Watching kids meet and make friends can be a joy and an inspiration. They seem to act on an instinct that gets lost or trained away in adulthood, where the assumption is “it’s lonely at the top.”
On closer examination, fitness celebrity and self-love expert Lori Harder found that for her, success made isolation a self-fulfilling prophecy. And while shared concerns and causes from the Women’s March to the Me Too movement have brought women together, Harder has found it takes more than the common interests of childhood or adulthood to form meaningful connections.
Now, the creator of the “Earn Your Happy” podcast with more than 7 million listeners has written “A Tribe Called Bliss” (Gallery Books, 2018), a practical handbook for establishing your support tribe and achieving your best. 24Life sat down with Harder to find out more about bliss and why we need new rules for connection when isolation is rampant in our hyperconnected world.
24Life: We love your bold move of taking on two subjects that get a lot of lip service: “tribe” and “bliss.” Let’s start with “tribe”: What does it mean to you, and why is it still important?
Lori Harder: I feel that women are craving and begging for support and deep connections. I think that all of a sudden, now that we have all these friends on social media, we’re actually noticing that we might even feel emptier than ever. … We’re not actually connecting soul to soul. We don’t know the things that light us up. We don’t know the things that keep us up at night. We don’t know when we’re lonely, and we need that person to reach out to us or have that person to reach out to.
When I say “tribe,” it’s really a group of women who agree to have your back and walk with you side by side through whatever you’re going through. Walking with you through the fire, walking with you to the achievements, really supporting your ideas and allowing you space to evolve into the person that you know you are meant to be.
It’s always with the agreement that we are going to talk about the tough stuff; we’re going to talk about the dramas, but always, at the end, with the intention of a solution, of growth, of peace—of true, lasting connection with each other.
24Life: Do you think we really know what bliss is?
LH: The popular quote is, “Follow your bliss.” It’s not, “Find your bliss and live there.” It’s [about] the following, the evolution, the growth from the never-ending journey. There is no Destination Bliss.
24Life: Your advice for creating your tribe is a little unconventional, in that it includes self-work. Why?
LH: I talk about the new way of being, belonging and building community because I think that all three of them have to go hand in hand. So the book develops you as you develop a tribe because you will only go with your tribe as far as you personally are willing to grow.
The beginning of the book is building your community. We don’t know how we’re supposed to build a community. … As an adult, I kept moving states and moving cities and moving houses. And I wondered, “How does one build a community with people who already have their roots?”
I adopted this idea that I would allow myself to be a beginner, and I would allow myself to almost be childlike with it. How do kids make friends on the playground? Well, they literally say, “Hey, I think you’re awesome. Let’s be friends.”
[And] the easiest way to find your tribe is to just be who you are. The new way of being is to not fit in: When you’re trying to fit in, you’re going to attract people who are also trying to fit in, and you’re going to wonder why you don’t feel like yourself in this tribe that you’ve created.
24Life: You also recommend “collecting people.” What do you mean?
LH: We tend to gravitate toward people who are exactly like us. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for that tribe, but what happens is you miss out on so many beautiful parts of yourself and your life that could bring a lot more fulfillment for you.
Growing up, I expected that every woman I met would have to fulfill this checklist of this best friend that I had created in my mind. What ended up happening? Disappointment after disappointment because I wasn’t allowing the person to show up as her best self.
We can gain all this perspective, wisdom, beauty, fun and fulfillment by letting the fun friend show up as the fun friend, the yoga friend show up as the yoga friend, and really collect people to fill all those different roles [that you need]. It’s been really beautiful for my husband, as well. With all these different people and different women in my life, I don’t view him as the one person who has to be everything for me.
24Life: Why do you have seven sacred agreements for building your tribe?
LH: The relationships that have the most boundaries and agreements around are the ones that last the longest. [For example], marriages that have boundaries and agreements and open conversation are the ones that tend to work the best.
The first agreement is to always be your own guru. … It’s really learning how to listen to that quiet voice and how to talk to each other in a way that helps us guide each other to the right answer or to our own answer so that it’s always you who’s deciding.
24Life: The last agreement is a little provocative. What do you mean by “F” yourself?
LH: I loved [writing that] because it just makes you look and because I think it’s the most important. The “F” obviously stands for “Forgiveness.” We cannot enter into a relationship without first forgiving ourselves for something, without forgiving something that we’re carrying from our past, without forgiving someone from our past who’s maybe really affected us deeply. Forgiveness is not about saying that what that person did is OK. It’s about saying you’re ready to release them. Because when we’re not forgiving someone, we’re carrying them, literally, on our backs.
Photo credit: Todd Cribari, inspirostudio.com; Boss Babe Photography; Todd Cribari, inspirostudio.com