First things first - let me throw it out there… I am a huge introvert. Always have been. So why in the world is an introvert writing about the importance of being part of something bigger than yourself? Because the benefits are simply too big to ignore.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, this time of year tends to be crazy, even though the script looks familiar. This week it’s the mad rush to finish shopping for gifts and a forced (but generally enjoyable) family interaction or two before the big day. Next week will be all about the reflective looks back on the year that was (thank you FB), and the following week will find many people flush with fresh resolutions to be better at something, not to mention packed fitness clubs in every city.
My fix for a tired script? Find a purpose bigger than you and get involved.
It’s amazing that whatever the purpose is, as soon as your focus shifts from yourself to something or someone else, the worries, concerns, and stresses begin to melt away. The reason? Being part of something bigger than ourselves satisfies a basic human desire to be needed and to feel like we matter. Think about it – find a memory of being part of a group that had a positive impact on you and let yourself grab onto that feeling. Doesn’t matter what or how recent… were you part of a youth sports team, in the marching band, part of a successful sales team? Did you walk the Race for the Cure, get your team to the finish of a Spartan race or Ragnar Relay, or make it to the Saturday run club? Did you volunteer for your favorite cause – building houses with Habitat or serving meals at a homeless shelter? Whatever that memory is for you, grab on with both hands and think about how being part of something bigger made you feel.
That feeling? The one where you felt needed. The one where you knew your contributions helped others. The one where what you got back felt so much bigger than what you had to give? That feeling is what folks in the corporate world call engagement.
As individuals, there is huge benefit to being engaged in something that matters to us personally. You know how it makes you feel to have others count on you, to have others who need you. Pulling together toward a common goal is powerful. It pushes us not just to work hard, but to WANT to work hard, because we understand the part we play in helping the team succeed. It helps us be accountable. It gives us motivation to get out of bed on those cold, dark mornings. For me, knowing that I’ve made a commitment to others is a huge motivator. This past fall, something as simple as telling a friend I would show up at a 5:00am track workout every week gave me the incentive to get up and show up when everything in my body said to stay in bed. Lo and behold, not once did I walk away from one of those early runs wishing I hadn’t gotten up… in fact, I found that I felt great for the rest of the day!
For employers, the concept of engagement is the holy grail of a high-functioning business. Having workers who not only show up and do their jobs, but who WANT to be there, and WANT the team to be successful can be game-changing for the success of a business. According to a Gallup article published last week, “engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.” It’s not rocket science.
For employees, the news is good… data collected as part of the Gallup Employee Engagement Tracking Series from January 2014 to September 2015 appears to show a link between health and level of engagement. While the data didn’t necessarily show that high engagement caused better health, the study concluded that there was a strong relationship between levels of engagement at work and overall health. (See the entire article here)
Think it’s not important for businesses to focus on employee engagement? Think again.
The same article points out that those employees who are actively disengaged can be very costly to the bottom line. Lost productivity due to unhealthy days was found to cost 85% more for actively disengaged workers compared to those who were engaged. Moreover, the best workers usually have both a great attitude that is infectious to those around them, and extremely transferable skills. Want to keep your best talent in-house? That means not only paying competitive wages, but also addressing how to satisfy those employees’ basic human desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.
So what to do?
With the craziness of holidays, year-end, and the annual reset that comes with starting a new year, pause for a few minutes and ask yourself what is most important to you. Take that answer and find a cause to get behind. Join a club, a team, or a committee. Donate your time, your money, or your blood. Tell somebody else. Get them to join you. You extroverts reading this get it – this is the stuff that comes easily for most of you. Let yourself be drawn to the flame and get involved.
For the introverts out there, I feel you. Joining something is hard – it goes against everything in our comfort zone. But trust me, give in and give yourself permission to be part of something bigger. You’ll be glad you did.
If you want to create this feeling of something bigger at work, give Benefitness Partners a shout. It’s our job to help employers enhance the overall wellness of their teams by providing on-site event-based coaching. Our goal is a healthier, happier, more engaged workforce.