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Here at Habitry, Co. we make communities. We make communities for the simple reason that communities work better. They work better than one-on-one. They work better than “groups.” Communities change people because humans are social cognitive learners (Bandura, 2001), mirror neurons are a thing (Lieberman, 2007), being among people who are struggling and succeeding increases self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977), and improves motivation quality by satisfying the Basic Psychological Need of belonging (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Research reviews (Burke, Carron, and Shapcott, 2008; Kahn et al., 2002) have have shown that communities outperform solo-activity in Randomized Control Trials (Cox et al., 2003; Estabrooks et al., 2011),  longitudinal studies (McCarthy et al., 2004), and meta-analyses (Burke et al., 2006; Kassavou, Turner, and French, 2013).

Judging by the present results, it is also clear that contact in the form of a close-knit, cohesive group represents the optimal context [for physical activity concordance]. - Burke et al. (2006).

In short, communities work because they create a space where people are constantly hearing the story of their pending success and seeing it acted out by lots of people with whom they identify as having common values. They see people showing up, making small amounts of progress, sticking to it, becoming comfortable with their strengths and weaknesses, sharing, and succeeding. As we make communities, we need to remember that our primary job is making and protecting that safe space.

For our purposes, a community is a very simple thing. It’s a group of people with common values and a mission to solve a common problem. A reason to band together, trust each other, try things, fail, and keep moving forward anyway until someone learns how to solve that problem and shares it with the others.

Values

Why are people joining your gym? Why are people showing up to your classes? Why are people clicking on your ads or coming to you from referrals? Because they think you share common values. You’re advertising and demonstrating those values all the time and might not even be aware of it. It might even be subconscious or have nothing to do with what you say. I got classes full of women between 45-90 and had no idea why. So I asked them and the words they used were, “welcoming, accommodating, and small.” That’s right, “small.” At 5’8” and 165lbs, I was not what they pictured a “weightlifter” to look like, and so they deduced we had common values. That the best version of myself was similar to their vision of the best version of themselves.

In an epic conversation in the Motivate Forum, Rob Morris summed up values even better than I can:

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All they need to know is that I have one purpose, and that is to help them reach THEIR fitness goals safely and smartly (is smartly a real word). My clients want support. They want safety. They want to be a better version of themselves and if I can help them get there… mission accomplished. I do however love love love tag lines, slogans and one liners. Here is mine. TRAIN HARD, TRAIN SMART, TRAIN TOGETHER.

Anyone who walks into Rob’s gym sees that and hears that 1,000,000 times even if they don’t realize it. They are inundated with the shared values of the people in that gym and begin to recognize that living with integrity to those values is their path to success.

Process

For most coaches, “the mission” is all too often results. Fat loss. Strength. But results are a terrible mission for a community because only some people get them quickly and they can’t share them with others. No, the right mission for a community has be about the process of getting results. In Rob’s example, it’s TRAIN HARD, TRAIN SMART, TRAIN TOGETHER. That’s the process. But there’s an underlying message in there, too. 80% of life is showing up. You cannot train hard, smart, or together from the couch. So the most important mission, whether stated or not, for any community that wants results should be a mission to be as consistent as possible over the long haul. The process that matters most is showing up at all.

We need to make communities dedicated to consistency.

Simple right? In Part 3, I’ll cover some of the skills that I think coaches need to master in order to create Communities of Consistency. There’s actually 6 of them.  Like I said, simple. But to re-quote Dan John for the 10,000th time (I think I get a prize), “I said it was simple. I didn't say it was easy.”

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191. Link

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 1-26. Link

Burke, S. M., Carron, A. V., Eys, M. A., Ntoumanis, N., & Estabrooks, P. A. (2006). Group versus individual approach? A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity. Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, 2(1), 19-35. Link

Burke, S. M., Carron, A. V., & Shapcott, K. M. (2008). Cohesion in exercise groups: an overview. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1(2), 107-123. Link

Cox, K. L., Burke, V., Gorely, T. J., Beilin, L. J., & Puddey, I. B. (2003). Controlled comparison of retention and adherence in home-vs center-initiated exercise interventions in women ages 40–65 years: the SWEAT study (Sedentary Women Exercise Adherence Trial). Preventive Medicine, 36(1), 17-29. Link

Estabrooks, P. A., Smith-Ray, R. L., Almeida, F. A., Hill, J., Gonzales, M., Schreiner, P., & Van Den Berg, R. (2011). Move More: translating an efficacious group dynamics physical activity intervention into effective clinical practice. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 9(1), 4-18. Link

Kahn, E. B., Ramsey, L. T., Brownson, R. C., Heath, G. W., Howze, E. H., Powell, K. E., Stone, E. J., Rajab, M. W., & Corso, P. (2002). The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: A systematic review. American journal of preventive medicine, 22(4), 73-107. Link

Kassavou, A., Turner, A., & French, D. P. (2013). Do interventions to promote walking in groups increase physical activity? A meta-analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 10, 18. Link

Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Social cognitive neuroscience: a review of core processes. Annual review of psychology, 58, 259-289. Link

McCarthy, C. J., Mills, P. M., Pullen, R., Roberts, C., Silman, A., & Oldham, J. A. (2004). Supplementing a home exercise programme with a class-based exercise programme is more effective than home exercise alone in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Rheumatology, 43(7), 880-886. Link

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68. Link

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