When you set out to achieve something—running a marathon, building a business, or mastering a new skill—your odds of success increase if you’re part of a community. An active community can give you new ideas, inspire you to keep going, and offer you companionship on the long road ahead.

But most importantly, a community holds you accountable for the goals you set for yourself. And that’s key. Having a goal is essential, and writing it down will improve your odds of success. But sharing your goal with peers is the magic sauce that raises the probability for success.

How to find your community:

Thanks to the internet and social media, finding your tribe is easier than ever. A simple search of Google, Facebook, Slack, and other media channels will turn up an overwhelming number of groups in even niche interests. And if you’re looking for a fitness group, you may need look no further than the bulletin board at your gym or community center.

When it’s time to choose, consider your goals. Would they be better served by having a smaller, local community or a bigger, more geographically diverse group?

Sometimes the answer is both. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you may want some local running partners for your long run days. But you may also want to join some forums, Facebook groups, or Strava groups. These will offer a wider range of ideas on things like the best races or ideal training regimens for someone over 30.

Each type of group has something offer, but the feeling of community will only come when you find a group that taps into what motivates you. If meeting external expectations is what drives you, you’ll enjoy more success with a local group meets regularly. But if you’re more highly motivated to meet the expectations you set for yourself, an online group may be the better choice to help keep your fire lit. Not sure what motivates you? Try this quiz.

Starting a Community

If you feel starting a new community is the best plan, then use technology to help you connect. Facebook is an obvious first choice, but there are many specialty options, too. For example:

  • Strava is ideal for fitness-related community groups. The app makes it easy to “virtually” train together, set up challenges, and cheer each other even if you can’t meet in person.
  • If you’re founding a business community, Slack integrates with many business tools you may already use. It’s a chat app that lets you maintain different “rooms” for various topics and groups. Have long, threaded discussions without your phone buzzing non-stop.

Your community will be more active if its tools are inexpensive and easy to use. Take some time to test a few options before you start inviting others to join you.

How can I add value to a community?

Whether you decide to start a community or you’ve found one you enjoy, adding value will be your next priority. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to enrich your chosen community, even if you’re the newest kid on the block.

Show Up:

Most groups suffer from a lack of bodies; people who join the group on paper but never make the meetups. Just by showing up consistently, you’ll strengthen your community.

Encourage Others: You don’t have to be a veteran to offer praise, encouragement and validation to other members. Speak up when someone inspires you, or extend a helping hand to another newbie. Too often we don’t speak up because we feel like we don’t know enough. It doesn’t take any experience to brighten someone’s day by sharing a compliment or a “good job” on their results. Likewise, sharing your struggles or being the one to ask the “newbie” questions can help other, more reticent members of your community. As you grow in skill and experience, your opportunities to encourage others will increase.

Work to be Inclusive:

Not everyone is a master practitioner, but everyone can feel more involved and get a boost of motivation when challenges are inclusive. For example, instead of focusing on dollars earned or miles run, get creative. Some members may suddenly shine in a challenge like most elevation climbed or most bookings made in the first three days of a month. Keep going until you’ve found something where each member can shine.

Educate through Sharing:

Share your experiences from outside the group. What have you been reading or watching that’s helped you? Did you have an epiphany or a great conversation that might be of value to others? An online forum makes sharing these easy, but if your group meets in person, you can still print that article, share the book you read, or tell the story.

Uplift the Culture:

Sometimes, groups lose their way. We’re only human. We gossip, we form cliques, we roll our eyes at newbie questions, we become less inclusive. If you’re founding a group, set up some cultural ground-rules and refer others to review them before they can join. If you’re joining an existing group, make a conscious effort act in a way that uplifts the culture and benefits the group, not just yourself.

Belonging to a community that has meaning can enrich our lives in so many ways. It can be a springboard for lifelong friendships, help us advance our careers, and achieve our dreams. Best of all, it can allow us to help others do the same.

We hope we’ve given you a few ideas to kick off a community-minded month. Find your tribe, or build it up. Inspire others to do the same when you join in the challenge and tell the world about your ZYIA community. How has your team lifted you up and helped you do more than you thought you could? We’ll be looking for participants and giving weekly prizes. Tag ZYIA Active and use hashtag #CommunityZYIA to join in and follow along.