For ten years, I gathered a group of six women each month for a couple hours to talk about our Big Visions for our work in the world. We celebrated our successes and offered support through our challenges. At the end of each meeting, we committed to the actions we’d take until the next month. The result: new jobs, clients, businesses, products, publications, and performances.
Whether your medium New Year’s resolution is about work, money, love, health, friends, family, home, creativity, your spiritual life, or activism, you’re much more likely to make progress on it if you’re part of a small group that is working on related resolutions.
Six or seven years ago, I offered a teleseminar, “How to Start Your Own Big Vision Circle.” As I’ve noticed an increasing number of people say that they want to create a small group to help them navigate the uncertain times ahead, it seems like a good moment to share how to start your own Big Vision Circle:
1. Determine your Circle’s purpose.
Why do you want to create a Circle? What are you all coming together to do? The women in my group were all creative in some way whether they were writers, teachers, healers, artists, performers, craftswomen, or businesswomen. They came together to clarify their Big Visions and get support while they wove together a life made up of their creative longings, financial needs, and relationships with partners, spouses, friends, family, children, and themselves.
2. Decide if you want your Circle to be virtual, or face-to face.
Having a face-to-face group can connect you to local resources and people, grow your knowledge and connection to your local community, and may spark friendships that can be a part of your everyday life outside of the Circle. They can also be difficult to schedule, and to find a meeting space for that is affordable, accessible and can accommodate a group for 1.5-2 hours.
Virtual groups are easier to schedule, pose no space concerns, and can potentially connect you with a broader range of people and resources, but you’ll need to schedule around time zone differences, won’t grow your local community connections, and can’t turn to its members for support in your everyday life (e.g. dropping off a casserole to someone who is sick).
3. Invite people to be a part of your Big Vision Circle.
You can invite friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, and/or colleagues by letter (I know, so old fashioned), email, phone call, text and/or social media. If you want to reach a broader audience, you could post an invite in Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, listservs and other social networks (e.g. Nextdoor) that include people in your area and/or are related to the topic of your group. You could also use a platform like Meetup.com or Eventbrite to advertise your group to the general public.
I think it’s easier to create traction when there is some kind of existing social tie, even if it is a weak one, between the lead organizer and the rest of the Circle. A friend of a friend of a friend, or the cousin of a co-worker, is probably more likely to show up each month than a complete stranger.
4. Choose a place and time to meet.
If you’re organizing an in-person group, you’ll need to pick a place that is easily accessible by car (include ease of parking into the equation) and public transport (if that is an option where you live). The space needs to be big enough to seat your group and if you’re at a restaurant, where they don’t mind if you stay for 1.5-2 hours. The pros of meeting at a cafe or affordable restaurant are that no one has to host, and everyone can be focused on the purpose of the meeting. The cons are the cost, and sometimes the noise level.
The pros of meeting at someone’s home are the quiet, comfort level, and cost. The cons are that the host will always be somewhat distracted and people may feel obliged to stay longer to socialize, or help clean up, so the time commitment becomes longer. If you are inviting people you don’t know to your Circle, please use good safety sense and start out meeting in a public place rather than at your home.
If you’re organizing a virtual group, World Time Server and Doodle can help you find a time that works for everyone, and there are a multitude of options now for group video and phone calls (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Freeconferencecall.com).
You could also do a mix of in-person and virtual meetings with email check-ins in between. Or in-person meetings where some people participate by speakerphone, or video. A GorillaPod works well to “seat” a phone at a table so everyone can see it.
5. Create a meeting structure.
You’ll want to create a meeting structure that is flexible enough to meet the needs of your Circle, but that can be used regularly so that the focus of your meeting isn’t about what’s going to happen next.
Here’s how I facilitated our Big Vision Circle:
- Socializing and ordering of food for 15 minutes, or so.
- Calculate how much time each person has to speak based on the length of the meeting and number of people (usually about 15-20 minutes each).
- Check in to see if anyone has to leave early. If so, they should share first.
- Each person shares if/how they completed the actions they committed to last month.
- The group offers suggestions, resources, reflections, ideas, encouragement and/or congratulations. We all knew each other well enough that we didn’t need feedback guidelines, but you might want to create some (e.g. Only offer feedback if the person asks for it).
- The person sharing says what actions she will take towards her Big Vision before the next group and the facilitator notes her commitment, so that it can be referred to next time.
- Sometimes we would use worksheets to record our goals, like the three included in this post, that my husband illustrated for us. If you want a PDF of any of them, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a copy.
- Choose the date for your next meeting.
According to the article, “Social Support and Resilience to Stress,” social support is “exceptionally important for maintaining good physical and mental health.” Creating a Big Vision Circle is not only good for your goals, it’s good for your well-being, so why not start one this year?
What tips do you have for how to start and maintain a Circle?