|Posted on August 13, 2013 at 1:30 PM|
Community unity, that phenomena by which a group of diverse people feel that they are a part of something larger than themselves and come together in the pursuit of common goals & objectives, is a complicated process. There are many obstacles that must be navigated through before any real progress is made on the journey to creating community. The first, however, is to recognize what those obstacles are in order to avoid them if possible. Some obstacles are internal: the attitudes, values and prejudices of community residents. Some obstacles are external: cultural influences and social norms. Regardless of the nature of the obstacle, the fact remains that in a very real sense, our community will only be as strong as the weakest link that binds it together.
Although totally outside of the legal responsibilities demanded of community association leaders, an understanding of how we are influenced and manipulated by cultural forces and how those forces keep us in a vicious cycle of negative perceptions, will go a long way in helping us see the benefit of embracing more positive perceptions and viewpoints regarding our community, our industry and our life. When anyone only sees what is wrong around them, or is constantly reminded of the wrongs of others, it does not promote any kind of positive growth, it only perpetuates negativity. Creating community unity has nothing to do with negativity, it is build entirely on higher, more positive ground.
From babyhood forward, we're spoon-fed a set of expectations that most of us don't bother to question until the day we wake up and realize that our lives aren't working for us. Even with all the social changes we've gone through as a civilization in the last 50 years, we find ourselves easily buying into scripted ideas about how we should live our lives and measure our worth and happiness.
When we subscribe to the collective nightmare, we convince ourselves that we can avoid hardship by working hard to acquire a slightly better job, a slightly better home and car, a slightly better collection of stuff than the next person has, and a slightly better-looking romantic partner than we feel we deserve. That is, we determine our happiness by how much progress we're making toward the big goal of lasting material fulfillment. If we can move from a rental apartment to a starter home to a big house in a gated community before we're 35, it's a sign that we're living our lives well. We can feel good about ourselves for having achieved what is, after all, the new American dream.
We don't allow ourselves to think about whether the one particular lifestyle we've talked ourselves into is making us happy, or whether something radically different might be more fulfilling for us. If our forward momentum is lost - the spouse leaves, the job becomes hellish, a health crisis takes the attention and money that we'd earmarked for achieving our goal of happiness and wealth - we feel like failures. We measure ourselves by our achievements and productivity (by how much we're doing) instead of focusing on our emotional and inner growth and enjoying the process of learning, discovering, and maturing.
We've been taught that thinking about our problems and examining them from every angle will help us change our habits and create more fulfilling lives, but we can get just as stuck in thinking too much as we do by doing too much. One hundred years after Sigmund Freud introduced the world to psychoanalysis, we've built a common vocabulary to help us understand and talk about every one of our concerns, big or small. While it's great that we're more self-aware than we used to be, the so-called talking cure hasn't actually cured us of our fear...nor has it shown us how to live a life of courage.
The problem is that we're focused on problems! All of our energy goes into thinking about, worrying about, and trying to fix our concerns. This applies not only to our personal life, but also to every endeavor we pursue whether it is within our family, at our job or in our community-building efforts. What we should be doing is shifting our perception to a higher level so that we can tap into our courage and imagine a world that isn't beleaguered with issues. When we operate from a higher level of consciousness, we stop perceiving problems and instead perceive situations that are neither good nor bad; they simply are. When we do so, we start to see that an opportunity lies in every situation if we simply look at it from a different level of awareness.
Shift You Community Association Awareness: One of the easiest and most effective ways to shift your focus away from negative awareness is to quit reading, posting or sharing negative stories about community association abuses online or in person. After all, what is the point? Negative news stories only create fear, make the industry look bad, reinforce stereotypical negative generalizations and make it easier to be judgmental...none of which will bring about anything positive. If you think sharing community association horror stories will enlighten people and help them avoid similar problems, you are mistaken...and probably just looking for attention.
As stated above, we are almost hard-wired by our culture to focus on problems. Recognizing how that happens is the first step to change individually. If enough individuals change, so will our culture. It has to start somewhere, why not begin with yourself and your community? Good luck!
Michael Pierson is CEO/President of Community Association Publishing Services (CAPS), a community association business partner that specializes in newsletters, websites and social media. He is the author of “Taking Control: Time Management and Communication Tools for Community Association Management" and "Creating Community: The Art of Empowerment in Community Association Living."
Categories: Creating Community