I have discovered this weird paradox about myself (and I guess I can extrapolate this to others as well). We tend to take for granted what comes easily or naturally to us, and long for, or envy, those things we see in others, which are less developed in ourselves. Today I spent a great couple of hours talking with a friend and colleague about a whole bunch of leadership/change the world kind of stuff. As we talked my friend made a comment that really struck me. He said, “I am a ‘getting things done guy’, that’s why they paid me so much at the bank. I am great at seeing things through to the finish line.” There is no comment he could have made that would have provoked as much ‘personality trait envy’ as that. You see, I am just the opposite. I am a great, “let’s have a million ideas about what could get done” kind of guy. My brain spins off ideas at a rate that exhausts even me! I find myself thinking that my life, and work, would be so much easier, so much more productive if I just had a slightly higher need for completion. On days when I am feeling a little down about myself, or discouraged by life, I can fall into cycle of disparaging my strengths, envying other’s strengths and beating myself up about my weaknesses. On the flip side, when my idea-generating brain gets something really great going I start to inflate with a sense of my own greatness and pride starts to capture my heart. Not a great way to live!
Is there a better way? Well yes. You see I only get depressed, or proud, when I succumb to a flawed conception of reality. When I think of myself as an individual, who in isolation has to change the world etc, then I am inevitably set on a path of disappointment and depression when I struggle, or intolerable pride and arrogance when I have some success. The truth is, all of life is done in relationship with others. The way to avoid depression or pride is to realise that I have to do life in community. That actually my friend and I working together can make a far greater impact for good than the sum of our individual efforts.
In healthy communities, in high performing work teams, in great marriages and strong families, we make our best contributions as we all bring our natural gifts and abilities to the table, working out of our strengths, while collaborating in such a way that none of our weaknesses sabotage the undertaking. What I love about this, apart from the increased impact on the world, is that it frees me from both depression/self-hatred (I am valued, my strengths matter, I can make a difference with who I am) and pride (I am constantly aware that it is not me who is responsible for any success). Of course, it is possible for teams or groups to fall into organisational depression or pride, but that is a topic for another post!