Self-Reliance is important to me. It’s always been something that I value. And, I’m a Taurus: most folks say I’m stubborn, but to me it just feels like determination. These qualities used to pair together nicely for me: I could always claim my ‘stubbornness’ was just me being ‘self-reliant.’ Unfortunately, that tendency led to a rigid and habitual template for interacting with the world.
I’m not exactly sure where my drive for self-reliance comes from. It’s been there as long as I can remember. Perhaps it sprouted from time spent in wilderness, often alone, and knowing that I was responsible for my own safety out there. Ironically, being in the woods with other people, my default mode is to take on responsible those around me as well. Comically--and frustratingly, the notion that those same other folks might also carry some of the responsibility for my own well-being is often absent from my mindset.
Wherever this notion originated from, it somehow survived the transition back from the woods and then settled in as default mentality, framing how I moved thru the world at large. It worked for a while, taking me nearly as far as my own capacities and innate capabilities could reach. When I hit obstacles, instead of reaching out for help, I’d double down on stubborn reliance, get to learning (hey, it’s the Information Age, right? [Wrong actually, but we’ll come back to that…]*), and try to push my way thru. I framed it, thru my standard lense of ‘self-reliance,’ as building my capacities, of expanding my capacities. But what if the way I approached this so-called expansion was actually the very thing limiting the evolution of my increased capabilities and reliance?
The mentality of self-reliance is a powerful tool, one that had served me well. But like any tool, it has it’s time and place. And, the reality of the nature of humans as creatures of habit is that we tend to use whatever tool is in our hands to deal with whatever new problem just popped up. As a carpenter, I’ve seen a co-worker drive a loose nail with a cordless drill, simply because it’s what he was holding in his hand at the moment he saw it, even though a hammer hung at the ready in his tool belt. In the kitchen, I’ll admit to using an offset spatula to cut vegetables, because it was closest to me at the time, and to using a French knife to do things that are foolishly embarrassing to recall. My default setting of using self-reliance as the framework for solving whatever problem or challenge just comes up makes about as much sense as using a hammer to make an omelet.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” -Albert Einstein
Whenever we are looking at a problem, challenge, obstacle, or goal that is sitting in front of us, it is likely we may be using the same type of thinking that caused it in the first place.
So what are the better options?
For me, considering my automated revert to this style of thinking, a different option is to ask for help. When I first side-stepped my stubbornness and default mindset, it felt like turning my back on the reliance I highly, but habitually, value.
So I asked for help. It started with PT for a back injury that wasn’t getting better on it’s own. Which in addition to help me heal and get stronger and smarter, opened the door to asking for help lifting weights so I stopped injuring myself in the first place. Eventually that coaching in the gym inspired me to hire a life coach to help me kick ass outside of the gym in the rest of my life as well. Now I need help with design. I need to get better at self-editing. And I am asking for help.
What I have learned along the way?
I learned all the things that I expected, but it is what I didn’t expect to learn that has had the most impact on my day to day life. I knew working with experts would help me learn how to rehab an injury, how to lift correctly, how to get stronger without getting hurt, how to shake free of feeling stuck in a rut and the reach the clarity I needed to move forward with cutting my own path. What I didn’t anticipate, coming from my predisposition for self-reliance, is how much more self-reliant I would feel as a direct result of asking for help.
Working with professionals has given me the opportunity to learn so much more so much faster than I was ever able to learn on my own. I get the chance to see how and what they see, and to learn from their experience, expertise and unique world view. In the past, self-reliance led a painful amount of trial-and-error. It was slow going, often discouraging, and often unsuccessful. I abandoned at least as many projects as I finished. When I ask for help, when I work with professionals, people who are badass at what they do, the progress is better and faster than I ever anticipated, and I always walk away from the situation having gained much more than I expected. Every time.
And the best part: I haven’t turned my back on my self-reliance. I’ve just shifted the emphasis: instead of trying to be self-reliant today, I look at how my decisions have the opportunity to be more reliant in the future. When I choose to be self-reliant, I am now reliant on a better, smarter self. The mentality is still there and that mindset is still available. It’s just an available tool in a larger tool kit now, not the automatic choice or the only one I’ve got.
What are your default thinking modes? Are you using the right tool for the job? Or are you stuck using the same level of thinking that created your problems? How can connection and working with a pro help you unlock your inner badass?
* This isn’t the Information age. That was last week. The information age has paved the way for today and the Connection Age. Our ability to connect, not just to information, but to each-other, is the vehicle towards learning and building our own self-reliance and reaching towards our greatest capacities. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t do it yourself. Do it smarter. Do it better. Self-reliance is good. But let’s stand stronger together.
Creative Destruction: Golder Goldstein's Blog
Nearly every time I sit down to write, to create, something gets destroyed.