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Life Skills 24 August 2018

Working together to achieve more

Have you ever heard this quote?

“Life is a very simple exam, but most of us fail because we attempt to copy each other’s answers, without realising that everyone has got a different question paper.”

I’ve long considered life to be a competition. And I’m not talking about those intentionally simple ones you see on daytime tv:

What is the capital of France?

  1. a) Paris
  2. b) London
  3. c) A pencil

Throughout evolution, our species has been fighting to survive and thrive. And these days, our jobs, relationships and day-to-day lives are abundant in competition. Not only are you competing with others, but everything out there is competing for you (where you shop, what you buy). You’re also competing with yourself; battling your own expectations and those instilled in you during your childhood.

Whilst this fight response is a natural part of being human, I believe that to really get what we want, we need to have better control of the off switch, and not be afraid to use it.

I recently read a book by psychologist and author Dr Kevin Dutton, in which he shared a story:

Two children and their Mother are in a local store staring at drinks through the glass of a fridge door. There’s a problem: there’s only one bottle of Coke remaining in the fridge, and both of the kids want it. Arguments ensue. After showing no willingness to share, their Mother decides to teach them a lesson in life – if you’re not willing to share, then you both lose out. As they leave the shop feeling disappointed and begin walking back home, both children reveal their reasons for wanting the Coke. One says he wanted it because he was thirsty and the other says she wanted it to collect the tokens on the back of the bottle.

A lesson was undoubtedly learned – but not the one initially expected. If only the kids had focussed less on winning the argument and instead worked together, both could have got what they wanted.

Children wearing capes, holding hands and running together

Sometimes, we can become so intent on winning at something that we take our concentration off what it is we actually want. By doing so, we close ourselves off to opportunity and make things harder for ourselves. We don’t need to battle everyone all the time – we can choose to talk to people, learn if our aims are aligned or complement each other and then see if we can work together to jointly achieve them. Did anyone say ‘win-win’?

We’re all on a journey in our lives, ultimately heading to different destinations. But, that doesn’t mean we have to build our own ships and sail the rough seas entirely on our own.

Ants working together to achieve a goal
Ants can teach us a lot about the benefits of cooperation and collaboration

Strengths and weaknesses

I’ve come to recognise that I have strengths and weaknesses, as we all do, and I utilise the skills of others to fill the gaps in my knowledge and expertise to achieve the goals I set for myself. To fit with the analogy above: to fulfil my journeys, I look to share many ships with many different people in order to get there.

Those who open their minds to others and work with them to hit goals will find success easier to achieve. I’m reminded of a quote by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a Filipino Professor and former President:

The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better.

Alastair