Tag: belonging

The Importance of Belonging

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about our need for friendship and belonging.

About a month ago, my 93-year-old mother-in-law became quite ill. After a long life of hard work and joyful activity, the matriarch of our family was now fading fast. As we stood by her bedside, saw her frail body and listened to her labored breathing, we struggled with the thoughts and emotions that inevitably come when you lose someone you love.

She had stopped eating. At each mealtime, we all tried to encourage her to take a few bites from the tray of food in front of her, but she would not. As her weight continued to drop, her face began to look more and more skeletal, and it seemed that with each passing day, the specter of death drew closer.

As this was happening, more and more people came to visit her. She lives in an apartment on the first floor of an assisted living center near the front entrance. At mealtimes, when the residents of the center make their way slowly with the aid of canes, walkers and scooters to the dining room, they have to pass my mother-in-law’s room and often stop in to see her on their way. When she became ill, the number of outside visitors who came to see my mother-in-law also increased. Everyone in the family stepped up their visits; we wanted to make sure someone was visiting her every day. And we engaged hospice and home nursing care for her as well.

At first, I wasn’t sure if all this traffic was good for her. What if someone had a cold — or worse? If she caught any type of virus at this point, it would be her end. What if she just needed peace and quiet? All this activity could take too much energy from her and not allow her to heal.

As the days wore on and we were all preparing for her demise, she began to get a little bit better. Slowly, she began eating again and gained back some of her strength. She went from napping most days to sitting up in bed chatting with visitors. We were all surprised by this change and wondered what precipitated it. In trying to get more information from her about the change in her behavior, we asked asked why she had stopped eating, her reply was, “I wasn’t hungry,” with her usual frankness. And now, apparently, her appetite was back.

Sitting with her one day at lunchtime, I watched as the steady stream of visitors came to see her on their way to lunch. It’s an entertaining bunch of old-timers. There is the 94-year-old ex-Marine who still wears his “Semper Fidelis” cap and tells WWII stories; the woman who wears purple and calls Mom “Sweetie,” which I don’t think Mom particularly likes but smiles when she says it anyway; the friendly woman who delivers stuffed animals to the very ill residents so that they always have a smiling stuffed rabbit or puppy propped up in the chair next to their bed for company; the couple who live just down the hall who are always holding hands; and the 98-year-old fellow who delivers my mother-in-law’s newspaper to her each day with a smile and sits by her bed to discuss the day’s headlines. I realized that all of these people who bring their love and friendship to her are keeping her alive. They help her feel like she belongs there with their loving kindness and attention. They give her a reason to continue to be a part of the community.

It’s so important for all of us to feel like we belong. Whether it’s to our family, group of friends or work team members, our sense of belonging is essential to our well-being. Our need for connection and contribution is part of our genetic makeup and without these things, we become more and more separate from humanity and ourselves.

This week, allow yourself to experience the joy of being connected to those you are closest to. Revel in the moments of love and affection you have with your family. Appreciate the time you spend with your teammates and what you discover about each other. Allow yourself to fully embrace the feelings of trust and commitment that come from working day in and day out with the same people. And remember how together you all make up a much bigger and better world.

As my mother-in-law started to feel better, she began to ask her caregivers to leave her front door open so that she could see the other residents walk past her door. Now, Mom’s door is open every day. As the other residents pass by, they wave and yell out, “Hi Jean, how ya doin’ today?” She always gives them a big smile and waves back with the comment, “Well, I’m still here!”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

8/12/12 “Team Work”

Good day, team.

The 2012 Olympics are coming to a close, so I’d like to write about teamwork for this week’s challenge.

We hear the word “teamwork” so often that I think we forget how much it affects our lives. When people try to accomplish a common vision, mission or goal, they engage in teamwork. It can be as complicated as the teamwork accomplished by the NASA team members who recently landed the Curiosity rover on Mars or as simple as a group of children on a playground coordinating a game of hide-and-seek. Throughout our lives, we engage with others to work together and achieve.

During this year’s Olympic games, I’ve been encouraged by the spirit of teamwork I’ve observed among many of the athletes. For example, when the U.S. men’s swim team put Michael Phelps in the last position in the team relay race. His teammates were motivated most by Michael getting another gold medal, which make him the most successful Olympic athlete of all time. If they could get him a good enough lead, then he would have a better chance at winning in the last swim. As Michael said, “I’m so grateful to these guys, they just handed me the best position and without that, we might not have won the gold.”

I was amazed to watch Jordyn Wieber of the U.S. women’s gymnastic team rooting in the stands for her team within an hour after she found out she wasn’t going to compete in the all-around gymnastic finals. The woman was ranked No. 1 in the world this past year for her gymnastics abilities, yet she didn’t win out over her own teammates to compete in the overall competition. Individually, it was a stunning blow after training her entire life in the sport. But for the sake of her teammates, she rallied soon after the disappointment to cheer them on to victory.

When working with teams, I often relay the story of Michael Jordan when he first became part of the Chicago Bulls basketball team. Michael was the best basketball player anyone had ever seen. At one of his first practices, he made basket after basket, running circles around his new teammates. At some point, Phil Jackson, his coach, pulled him aside and said that he wasn’t interested in Michael just making points. He would need to become a team player if he wanted to play for the Bulls and that meant often sacrificing making the basket himself to give the ball to one of his teammates. Michael was stunned. Wasn’t it about winning? Yes, Jackson replied, but there is no “I” in team.

Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Teamwork is often what inspires us to keep going when we think we can’t. Individually, we may be motivated to beat out everyone else, but we are limited by our personal abilities. However, when we are part of a team, there’s an extra incentive to win, to go that extra mile for our teammates. To be a part of a team, we have to trust that our teammates are behind us and rooting for us, that they want us to win as much as they want to win themselves. There’s that extra bit of encouragement that comes when you hear your teammates yell out, “Come on, you can do it!” that can make all the difference

At the heart of trust is the understanding that someone is working his or her hardest for our benefit. It’s not completely self-less because when we work hard for the benefit of others, we often get the most benefit ourselves. But the victory is so much sweeter when we can share it with our teammates. It made me so happy to see the U.S. women’s soccer team crying, laughing and hugging each other in a big, joyous, chaotic pile of women on the field right after they defeated the Japanese team for the gold medal. Without teamwork, this never would have happened.

This week, check in to see how your teamwork is going. Have you had your head down so much that you haven’t been reaching out to your team as much? Maybe you feel like the lone ranger and need to find ways to reconnect with some of your teammates. How about the overall health of your team? Is there suspicion and gossip happening? Or do you see team members being considerate of each other and supportive in working toward a common goal? If someone on the team needs more direction, is there another team member taking the time to sit down with him or her to give support? Do you see someone drifting away from the team and if so, what can you do to help him or her feel more like a part of the whole team rather than just an individual contributor?

As human beings, belonging to a greater whole is essential for our happiness. The more connected we feel, the healthier we are physically and psychologically. This is your week to do a team check. Take a look at your team, whether at work or home. Are you a healthy participant? What can you do to ensure that your team will continue to thrive?

Mia Hamm, the great American women’s soccer player once remarked, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team. I defer to it and sacrifice for it because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

5/20/12 “Separation”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about separation. That is, how we sometimes separate ourselves from others, including family, co-workers and friends.

All of us experience this sense of being separate from time to time. Sometimes it’s caused by a succession of failures, too much stress, or being out of sorts with family members or friends. Whatever the cause, when I feel disconnected from others, it is frequently accompanied by a state of depression and I experience a lot of negative thoughts:

“No one understands me.”
“Why do I have to do this all on my own?”
“No one likes me, so it won’t matter whether I show up or not.”
“I’m such a failure, I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m really an impostor here; if people really knew that I have no idea what I’m doing, I’d never have a job.”

All of these thoughts have the ring of separation to them. In these moments, I see myself as separate from the team, from my family, from my friends. I’m not like them. I’m different in some way.

When I work with teams, I often notice that someone on the team is separating themselves from the others. They may do this by not responding when asked to participate or by having the attitude that they know more than the rest of the group. If someone acts in an antagonistic or provocative way, it can separate him or her from the team. At the same time, feeling like a victim can separate a person from the whole. Even leaders who see themselves as powerful or authoritative can begin to feel separate from their teams. Whether a person sees him- or herself as special or insignificant, the results can be the same: separation.

This feeling of separateness is an illusion. Although we play different roles in our lives, we are all connected to one another. When we forget our connection to all other living beings, we start to get into trouble. I may think the Japanese tsunami last year was an event separate from me, but the remaining debris from that tsunami’s aftermath is about to show up on our west coast shores. I can judge my neighbors and feel like I’m better or smarter — until I need to call them for help. Will they judge me in return in that moment? What about when a fellow team member needs to pick up some of my job responsibilities when I’m out sick? I hope he or she won’t be feeling separate from me and will be able to see the importance of supporting me when I need it. Every action we take impacts someone else somewhere, somehow.

The best metaphor for this is the ocean and the wave. In our various roles, we show up as a wave. Sometimes waves are big and powerful, and other times, they roll calmly onto the shore. Waves can be bright and beautiful with white, frothy crests and deep blue colors or dark and grey with a slick surface. Just as we can be bright and beautiful or dark and grey, our various personalities show up as waves. Believing that our wave is separated from all the other waves can make us feel alone — but in reality, we are part of a huge ocean. That ocean is made of water and the water is what makes up the waves. Without the ocean, there is no wave. Without the rest of humanity, there is no one person.

This week, see whether you’ve separated yourself from others in some part of your life. Do you pride yourself in being different and, in turn, think you’re better than or less than others? How about with your family — are you the black sheep or the odd one or the best one? Do you separate yourself by spending most of your time alone? Do you not pay attention to others when you’re in a meeting and separate your attention away from everyone else? When you resist participating, what is it in you that thinks you’re not connected to everyone else? If you envision a sports team playing on the field, what if someone kicks the ball to their teammate and their teammate decides not to play anymore? Doesn’t the game stop? We are indeed each unique individuals, but it’s important to understand that what makes us special doesn’t need to separate us from others. In fact, that’s what makes teams so great — all of those unique qualities and strengths directed toward a common goal.

This week, appreciate how connected you are to others in all things. We were not put here to be alone and belonging to each other is one of the great gifts of humankind.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 422-9249