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2020 Lessons: Finding Hope through Community

We finally closed the crazy year that was 2020. No doubt it will be one of the most memorable years in our lifetime even if it’s memorable for being extraordinarily dull. Though it was different from years past, 2020 held many bright spots for me, none more valuable than finding hope through community.

Before the pandemic set in, I traveled abundantly. I spent most of winter in sunny Fort Lauderdale, waving to friends on a beach webcam. I also got to ski in Big Sky, Montana, tour the Nike Missile Base in Everglades National Park, and eat cheese at Cady’s Cheese Factory in western Wisconsin.

2020 travels

After COVID came, I zeroed in on a few things within my scope of control. I finished my basement and welcomed a new renter. I put on my entrepreneurial hat and started a small business. MissFinFree launched. I picked up new hobbies, learning woodworking and I found the most delicious chai tea recipe.

Joining a Mastermind Group

While all these escapades were enjoyable, they pale in comparison to the most significant and most rewarding aspect of last year. My greatest source of fulfillment and optimism came from joining a Mastermind group full of ambitious, financially independent women. Each of these women are making unapologetically bold moves – launching businesses, birthing conferences, publishing books, producing podcasts.

My Mastermind community
The incredible women in our Mastermind group

Without a doubt, surrounding myself with determined, successful and supportive women helped me thrive in 2020. Whether my goals involved embarking on a new journey or just surviving typical day-to-day struggles, these ladies have helped me every step of the way. They have truly been one of the brightest spots of my year.

The Importance of Community

Reflecting on the positive impact of my Mastermind group made me recall the importance of community. Two opinions on the significance of our innermost networks reverberated through my head. The first is Jim Rohn’s take that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Be careful not to think it’s the five people you most like, admire or respect. It is the five people we spend the *most* time with. Based on the law of averages, it concludes that we pick up traits and habits from those we hang around, whether we want to or not.

I have found that to be true as I’ve been immersed in networks at various points along the socioeconomic spectrum at different times in my life. Much like a chameleon, I found myself taking on the traits of those around me, good and bad.

Behavior is Contagious

The second key opinion about the importance of our networks is Mel Robbins’ conclusion that behavior is contagious. Here’s an excerpt from her book Stop Saying You’re Fine:

“Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard professor who studies health and social networks, caused a firestorm a couple of years ago by statistically proving that your friends and friends-of-friends are making you fat. In fact, your chance of becoming obese increases 57% if you have a friend who’s obese. Your chance of getting divorced increases 147%. This has been proven true for loneliness and all sorts of social and personal behaviors.

Look at your inner circle of friends – are they a good influence or bad? Given that behavior is contagious, if you keep relationships with people who match your goals in terms of lifestyle and health, you’re much more likely to adopt those behaviors too. That’s one more reason to learn how to seek out, hang out with, people who can help you move toward the things that you want.”

Mel Robbins

We can take this notion of contagious behavior as far back as the biblical proclamation that iron sharpens iron. But the opposite is also true. That which dulls or blunts us is also contagious.

Finding Others with Similar Life Goals

Reflecting on the various chapters in my life and the friends who’ve came and went, I adopted and shed behavioral habits along the way. Becoming more aware as time went on, I slowly weeded out those who didn’t share similar goals or philosophies. I shed relationships that compromised my values and stood in the way of my life goals.

When I found others with similar aspirations and motivations, I began building connections that became friendships and ultimately bonds. In many respects I hardly recognize previous versions of myself, and I shudder to think of who I would be today if I took the path of least resistance.

So I forge ahead with this wisdom top of mind. Being mindful of those I surround myself with, choosing like-minded people committed to their own journeys of improvement and advancement. Choosing those who welcome dissenting voices to test their mettle and adjust their worldview if proven wrong. Choosing the open-minded and the open-hearted.

If the future is any indication of the past, it’s going to be an eventful ride. Here’s to another adventure.

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