Everyone Needs a Chance to Belong

By | October 4, 2019

[October 4, 2019]  Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with veterans, college students, and community leaders about their thoughts on the value of higher education.  What I found out had little to do with education but on something deeper.  What I discovered was, more than anything else, that there is an overwhelming need for them to belong to something bigger than themselves.

Everyone needs a chance to belong.  This idea of belonging is a powerful force that explains much of our behavior.  While I’m no psychologist, it doesn’t take a college degree to figure out that people have a strong need to belong.  Reading the literature on the subject of “belonging,” one can find academics who say the desire is either innate or learned or a combination of both.  Ultimately, the reason doesn’t matter because the need is undeniable.

I was talking with a small group of teenagers at a local High School near my home last week.  The reason I was there was to talk about my experiences as a military veteran.  But what these young boys and girls told me that was far more interesting.  If there was one consistent theme in our conversations, they desired to be part of something bigger than themselves; whether that was through their religion, the government, or the military.  Their need seemed to be genuine.

Not all see it that way; to belong to something big, something important.  I was told several stories about friends and relatives who were into social media and playing computer games.  Those who did so seemed to be adrift and had few close friends.

“My girlfriends want to become famous.  They want to look pretty and have the latest clothes fashion.  They think they are better than me and others in our class.   They are shallow.” –  a young teenage girl in a High School in Southern New Jersey

I was convinced that these young boys and girls I talked to would someday be someone who everyone could rely upon, have successful families, and be leaders in their community.  I’ve seen it before.  There are always a few young people in any group that can keep a cool head when others are “freaking out” or just “following the crowd.”  Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind.  We should never dismiss it as something unworthy or trivial.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Everyone Needs a Chance to Belong

  1. Willie Shrumburger

    Excellent points here. Good to read about ‘motivations’ so that I can apply it as a leader at work.

  2. Sadako Red

    I’m not so sure. My idea of getting traction and completing the mission is to kick some serious butt. Too many weenies out there in pink pajamas and playing games in the sad parent’s basement for the young generations to get their act together. Aren’t we working toward strengthening our young people anymore?

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Right! Too many nutjobs out there to sort them all out.

    2. Watson Bell

      Hi Sadako Red. I’m one of your original fans and would like to see more articles by you here at Gen. S’s ldr blog. Thanks!

  3. Bryan Lee

    You are spot-on with your article today, Gen. Satterfield. Look across cultures and across time and you will always find religion as the universal mechanism that delivers social contact, belonging, and a sense of humanness to everyone. When ideologies like we see in communism/socialism delete religion, they are running against human nature and explains in part why those ideologies have failed so dramatically.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      No surprise here that belonging is so important but also so ignored as a fact of reality.

    1. Billy Kenningston

      I agree, very interesting and educational.

  4. Max Foster

    Basic idea here is that people are social. It’s a survival mechanism and built into our DNA. There is no getting away from it. Any one who believes otherwise is ignoring thousands of years of successful behavior. You cannot mess around with this stuff and expect humans to change overnight. I do, however, see many of the young people in colleges and especially their professors who believe and act otherwise. This is a formula for great failure and we have yet to see it.

    1. Jane Fillmore

      Well said, Max. The West (culturally, I’m speaking about) is on a path away from the most basic of human instincts. This ‘progressive’ movement is moving away from inborn behaviors to something they believe to be morally superior.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        This is why they feel they should be in charge and make all the rules. And when a rule works against them, then just change it because they are morally superior.

  5. Army Captain

    Belonging is perhaps the reason I joined the U.S. Army. My mom and dad would likely tell me the same thing. I truly enjoy being able to be around folks who love our country and are young, smart, and have a positive attitude.

    1. Eric Coda

      Those who join the military are, to some extent, self-selecting in that they have characteristics (Gen. Satterfield also calls them ‘traits’) that make for the type of people all of us want to be around. Just look at any photo of military personnel and you will want to also be part of their group.

      1. Mark Evans

        Thanks Eric. Yes, they are self selecting and very good reason why anyone who is interested in a good life should gravitate there.

    2. Harry Donner

      Young, energetic, intelligent – who wouldn’t want to belong to an organization like that. Humans are built from the ground up to be social animals and a little modern technology will never change that.

  6. José Luis Rodriguez

    So many of my friends growing up gravitated to gangs because something seemed to drive them even though they knew they would be injured, killed, imprisoned, etc because of it.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Yeah! I know what you mean Jose. I’ve seen the same thing but with the disenfranchised kids in my neighborhood. They believe they will gain respect and status by being part of a gang. Belonging is a powerful drive and any group that plays on this desire will attract others to their cause.

      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Thank you Nick for reinforcing my point. The sad part is that my friends were not attracted to some other organizations or groups that could have helped them be better friends, family members.

    2. Albert Ayer

      Yes, this is a sad example of what happens when our youth don’t have appropriate outlets for their time and energy. This is why community leadership is so important; as well as good role models. In my community, leaders are desperately lacking and our youth are going to jail at an unprecedented rate.

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