By Robin Bush, ISR Communications
There is a time in our lives, especially as children, when we declare, “I can do it myself.” Then, years later, as we become more accomplished at our jobs, we strive for increasingly more autonomy and the responsibility that accompanies it. In our early careers, working independently without supervision may be an admirable ability. Still, there is a turning point when our ability to work with others is more beneficial, and we shift our focus toward creating a collaborative work environment.
There is a life lesson there for all of us. Independence is the early phase; interdependence is the lasting phase. So often, we are told the goal as we age is to remain independent and function on our own, but is functioning alone what’s best for us? Humans are social beings, and we function best in concert with others, being interdependent, not independent.
All we need to do to understand why this is is look around us. Natural ecosystems share nutrients, support diversity, rely on survivable conditions, and are adaptable. Resilient creatures are connected, alert, and able to respond to changes. Interdependence means survival.
For humans, independence relies on oneself; it‘s the “I” phase of life. Interdependence is when life experience guides us to choose to turn to “we.” We seek to cooperate with others, so everyone is mutually supported. It’s where we know we can depend on others, and they can rely on us. Finally, it’s when the independent adult makes a conscious choice to increase their circle of involvement and concern beyond themselves. Some call it the rise of wisdom; others see it as maturity.
In interdependence, people are mutually dependent, and both thrive because of the connection with one another. Both remain resilient, making constant adjustments and transforming to meet the demands of new circumstances. Think of it as synergy — the sum is greater than the parts are individually. This phase of life is where we value cooperation and commitment over competition. For instance, if our mobility or eyesight fails so we can no longer drive, we might not be physically able to get our groceries, but someone we know is, so we offer to cook for them. Or perhaps we offer nourishment in social connection as we gather to knit, have tea, or play cards while sharing stories of our lives, past and present.
So, take a moment and welcome choosing interdependence over independence. Embrace the idea of a net that holds you close to others so you and those you care about are not alone in navigating the years ahead. Live interdependently so you will live your best life.