How often have you looked at yourself in the mirror and decided that you must do something and joined a gym or a fitness club? How often have started well but then......! How hard it is to change the habits of a lifetime?
We know that even the threat of death is not enough to help us change our hard-wired habits.
What works is to find a safe place where we are surrounded by peers who will not criticize us and who provide us with support. When an uncle of Robin's died last year, at his bedside were two of his AA buddies - faithful to their friend until the end. AA has established that, once we are ready, the support of our peers is the best way to break the hold of even the most powerful habits. This uncritical support from our peers is in truth the only way we can find the courage and will to make deep changes.
On PEI there is a remarkable organization called UFIT that is providing this kind of peer support for people who wish to take charge of their bodies again. I think that their story helps me understand how creating and hosting a "Trusted Place" can help us make major and permanent change in our lives.
On the surface this may look like any other exercise class. But it isn't. From the outset, UFIT was designed to build community first. At UFIT you find not only your body but also you find "Mates" - people who accept you for who you really are. Your increasing fitness is a by product of the social value of becoming a real member of a group that is there for you. As you become accepted as a true member, you too have the satisfaction of discovering that you too can help another.
For many like me - a Gym can be a frightening place. Middle-aged with a pot and completely out of shape - I don't like the idea very much of being shown up as an old geezer. UFIT is socially designed to welcome all - especially the nervous and the out of shape. And yes, UFIT includes many of the Island's elite athletes as well.
How did this happen? It happened because Gord and Eireann decided that that is how they would "Host" the space. They knew that merely offering fitness would not be sustainable for the members or of course for them.
Here they are. Like parents in a family, they set the culture. Once set, the group reinforces it. Now the culture of welcome and acceptance is the norm and is violated only by those who seek to be expelled.
Have a look at the group picture again - notice the Circle.
In a traditional class we are all lined up as in class at school. We all look at the "Instructor". The instructor does everything better than we could ever do. UFIT's space is constructed instead around the energy of the circle - the foundation design for hosting community.
Look again at Gord - what is he doing?
Is everyone following his every step? No they are feeding off his energy. Gord is hosting the space not leading the class. No robots there either.
At UFIT I found that I was part of the group but that I was on my own as well. Gord set the tone and provided the map, each of us did what felt best in each rotation. So the elite did things that would have killed me. I puffed along at my own pace. Together and yet alone. No forced obedience - no external standard but lots of external support. At UFIT we do the same thing but in our own way - like humans not robots.
At UFIT I can be Myself. In particular I can overcome all the hype about what my body should look like. I get not only my body back but also my image of what my body should be. I break free from the grip of society and paradoxically with the support of my community become me again.
I think what has happened is that UFIT has set the conditions for Mateship.
There are also signs that UFIT is then setting the conditions for Fellowship. This June a group of Fellows formed from within the community and ran in the Relay for Life. They raised $11,000 dollars! I wonder what next? What can the UFIT Fellowship achieve?
As I dig into understanding this new type of organization - my hope builds that maybe we have found a way of breaking free from the machine world.
Next week I interview the gang at silverorange. We will see how a small software company also has created a safe and Trusted Space that is very different from the usual kind of mechanistic organization.