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Community and shared identity transform client well-being into collective impact

Coaches can enhance clients’ existential well-being by addressing the often-overlooked needs for shared identity, beliefs, and community. Embracing the power of community transforms existential well-being into collective impact. 

Due to certain experiences with religion, clients may find it challenging to explore the intersection of existential well-being and community

Coaches can help clients navigate their existential journeys, finding diverse opportunities to build community around shared purpose and meaning

Meaningful connections provide a support network that sustains existential well-being while also leveraging community for social good

Existential well-being serves both individual and collective flourishing

Whether a person is spiritual, part of a religious community, or has no religious affiliation, existential well-being is a core human need. Existential well-being involves a sense of meaning and purpose that helps people navigate life and cope with challenges. This includes values and beliefs that guide behavior and unite communities around a shared identity.

Across the globe, these values and beliefs are shaped by factors such as culture, individual preference, and life experiences, creating a tapestry of diverse perspectives. While existential well-being is often treated as a journey of individual self-discovery, the communal aspects of shared meaning and identity are just as important to human flourishing. Research on the world’s healthiest communities highlights the link between social and existential needs. Wisdom Weaver and medical doctor Marcus Ranney notes: “In addition to the basics of moving a bit every day, sleeping well, and eating right, a sense of community is critical. With that social fabric, having faith in something bigger than self and having a sense of purpose in life as well.” On an individual level, existential well-being fosters resilience and supports overall health. Within a community these benefits are amplified, leveraging collective resources to respond to external challenges.

Although client values, beliefs, and religious community can serve as a powerful resource for personal growth, existential well-being can also be a challenging topic for some. Clients may have no religious affiliation, belong to a marginalized religious community, or have experiences with religion that make the topic sensitive. Coaches can actively listen to clients’ experiences and acknowledge their feelings about religion and spirituality. At the same time, coaches can help raise awareness of other aspects of existential well-being, assisting clients in clarifying their core values and identifying experiences and communities that provide meaning.

Evolving trends in social well-being are also transforming existential well-being

Global demographic changes , social transformation, and cultural exchange through the internet are influencing the future of religious and spiritual identity. Religious affiliation is on the decline in North America and much of Western Europe, while religious identification is increasing globally due to population growth in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. These trends are set to transform how existential needs are fulfilled either within or outside of religious communities.

Faith communities play a crucial role in connecting individuals to a shared identity, fostering well-being. Sharing her perspective from the Middle East, Wisdom Weaver Noof Aljneibe highlights the role of religion in social cohesion: “In many Arab countries, we celebrate Friday lunch with family. It is encouraging to hear the benefits of these practices translated into science. For example, praying as a community can benefit health and well-being. For Muslims, it is important to care for their neighbors and support friends and colleagues who are facing challenges.” In the United Arab Emirates, the government promotes traditional cultural practices tied to shared identity and faith practices.

Conversely, in the United States, the decline in religious affiliation has left many without community engagement necessary for well-being. Wisdom Weaver and social scientist Dr. Byron Johnson states, “Being in the company of other people is important. And that comes with incredible emotional and spiritual support that many are not getting. That also comes with accountability and a willingness to pour into the lives of others.” Coaches can help clients fill this gap by connecting with purpose-driven communities or finding or creating communities that support their values and provide necessary social support.

Sharing his perspective as a coach, Wisdom Weaver Badri Bajaj asks clients about their spiritual beliefs as a way to uncover potential resources and social support. “Spirituality connects people to resources because it connects people to each other and to historical wisdom. When I read certain scriptures from Indian wisdom, I may gain insight. So, this connection to a higher power, to each other, and to wisdom goes deep.” Coaches can help clients explore how their beliefs and values have evolved over time, identifying underutilized resources or helping clients recontextualize past beliefs. Badri asserts that holding space for clients to process evolving beliefs also taps into the need for shared existential experiences. “For coaches, helping clients revive their own spirituality can help both the coach and client.”

Coaches can help clients go deeper than individual mindfulness to connect with communities of mutual care

Coaches play a vital role in helping clients move beyond individual mindfulness to foster connections within communities of mutual care. While personal resilience through internal centeredness has been emphasized, there is a growing recognition of the need for communal engagement. Coaches can guide clients to identify their core values and connect with like-minded communities, supporting a more holistic approach to well-being. This shift from personal development to community-oriented growth enables clients to experience deeper and more sustainable well-being.

Fulfilling existential needs requires more than just self-discovery; it involves meaningful connections with others. Wisdom Weaver and global health practitioner Sam Brakarsh highlights that without a supportive community, well-being efforts can become superficial: “Well-being has become flattened into efficiency rhetoric. Particularly in the West, where the culture values efficiency and individualism, it is tempting to do a 10-minute meditation and then go off at 7:00 a.m. to your job.” Sam questions this Western tendency, highlighting the risk of wellness practices leading to spiritual bypassing, where individuals use spiritual practices to avoid dealing with deeper social issues and not engage in personal and collective accountability. Coaches can help clients connect to their true sense of meaning and purpose, linking them with communities of care that support their existential well-being.

The traditional practices of Buddhism offer a poignant example of how well-being practices have been stripped of their communal context in the West. Sam explains: “Where normally, you would engage in these practices and have a teacher and community around you that holds you accountable and challenges you, it has become individual and efficient.”  In traditional settings, these spiritual practices are embedded within a supportive community that provides accountability and challenges people, fostering a deeper and more rigorous practice. Coaches can bridge this gap by encouraging clients to seek out or create supportive communities, transforming personal mindfulness into a shared experience that promotes mutual care and accountability.

Existential well-being is a unifier, connecting people around common needs and values

Existential well-being serves as a unifying force, connecting people through common needs and values. Communities of purpose demonstrate the powerful impact of collective well-being by fostering a sense of shared identity and purpose. Coaches play a key role by helping clients recognize and embrace broader aspects of existential well-being. This involves reframing well-being initiatives to include meaningful connections beyond the individual level, enhancing both personal fulfillment and community cohesion.

Research from the Pew Research Center shows that people active in religious congregations report higher levels of happiness and civic engagement compared to those who are religiously unaffiliated or inactive within their religious groups.  A study on Religion and Human Flourishing highlights how religion and culture shape various dimensions of life, including meaning, character, positive emotions, social relationships, and overall health. Understanding these relationships can help coaches connect people through shared values and communal support systems, fostering a cohesive and flourishing society. For example, coaches can reframe client benchmarks to include community engagement, promoting both personal and collective well-being.

Existential well-being is a core human need within a holistic well-being framework. When this need is met individually and communally, it intersects with other needs for connection and community, strengthening emotional resilience. Coaches can engage clients on topics of existential well-being from a neutral perspective, allowing clients to share their feelings about religion and spirituality. This approach helps clients honor both individual and communal existential needs in a way that aligns with their values. 

Coaches can encourage clients to look beyond individual mindfulness into a broader, community-based approach that enhances collective well-being. By helping clients navigate their existential journeys and connect with purpose-driven communities, coaches foster deeper, more sustainable well-being. Encouraging clients to explore diverse avenues for building community around shared purpose and meaning not only supports their personal growth but also contributes to social cohesion and mutual care. As coaches facilitate these connections, they play a pivotal role in creating networks of support that enhance both individual resilience and community strength. Coaching plays an important role in the future of existential well-being, ultimately leading to a flourishing and interconnected society.

Transformational Questions:

  1. What role can coaching play in promoting communities of mutual care?
  2. How can a coaching approach support clients in exploring diverse avenues for community building?
  3. How can coaching reimagine client benchmarks to include community engagement?
  4. How can coaches support clients in considering how their connection to a shared identity impacts their overall interpersonal and vocational satisfaction?
  5. What does a coaching approach for a flourishing, interconnected society look like?

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