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This is not the right way to run one of these groups.  It’s just how I do.  For now.  It’s already changed, and I still don’t know what I’m doing yet.

The Paywall

Steal, Don’t Sell.  Better Yet, Engage!  If I were more cynical or organizationally-minded, I would hide this next part behind a paywall and run social media ads.  It’s an easy click funnel that practically writes itself:

  1. I’d put the complaints up front to create a camaraderie with my audience – the expression of the common human desire to be fully heard, known, accepted, and valued.
  2. Then I would promise something better.  Having connected with my frustration, my audience would trust me when I say I’ve found a “better way to do life” or some equally narcissistic catch phrase.
  3. I would summarize a few vague guidelines in the form of a free e-book that I offer in exchange for your email address.
  4. Then my options open up.  With a contact list of very interested prospects, I could franchise the groups, sell the leadership workshops, stream the content behind a paywall, host live Q&A’s, host seminars, or write a book, just to name a few options. The excitement of a startup and logo design alone is almost tempting enough to hear God’s voice in that calling.

But I’m an idiot.  And I trust you.  And I wish this thing already existed in the universe, so I’m going to pollute the world with my idea, free of charge.  I hope you steal my ideas and never give me any credit.  I hope this kind of group and relationship permeates all four corners of the earth, and no one – not even Wikipedia – knows where it came from.  A tall man with large pecks will probably get the credit.  I’ll die a happy man.

At this point, I think it’s too important to be commoditized, available only to people who can afford access. If you try to sell it, you’re evil.  Freely you have received. Freely give.

Or maybe this is a crap idea.  But you’ve read this far, so at least two of us are intrigued.  What I would really love is more conversation about your experience with these dynamics. Help me pass on something better than it currently is.  Improve on my ideas, give me feedback, and, if you can, improve on my altruism.


We have no leader, nor facilitator, so you are part of the team that keeps us all on track.  Designate a phone/device as the facilitator, and set alarms according to the agreed schedule.  When the alarm interrupts and tells us it’s time to change gears, take it upon yourself to help guide the group in the direction of the schedule we set.  An example might be something like:

  • 7:15 – A few minutes of chatting while setting out food and waiting for everyone to show up.
  • 7:30 – We discuss, debate, and rewrite/hone our annotated code of aspirations.  Just reading it with a new group usually sparks profitable discussions on its own.  We could almost make this the whole meeting and still feel like we had developed some good perspectives, even if we haven’t practiced the skills.
  • 7:55 – Bio-break: refill drinks, we preemptively pee so we don’t have to leave during someone’s personal exploration time.
  • 8:00 – Read the short version of the code of aspirations before personal sharing/exploration time, which leads into the personal exploration time.  Each member starts a 6-minute timer when they start talking, so they get their full time without monopolizing someone else’s.
  • 8:55 – Personal reflection time in silence or with background music.  This is just a brief note-taking time to record thoughts that might deserve more processing later.  Maybe prompt everyone to consider some questions, like,
    • How well did I meet my personal aspirations in this meeting?
    • What feelings or thoughts surprised me?
    • What bothered me about my participation or others’, and why might that be?
    • What thoughts or feelings do I need to spend more time exploring this week?
    • What did someone else share that significantly resonated with me?
  • 9:00 – Say some version of “Thank you for sharing this space with me,” and then move.  If the meeting “ends” but conversation continues in the same positions, some personalities find it difficult to exit gracefully.  Clean up for the host.

Considerations Before The First Meeting

  1. Choose a day and time that works equally well for everyone in the group.  People’s ability to achieve some of the code of aspirations are affected by the point in the week and times of day. Many of them may not even be fully aware of their hormone and energy cycles through the day and week, so they may not be able to help you know when that is.  They may just pick the time that works in their schedule, which isn’t a complete loss, since that will at least be less stressful than a time that is difficult to meet and creates auxiliary conflicts for them.
  2. Pick a book or content that addresses the topic.  I would try to stay away from traditional self-help books to start.  You want to steer away from controlling and changing feelings, until you’ve explored welcoming, naming, and embracing feelings.  This isn’t about how to think better, or even feel better; it’s about how to identify feelings and sit with them.    If you put the content up to a group vote, have the group check out the quotes of a book like this Goodreads page on Permission to Feel before voting.  You want a book with compelling content, not just a favorite author, a friend recommendation, gamed Amazon reviews, or a smart title. I would recommend looking at books in the vein of these affiliate links:
  3. Buy the same versions as your group. I’m usually an audiobook guy, but I buy the physical copies of books I want to mark up, so I prefer physical for these groups.  But my group mostly likes audio.  So I purchase both so I can give the reading assignments in page number and also timestamp.

Creative Scheduling Ideas

*Consider starting with some communal activity like food prep or cleaning.  More on this in the “Variables” section.

*Have the group try your favorite exploration exercise.  This is a “personal exploration” group, after all.  Consider using some of the time to explore new ways of exploring.  Most methods won’t work with most of the group members, but every member will probably resonate with some of the methods.

The goal is not a “successful” group, or even the promotion of a “good” practice. The goal, as always, is to bravely test a new concept and see if/how it fits into your life.  Even if the activity proves to be a waste of time, exercising the courage to experiment with something new and awkward can be a valuable experience.  Some of the group members may be surprised how much they like it, and make it a part of their personal routine.

  • Journaling – So many options here! Perhaps start with something along the lines of the self-authoring courses, where you write (at any length) about where you’ve been, what brought you here, where you really are, and/or where you want to go.
  • Post-it people – Consider / meditate on, and make a very small list of the people in your life who are most “your” people – who understand you, who you trust, and who love you enough to openly disagree with you, and also accept you when you make decisions they don’t like.
  • Intention setting / exploration setting – Consider / meditate on what value you know you bring (what you don’t want to change), and where you want to go.  Not the grand ideas, but a thing that you (1) could change and (2) should change and (3) would change.
  • Write a letter to your past or present self – Consider / meditate on what you needed to hear earlier that you didn’t; or what things a compassionate, yet knowledgeable, mentor or companion would say to you today.
  • Outline your story. Start with biggest 2-5 life events. Then add the biggest 2-5 sub-events or events that caused those changes. Then the biggest sub-sub-events, etc.  When you are bored or tired of detailing, list the primary emotions of whatever points stick out the most.  Additionally, if you’d like, think of it (or share it) as a narrative.  You can do this again months or years later, and compare how your perspective has changed.  If it hasn’t at all, that might be interesting too.  How/why does your story about yourself change or stay the same across time?
  • Self-care List – Consider / meditate on, and list movies, music, media, activities, people, that make you feel more alive. Not your favorite way to veg, but the most effective ways of bringing you back to your fullest life when you’re feeling least alive.  As a follow-up, why are those life-giving for you?  Do any of them have anything in common?
  • The 28 Questions – this is an exercise for business, but some have found it helpful, adapted for personal growth as well. Read more here.
  • Right Now inventory – This is ideally a nightly typewriter practice for me, consisting of 7 headings, in this order:
    • Heart – How does my heart feel, right now, regardless of whether or not I have “legitimate” reason to feel that way.
    • Summary – What are the facts about what happened (if a couple feelings leak in, that’s fine too.  Speed in letting this gush out is more important than the filtering of the content).
    • Anticipation – What am I looking forward to (positively and negatively) in life? What are the current causes of excitement and anxiety in the future?  As a follow-up and perhaps its own activity, take the anxiety-producing list and, for all the ones that cannot easily be eliminated from your life, list what the next one, doable step would be to dealing with it, or minimizing or eliminating its negative effects.
    • Wins – Regardless of size, what things am I proud that I did, or what fortune befell me that day?
    • Gratitude – Regardless of size, what things from that day can I find genuine gratitude for?
    • Goals – What am I aiming at in life?  These are usually the larger aspirations for me.
    • Questions – I assume that I know things that I don’t know that I know.  My subconscious is keeping things from me that I’m not ready for or it doesn’t trust me with.  There are questions that I already have answers to, but can’t see them because they are too inconvenient or counter-intuitive.  This is right before I go to sleep. So I imagine that my subconscious can speak to me during my dreams, and I ask myself, almost prayerfully, the questions about my life that I wish I knew the answer to.  I rarely get the answer, but I find that when I ask from this perspective, the question is often even more valuable than any answer I would get, or the answer is even inside the question.  I often end up thinking, “Interesting!  I didn’t know I had that question.”  Some examples of questions I’ve written in the past are:
      1. Is it safe to reach out to [person]?
      2. Why have I been so moody for the last 3 days?
      3. Why is relationship with [person] always so difficult?
  • The 7 HomecomingsMore details here, but in short, this is an inventory of important influences in your life.
  • Who they say I am – Make a list of the lies your inner critic (or others) have said about who you are.  Then make a list of the things you absolutely know to be true about yourself.
  • Meditation – again, there are nearly infinite meditation practices, so we don’t have a short list, but check out free apps and videos for “guided meditation” if you don’t already have a regular practice..
  • Ancestry – Make a family tree (perhaps including some research) and note the ways in which you’ve been impacted by each one, what you’ve noticed from the exercise, what positive and negative heritages have been handed to you, and/or what you want to promote in your nearby branches.
  • Cooking – or the introductory steps to any artistic hobby, really.  Woodworking, music…whatever brings you life, bring the supplies and give everyone a taste.
  • Stretching – As trauma is usually stored in the body, and stress is often held in the muscles, it’s been amazingly helpful to spend time focused on increasing flexibility.  Even if you’re the least flexible person you know, increasing it may be unexpectedly emotionally rewarding.

Thoughts For The First Meeting

  1. Discuss this content (or your stolen / adapted version of it). Maybe call it goal setting or intention setting.  Hopefully participants will have already read or discussed this material before signing up for the group. But some people just sign up for the group because they’re lonely, to build community, or because they like the person who invited them (or owe them…or are co-dependent with them).  Don’t assume they are all there for the same reason or, even if they’ve read the materials, that they have the same understanding.  Any expectations that you don’t say out loud and clearly at the beginning will be an awkward – maybe hurtful – conversation later.
  2. Set goals.  This is a personal exploration space. Each person should have a goal in mind, even if the goal is finding their goal.  The rest of the session will probably be framed in terms of what change they are wanting to create and see in their lives.
  3. Look at the calendar and handle any planned absences.
  4. Split up the chapters and assign a person to “facilitate” or at least start the conversation of each section.
  5. Have each member make and share a list of favorite personal exploration practices and influential media that has been important to them in the past

Suggestions for the Last Meeting

  1. Debrief
  2. Share stories
  3. Consider an outing