I live a controlled life. I live by myself, work for myself and please myself most of the time. I’ve done this all my life, having learned to retreat into my room and fix my own problems from a very early age. My early years were spent building self reliance, listening to my stereo: I am a Rock, So Strong, and today, The Mountain Goats.
And self reliance works well for me. I enjoy being able to do what I want, when I want. I value my freedom.
Yet the flipside of this is that I cut myself off from other people. Working with other people involves compromise, which encroaches my freedom. So when that happens I retreat into my room, and take my freedom back.
In the short term this absolutely works. I don’t have to deal with anyone else or risk rejection. I don’t have to be disappointed by anyone, compromise on anything or negotiate with anyone. But in the long term I pay a price.
The price I pay is missing out on ideas, challenges and input that would make my ideas stronger and which would spread them wider. And I miss out on the enduring, deepening relationships which I long for.
Collaboration is an interesting word. A collaborator in World War 2 was someone who forsook their principles for short term expedience. Funny how context matters – for me collaborator has come to mean the exact opposite.
The word collaborator comes from ‘com’ (with), and ‘labore’ (to work). And that’s the point – collaboration takes work. Work I am often not prepared to do, even when I know I can do more, influence more, grow more and achieve more with other people than I can alone. Yet I refuse to pay the price because I have to pay it now, and the consequences are not felt til later.
That’s why psychological flexibility is so relevant; especially when applied to values. Very often what I am convinced are values are actually avoidance strategies. By noticing this I can choose my behaviour more consciously and inch forward, slowly, in the direction I choose.
I may be a rock, but I choose not to be an island.