You Belong! — Two Words Found In Third Places

Meet my friend Glen. And after my wife Sharon most mornings Glen is the second person to greet me. Glen is the Club Manager at the local Planet Fitness where I work out. Glen has an AWSOME beard and a wicked sense of humor! He always makes me (and the hundreds of other club members) feel as if we belong.

And that’s the pioneering concept that sociologist Ray Oldenberg introduced in his 1989 book The Great Good Place in which he explains that your “third place” is a hangout spot or “home away from home” that provides an essential zone outside of home and work. In our modern frenetic pace of life and cocooning downtime mentality, many don’t have a third place, which means that most of us are missing out on a crucial space of expression, connection and growth.

So what is a “third place” and how does it differ from other places in your life being defined as “first place” your home, and “second place” being your place of work?

According to Oldenberg a third place “by its design and environment is a welcoming space that cultivates essential social experiences in the company of like-minded people.” It can be a coffee shop with couches and tables (mine is Panera Bread) or a brewhouse that offers stools at the bar (mine is 54th Street Grill & Bar) or a gym like Planet Fitness. And it never feels like a chore to spend time there — well maybe sometimes at the gym it does!

A good third place is also easy to get to and is close to your home or work. You can pop in and out quickly without much stress or planning. The third place is best when it’s free, but it is, at the very least, inexpensive. ($21.95 per month or 73 cents a day at Planet Fitness) The lack of pretense and expense makes this a spot where people of different classes and worlds can mingle. In the third place, people are equals.

I love the Planet Fitness creed prominently displayed on the wall, which sounds a lot like a third place mantra to me!

“We at PF are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable. A diverse, judgment free zone where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built. Our product is a tool, a means to an end, not a brand-name or a mold maker, but a tool that can be used by anyone. In the end, it’s all about you. We evolve and educate ourselves, we will seek to perfect this safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected. We are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that’s what you need. We need you, because face it, our planet wouldn’t be the same without you. You belong!”

And so why is a third place important? No matter how cool your living situation might be, you need to get away from it just like you need to get away from work. A third place exists specifically for the purpose of connecting and being with other people — and I believe God has created all of us with a community DNA gene. 

So bottomline is that we ALL need a third place — this much we know. The effect on your social life and psychology will be BIG. And who knows you just might make some new friends — and thanks to my buddy Glen and Planet Fitness, I can get a bad joke and a good workout all in my third place close to home.

Live humbly and kind,

Jim

PS – You can join Planet Fitness and meet Glen yourself by emailing Lewisville.TX@planetfitness.com

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