Do you belong?
I don’t! At least not until fairly recently in my life.
You see, although I don’t present as one, I am naturally more of an introvert.
Additionally, for reasons mostly of my own creation and external circumstances like escaping Iran at a delicate age and immigrating to a country with a wildly different culture, I found myself to be “unfittable” in any societal box.
In reflection, I realize that I missed out on the joys of belonging.
I look at my daughter with a measure of envy but also great awe as she creates community wherever she goes. Even as a young girl, she was skillful in navigating group dynamics and benefited from creating meaningful friendships. She was the first young woman in my family to join a sorority and even take up a leadership role within it. During the pandemic, she hosted Shabbat dinners for upwards of 15 people of all genders and religions in her tiny college apartment.
And now that she’s a professional, she brings that same spirit of community to her work family.
It’s easy to call her an extrovert and give all the credit to her “nature”. But I’ve been there every step of her 22 years and witnessed first hand, the deliberate effort she puts into creating one of the greatest blessings in life — an intentional community.
For most of my life, I ran away from community because I made it equal to compliance.
Although many groups demand compliance and conformity, I put it to you that what I’m calling an intentional community will never demand any of us to be less than all of who we are.
An Intentional Community is created one person at a time and is based on the foundation of shared values.
Most people belong to a community by default, not by design.
When our kids are young, school is an easy community to belong to. Ditto for religious institutions, sport teams and shared interest groups, like book clubs.
There is great value in all of those spaces. I absolutely love the trail running community and any interaction with its members makes my life more rich, fun, and connected.
I’m moved when I come across someone I shared a life moment with, like my carpool partner who reminds me of what seemed like endless years of driving our children to and from school.
But over time I’ve come to believe that there is no community that brings more fulfillment than one that is based on shared values.
In the past I’ve written about the difference between fitting in and belonging. I still believe in the distinction but now have a more nuanced understanding of these two states.
My previous mindset was a more binary view of the world which led me to believe that I will never fit in within any group. I settled for the sense of belonging I received from my family and various groups that shared my life interests.
So why did I still have this yearning? And what was its name?
The truth was that I still yearned to fit in — to be in a space, group and community that would intentionally and deliberately come together around my own handpicked (not handed down to) life values.
There is so much power in owning what we desire. And for me, knowing that I craved to fit into a group that shared my life values was the first step to imagining what that group would look like.
I knew it would likely be all women and specifically those whose gaze and attention were focused on their second mountain. Women who came from diverse backgrounds but shared my deep values of freedom, growth and compassion. They would be quietly but unapologetically ambitious, but not in the way society defines as ambitious. They would have a deep yearning for getting more out of their one wild and precious life.
That’s the flavor of ambition I wanted to surround myself with.
I wanted women who preferred deep conversation over small talk, growth over comfort and service over pleasing.
I wanted women who had a PhD in shape-shifting, having perfected this practice all their lives, but now tired of accommodating everyone else’s desires, wanted to explore the edges of their own beautiful and unique shape.
I wanted queens in whose eyes I could see my own power, presence and wisdom.
So I went out there and created this community — one thoughtful, patient, and deliberate step at a time, and I call it The Wisdom Circle.
There is no “end date” to our work because well, there is no end date to self realization, learning and mastery.
End points are for what Simon Sinek calls finite games, like soccer and video games.
Learning and growing are infinite games.
The Wisdom Circle is not for women who are new to the work of self realization. It’s for pros — women who have been quietly but consistently investing in their inner selves, and now want to take it to the next level.
On the face of it, we all come from different cultures, religions and life circumstances. But look underneath and what you will find is that we are all bound by profoundly similar values.
Those values are freedom, growth, and compassion.
I invite you to get clear on what your own top life values are and then either join or create a community that shares those values.
And keep in mind the wise words of my coach, Rich Litvin who once said to me, “Carolyn, if you have a goal you can accomplish on your own, you are not dreaming big enough.”