Mapping your personal ecosystem

Having a stable network can play a huge role in how much you get done and how happy you are.

  • Building a stable network takes time, energy, and focus.
  • A stable network isn’t static – it’s in a constant state of change.
  • When you have a stable network it’s hard for one outside influence to take down the whole eco-system because the connected parts sustain the larger whole.

So let’s make a map of your own personal ecosystem as it stands today.

Ground Zero
Let’s start where you live. Draw a circle on a blank piece of paper. Like any organic being, where you live is where your roots are and where your network begins – like it or not. Are you connected to where you live? To the land? The house? The neighborhood? The town or city? The state? The country? The planet? If you’re not connected to where you live, where are you connected? Do you have far-reaching roots elsewhere? You can draw those as little outer circles.

Family Network
Next, think about your family network. In the center of a new circle, make a list of family members you spend joyous moments with. Add rings around this circle to include family members you know less well or spend less time with. Or that bring you less joy. Add as many rings as you need.

Friend Network
At the center of a third circle, jot down the names of your closest friends (who may also be family members). Add rings to include friends you know less well or spend less time with.

Work Network
Draw a final circle and at the center, make a list of the work that brings you the most joy. This could be paid work, volunteer work, or a delicious hobby. Add rings around the center ring for work you’re less connected with.

So what are you seeing?

Thought #1: Look at your network circles for patterns, similarities, and clues about how your network is stitched together.

  • Are your family and friends near where you live? Or far off?
  • Is the work that brings you the most joy tied to where you live? Or is it independent of place?
  • Do you have family members who are also at “ground zero” in your friends’ network?
  • Are the family and friends at ground zero involved in your work in any way?

When I did this exercise, I found that half of my closest friends are also family members. And I’m reminded that most of my work is not tied to where I live – or to the people I feel closest to. I also see that while I only have a few family members and friends I include at “ground zero”, I have a dozen jobs vying for the center place in my work network. Hmmm 🙂

Thought #2: Look at where you live, who you hang with, and what you do. Across all circles, what brings you the most joy?

I find joy at the center of all four circles. I live in a beautiful place. I don’t have roots here but I like living on the shore, far from the madding crowd and still only 10 minutes away from the closest theater. I love that where I live is clean, there’s never much traffic, and that people bike, run, and walk. And they’re friendly in that New England sort of way.

That being said, I love traveling back to my home state of Virginia to see friends and family, and to go to museums and theater. And I love being in New York. And in Ireland. And anywhere there’s a beach. And pretty much any place new. My “home” circle has a lot of bubbles surrounding it.

I find great joy spending time with friends and family. And I love my work in all it’s varied forms – from the inner circle to the outer circles!

Thought #3: If you were pulled out of your networks, where would you be most missed? Where would you leave a big hole?

I think I’d be missed most where my relationship is unique – I’m not one-of-many; I’m one-of-one (spouse, sister, mom), or one-of-few (daughter, close friend). If I disappeared from work or volunteer work, even my best, most fun work, someone else would fill in. Thinking about this helps me prioritize my time for the day, the week, the year, my lifetime… 🙂

Thought #4: If you feel like you have a circle that’s lacking, what can you do to fix it?

  • If you don’t feel connected in any way to where you live, is it time to move?
  • If you want to move more of your family or friends to the inner circle, can you spend more time with them? Share more, heart to heart? Do something that will bring them joy? Travel with them? Give them a call – now?
  • If your fun work is at the center of your work network, and your “real” work is a few rings out, can you make a switch so the work that brings you the most joy is what you spend more time on?

Remember that eco-systems are in a constant state of change. You see it. Things come and go. You have an influence on that, you know?

And remember that the more time you spend building a strong, stable network, the better able you’ll be able to handle big impacts on your life.

Sending you joyous energy for a productive week. Spring!!

Sunrise Cape Elizabeth

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