Happy Get Connected Wednesday! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been connected with you and I must say I miss talking to you. However, the good thing about being connected is that we always have another chance to re-connect with one another. Yesterday I reached out to a friend of mine that I hadn’t spoken to in many months. Yet, because we were friends our conversation fell into place as if we had just spoken to each other yesterday!How many of you have friends, family members, and maybe even former classmates or colleagues that you’ve lost touch? I’m sure you have at least one person you would like to reconnect. Well for the next 5 weeks I’m going to share 5 simple strategies on how to build, maintain and strengthen the relationship of any group! Basically, I am going to teach you “How to Play Together and Stay Together” (PTST)!Strategy #1: Get Together!”80% percent of life’s satisfaction comes from meaningful relationships” B. TracyThe first step to of learning how to PTST with any group is to first GET TOGETHER! Now this may seem rather obvious, but it is also the most difficult to accomplish out of the 5 strategies. Why? Because unfortunately, leisure is no longer something that is valued. Society, as a whole, does not see the need or the significance for having leisure in their lives.Reunions are simply leisure events simply to allow everyone to “reunite” or “get together” after being apart for a period of time. Getting together, or reuniting, must be a priority and not an afterthought!So you have to PLAN a recurring event (monthly, annually, and bi-annually) so you can “check in” WITH THEM. If it’s been one year, two years or even 10 years since the last time you seen each other than it’s time to catch up! So many things have happened to you, your family, and friends. This is the perfect time to update everyone on those celebrations! Reunions can help individuals balance their lives and help us achieve a better quality of life. So step up and take the role as GROUP CONNECTOR and get everyone together regularly, so you can socially interact WITH THEM, improve communication WITH THEM & have fun WITH THEM!Strategy #2: PLAY!”It is better to play than do nothing.” ~ConfuciusThe second strategy to PTST is to PLAY! Now I am sure most of you are thinking this is a juvenile strategy. However, PLAY is not foolish, but a very serious concept. PLAY is fundamental to human existence! Think about the best memories in your childhood-I bet you were playing!A very positive characteristic of play is that is has the ability to create order. PLAY has its own rules. With this seriousness and order is inherent and rules are established. As a result, the most important characteristic of PLAY is that it has the power to separate itself from ordinary life. So during PLAY you can forget about everyday nuisances: bills, deadlines, and schedules. You can enjoy your group 100% without life’s distractions.Because PLAY has its own rules it is able to break down barriers. Doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 80 years old–playfulness can bring you closer together and create understanding. Recreation, or PLAY, enhances the overall well being of all participants regardless of activity. Through organized activity personal goal of health, building relationships, and the growth and learning of individuals are created and maintained.How many reunions or other gatherings have you attended that were just, well, boring? Nothing to do but eat and maybe talk? Did you venture outside of your familiar group and talk to any new people? Did feel that you could have saved money and travel time because you could have done the same thing by staying home? Bottom line: PLAY makes reunions more interesting!Strategy #3: GET INVOLVED!”You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”~PlatoWe’ve learned that in order to Play Together and Stay Together (PTST) we must #1-GET TOGETHER and then add #2-PLAY. These two strategies provide a wonderful opportunity for the next strategy to take place. Strategy # 3 is GET INVOLVED! Getting involved is an active action. It requires some work on your part as an individual member of your group. You have to deliberately get in the game! So why it that some people can easily jump right in and other is find it difficult to get off the park bench? It’s not that one person is more social than the other, or that one is less willing than the other. The reason why some members get involved and other don’t is all about one thing–motivation!There is a psychological basis for the involvement in leisure activities–otherwise known as motivation. The reason why we get up and participate (or don’t participate) is because we are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated in leisure and recreation. If you are intrinsically motivated then there is something inside you that is pushing you to get involved. For example accomplishments that are pushed by a sense of mastery, competence or by self-determination are intrinsically driven. Extrinsic motivation, however, is when outside factors such as awards or contingencies are the main reason for leisure participation. So what drives you to get involved?Strategy #4: FLOW!”The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” ~CsikszentmihalyiStrategy # 4 is FLOW! There has to be a marriage between the strategies. Just like in a marriage there must be a devoted relationship between # 2-PLAY and #3-GETTING INVOLVED! Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee-mouthful isn’t it?), pens the idea of FLOW in his “Flow Theory”. FLOW is defined as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake”. It is a state of consciousness where you become totally absorbed in what you are doing. All other thoughts or emotions are excluded. During FLOW, time can either stand still or time can move unbelievably fast. Your group should be having such a great time that they won’t want the reunion to be over!In order to promote FLOW there also has to be a balance of skill and challenge in each activity. If the challenges are too high people may feel some form of anxiety and if the challenges are too low some people may experience boredom. Each activity must involve a level creativity, challenge and happiness for all members. So avoid scheduling a chess tournament if only one family member knows the rules. Make sure your games or activities during PLAY reflect a balance so that everyone will want to GET INVOLVED!So why is strategy #4 important at a reunion? Well, FLOW has the power to free one from fear or failure and replace it with a sense of empowerment and now that we have involved PLAY to our reunion participants will be able to get feelings of personal satisfaction while getting involved. We PLAY to have fun…but we also PLAY to win!So, we have talked about the importance of strategies #1-Getting Together, #2-Play, #3-Getting Involved and #4-Flow. Remember them as you plan for each generation (if more than one) represented at your reunion. Provide the right activities to match the skill level of participants, and challenge them enough so they will try their best to win! Everyone should leave feeling like a winner! Those who experience FLOW will seek it again. You want to make sure that they know they can experience it at your annual reunion again, and again, and again!#5-Stay Together! “Win together, lose together, play together, stay together.” ~Debra MancusoThe strategies given have been developed to help you and THEM build, strengthen and maintain your relationships through reunions. Strategies 1-4 allow everyone to come together, reconnect, have fun, and live in the moment while we building memories with those that matter the most.The final strategy in learning how to PTST is #5-STAYING TOGETHER! Unfortunately, this step is often lost at the end of reunions. After the last hot dog is eaten and the last game is played everyone scatters and reverts back to their busy lives. Lives filled with responsibilities that leave little to no room to maintain the bonds that PSTS has helped you and THEM build.Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight does not have to be out of mind and you do not have to wait until the next reunion to connect with those you care about. There are many ways to STAY TOGETHER, or connected, without doing it physically. Thanks to the constant improvements in technology. It is easier than ever to stay connected with our demanding lives. Here are 6 tips to help you and THEM stay connected until the next reunion:1. Group Website: Hosting a family website is a great way to share information. Members can post pictures and announcements throughout the year. How great would it be to be able to share in the precious moments in each other’s lives? Share small victories, graduations, new arrivals and weddings with THEM all year long.2. Group Newsletter: Whether print or electronic, a newsletter is another convenient way to stay connected. Groups can even outsource this task. Have THEM send in information they find newsworthy and have a professional compile the information and send it out as a newsletter.3. Group Emails: Be sure to get email addresses before leaving the reunion. Don’t be afraid to send THEM a note letting them know you are thinking of them. Email is another good way to stay in contact with little to no effort.4. Social Media: Create a group page on Facebook-make it exclusive to THEM. Twitter is also a good option. Start following the people you know, love and admire.5. Mini Reunions: plan a small trip or get together with those who live nearby that you may not see often. You may not be able to get hundreds of people together but you can unite a smaller group of THEM for fun and leisure.And, for those who are not tech savvy:6. Pick up the phone: In the age of online media, email and text messaging we sometimes forget those who are not tech savvy. Give one of THEM a call.Recreation and leisure are essential in building strong communities. Leisure is intended to empower the community and its members. So after all the hard work of GETTING TOGETHER, PLAYing, GETTING INVOLVED, and being in the FLOW you must not forget that you did all of this for the greatest result-which is to STAY TOGETHER. So, promise yourself that you will stay connected WITH THEM throughout the year. Most importantly, don’t forget to save the date for next year’s reunion: There’s nothing better than looking forward to seeing THEM again.