Wishes, Bev

Communities Help Us To
Reduce Stress, Stay Healthy
& Meet Challenges

January 20, 2009 * Number 96

Longevity expert Dan Buettner spent five years visiting areas of the world where people tend to live longer, healthier lives. He describes lifestyle trends in those healthy areas in his book, “Blue Zones – Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

Buettner says that “Blue Zones” are places where an extraordinary number of people in their 80s, 90s and 100s are enjoying active, vital lives. In the book, he examines the daily lives, diets and outlooks of Blue Zone residents in Japan, Costa Rica, Italy and California. And from them he draws lessons about simple lifestyle adjustments that could help all of us live longer.

Not surprisingly, Buettner focuses much of his discussion on diet and exercise. But the buzz about his book is focused mostly on Buettner’s key conclusion. He says that the most powerful thing you can do to change your lifestyle for the better may be to develop rich social connections.

Buettner says that in each of the Blue Zones, nonagenarians and centenarians get more out of life because they are part of supportive communities. For example, in Okinawa, elderly Japanese citizens maintain strong social connections through regular gatherings of their “moais.”

The idea of the “moai” pre-dates the organized banking system. It began as a local group of friends where you could turn if you needed a loan. Today individual moais date back many decades and have evolved into small groups where members can turn, in good times and bad, for regular social and emotional support.

There is a growing body of research that links good health and social connection. Reasons for this might be that supportive communities can help us to manage stress, gain perspective and maintain healthy habits.

In the Blue Zones, where people tend to remain close to home, their communities include friends they have known all their lives. But a community no longer needs to be based on geography.

When psychologists talk about a “community” they mean some kind of group that has members, rather than a network of unconnected people. Members of a community have some feeling of belonging, as well as a sense of mattering, of making a difference to the group. Feeling connected to a community makes us feel that there’s somebody we can call on in case of need.

“Community” may be one realm of your life that you’d like to manage more effectively. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Consider your network. Start by looking over your address book and thinking about the people you know. Note the ones who share your values, and who offer you support. Recognize these and other friends who form your inner circle. Become more methodical about staying in touch with and nurturing your inner circle relationships.

  • Become active. List the organizations to which you belong, and think about other potential communities, like the neighborhood where you live. Identify communities where you might be able to make a bigger contribution, and perhaps get to know more members.

  • Join. Identify additional groups of people whose company you might enjoy. Think about pastimes you like or want to try, and look for groups with the same interests. For example, if you love walking, join a hiking club, and make friends at the same time you exercise.

  • Form a board of advisors. Convene a few folks with similar values or challenges, and start a group for mutual support. Professionals may benefit by creating an informal advisory council, in which the group acts as a career advisory board for each of the members.

    Want more ideas for creating a balanced life and high performance career? In addition to providing executive coaching, Bev is available to speak about a broad range of issues related to your work life. Visit her website at www.ClearWaysConsulting.com or email to Bev directly. Bev is associated with Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates.

  • Bev’s Tips for a Better Work Life is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month by Beverly E. Jones of ClearWays Consulting, LLC.   Bev is a lawyer and former executive who now coaches accomplished executives and other professionals to bring new direction, energy and enjoyment to their work lives.

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