Research finds that people who train side-by-side on erg machines have better scores and can push farther past their physical threshold than when they train alone.
Sheryl Sandberg, the top-ranking woman at Facebook and the author of the new feminist manifesto “Lean In,” recommends that women create or join “Lean In” circles where they can be supported and held accountable for pursuing the goals that are important to them. The co-founder of LeanIn.org with Sandberg, Gina Bianchini, says the circles work because meeting, sharing and learning together is an age-old way that women have often banded together to get things done.
I couldn’t agree more. Almost four years ago I co-founded a mastermind group with a friend called “More Than a Book Club” where we decided to gather a few of our hand-picked friends for monthly support sessions. It’s been one of the highlights of my life since that first meeting in my living room. Although some of our first group members have had to take a hiatus and others have been welcomed in since the start, we’ve met like clockwork every month for several years. We run the group like a business meeting, which is why we decided to call the group “more than a book club,” which some of our friends have complained become more about socializing than discussing the book in question. (Note: there is terrific research on why women need other women for maximum wellbeing, called the “Tend and Befriend” research, so I don’t mean to denigrate groups that get together to simply mingle.)
Depending on how many people can come, everyone gets around 12 minutes to share updates, challenges, and field questions from other attendees. We can vote to give extra time to someone who needs extra brainstorming or time, but we’ve found that the themes we deal with are so universal that we learn and grow regardless of whether we are talking or listening. In recent meetings we have discussed how to raise our professional rates, where to get support for grieving the loss of a loved one, what honors have been earned, and even where we’d throw a book party for my next book launch. There are only two rules: no wine and no whining.
This isn’t the first time I’ve found that groups offer powerful support that enhances life. In 1984 I attended a free support group for compulsive overeaters that changed my life forever. I felt energy, hope and authenticity in those rooms and some of the people I met then are still my friends. I stopped drinking alcohol with the same approach not long after, and my takeaway was that accomplishing a goal is always easier when you are surrounded by like-minded people on a regular basis. The groups offer more than hope, though; they provide role models, accountability and a safe place to be where everyone speaks your particular language. In the groups I joined, no one used last names, which also created an aura of equality that was refreshing.
Research has found that groups can have a positive impact on people in several ways:
- Rowers who trained side-by-side with other rowers on erg machines were able to push past their physical threshold and have better scores compared to when they trained alone
- People who march in unison or create sounds in unison have greater wellbeing
- Elite runners who train alone get faster when training in packs of similarly-talented runners
If you are not yet in a group that is designed to elicit your best self, and that supports other people in the same quest, it might be time to form one. Instructions on how to create a Lean In group that can get you thinking about how to do this type of thing can be found here.