Life is a team sport
These are the words of a wise and beautiful friend who has recently agreed to mentor me as I develop my business.
The “life is a team sport” concept (also known as interdependence) is something I have believed in and championed for some time – yet in the process of establishing and running a micro-business of my own – I have inadvertently forgotten how to apply it.
Thinking back over the past year I have changed from employed to self-employed and moved cities. In the process of both of these pretty big life changes, and being majorly out of my comfort zone in so many ways, I couldn’t help be rocked and lose some confidence in myself.
So a lot of the areas I’ve been working on in coaching over this period of change has been around focussing on my strengths and applying them in a new context. And becoming focused on finding solutions rather than endlessly dwelling on problems. And this has been extraordinarily helpful in not only regaining my self-confidence – but in developing it even more.
Self-confidence – known as self-efficacy or agency by psychologists – is the feeling that you are capable of meeting life’s challenges and making your own choices. It’s feeling capable, confident and comfortable in yourself.
When we don’t have enough self-confidence that we can do what needs to be done we can end up depending on others – handing our autonomy over to them to do the things we ought to be doing ourselves. Dependency can be a passive, flattening, disempowering, self-perpetuating space to be. You feel powerless to act and wracked with indecision needing others more and more.
A lot of the work I’ve done in coaching has involved stepping out of a dependent mindset and rediscovering my areas of capability.
So many times throughout this work I have realised I am far more capable that I had ever given myself credit for. Developing this extra level of faith in myself lead me to start this blog in the first place. I have loved every minute and haven’t looked back. It has become self-perpetuating and lead to building up a medical writing business and external publications too.
Adopting a solution focus rather than endless naval gazing and moping has also really helped me move out of feeling sorry myself. It’s a mindset that has helped me pick myself up and choose for myself how I want to live in the world.
Self-confidence combined with a solution focus is liberating. It’s freeing to step out of the glue of self-doubt and self-pity that weighs you down and keeps you stuck and looking to others. It’s a great feeling to rediscover independence. I proved to myself I could do so many things I’d forgotten I could as well as things I’d never dreamed of.
The thing is, independence is not really an end goal in life. It’s more a halfway marker to much higher plane of existence – interdependence.
Remember the old fable about the father who wanted to teach his sons unity. He showed them how a single stick can be broken – but sticks bundled together stand tall and strong.
In a way when we reach independence we are like the single stick. We have grown up from the dependency of childhood to stand alone as adults. It’s a great feeling, but vulnerable. Vulnerable because as one person walking alone we can’t possibly do everything or know everything to take us where we want to go. We’ve got nobody covering our backs.
Yet so many of us get stuck in independence. How many people would suffer any indignity rather than suffering the shame of asking for help? This started happening to me in running my business.
There is a certain feeling of shame in asking for help when as a highly educated person with 20+ years experience you are rather used to being the expert – used to being the person others come to for advice – not the person who needs advice. Sure it’s subtle – but nevertheless a blockage to peak performance. And an arena for costly mistakes.
And that’s what my friend and mentor was trying to tell me – let go of the shame. Throw the ball to someone else – and together you’ll score a goal. And not just one goal – but many goals. We are all varied and unique with differing skills, talents and knowledge. Whether it’s business, relationships, education or anything – we all need each other to get where we need to go.
And when we work together we get there faster with more energy. We become like the bundled sticks – stronger and more appreciative of each other. Not only do we see how others raise us up – but we see the value of what we give them too. It’s space of mutual honour – and quite wonderful when you experience it. Because when we raise up others – we are raised up too. Other people’s success becomes ours to celebrate as well.
I have experienced the joy of interdependence with a new friend and colleague – who is as passionate (if not more so) about improving workplace mental health as I am. We have different backgrounds in many ways – yet see the world through a similar lens.
We have drifted into that space of calling on each other’s expertise with no shame at not knowing or needing something the other can provide. It is a wonderful, enriching and strengthening space to be in. A space where we’ll both go much further than independence alone could ever take us. We have each other’s back’s – and more.
So here’s to my coach extraordinaire (GD), wise and kind mentor (LC) and beautiful and giving colleague and friend (IO) – I thank you all. You’ve all opened yourselves up to working with me and sharing your wisdom. Each of you has given me a richer view of life in your own way and I’m certainly the better for it. I hope I do justice to returning the favour.