Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Power of Tribes



We've all heard "be yourself", "be authentic", "don't try to please others", and many more sentiments that go along with that.
While I agree with authenticity, self-expression, and being consistent if not the same across many different situations - it's not quite that simple.

The famous maxim 'know thyself' predates even Plato (some give Thales the credit, around the 10th century). But what does it mean to 'know thyself'? What do we even include in the definition of 'self'?
Without opening a lengthly and potentially pointless philosophical debate, I will simply put forth that very few if any environments nurture the whole self.
- Spend a week with your best friends and you can't wait to get back to your family you miss
- spend too much time with your kids and you long for adult company and a glass of wine, not neccessarily in that order.
- spend too much time in leisure fulfilling your hobbies, and you might end up in an existential funk, wondering what mark you will leave on the world
- spend too much time working, even in pursuits you are truly passionate about, and you can be quite out of balance.

Enter the notion of 'tribe'. Though the term tribe may often refer to family clans, it is most often used to define a social group. It is in that context that I am suggesting tribes can lead to greater personal fulfilment, self discovery, and perhaps even personal mastery.

Just as one person may have several roles and responsibilities (as well as diverse interests), a person who is looking to grow and fulfil each aspect of themselves that matters will likely have more than one tribe. Allow me to elaborate;

The tribe that matters the most to me is family. This is one of the tribes within which I can be most vulnerable, one in which I don't need to tread carefully to operate with my other members, and one I would defend most passionately.

Having said that, there are aspects of myself that might show up in the tribe of 'the boys' that wouldn't with my wife. There is common understanding, shared experience, and common values that aren't opposite to those I share with my wife & son, just different. I do not have to (nor should I) be a different person in this tribe, simply allow a different side of me to show.

Yet another tribe would be my coworkers. There is a common bond around our very unique work environment that very few others could possibly understand.

The same is true for other tribes;

- my former football teammates
- my leadership tribe from Royal Roads University
- my close-knit group of neighbours who are also friends and share similar parental values
- a small but close group of friends I worked with in Vancouver years ago
- volunteer groups, church groups, or any other close association

The point is, it is ok to feel like you 'change' slightly when moving from one social or family group to another. As long as you are being authentic and honest, you aren't being a chameleon; you are shifting from one tribe to another. When this happens you ebb and flow from different groups whose common bonds differ from one another, thus the discussions, common threads, perhaps even shared values change from one tribe to another.

People are complex social and emotional creatures. That being said, it should be no surprise in a world where people can have 2000+ Facebook friends that one size doesn't fit all in a social setting. If you truly do 'know thyself', then by now you've identified what tribes there are in your life, and how each one of them charges and refuels a different part of what makes you whole.

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