It’s one of those cliches you actually believe in.
We say it in lots of different contexts, often when talking about the beauty of partnerships and teamwork. We speak to the fact that we are “better together.” And like I said, it’s a cliche you actually believe in. When I hear it, I don’t roll my eyes or suffer a gag reflex. I really do believe in the logic of the statement that we are better when we are teamed with others than when we are by ourselves as individuals.
I believe it is true logically, but if you were to watch my life and my actions, it would often betray me with the truth: I would rather work by myself. And don’t get me wrong, there are many, many ways in which I function better on my own and thrive with autonomy. There are healthy expressions of this in my life and having others help me discover this and see the benefits — as well as the dangers — has been very liberating. But this desire for autonomy does not always serve me well, and I have discovered and learned the level of intention I have to live with in order to lean into partnership with other people.
And they have made me better, almost without exception. Those relationships are a gift. We are truly better together.
I often don’t go looking for this enough. My natural state is one where I feel just fine on my own. I know others are the opposite and they are drawn to relationships and affirmation — they need the feedback and the interaction to have a reference point. But that’s not my style. Much of my time in counseling during this sabbatical has focused on my relationships with others and how I relate to them and what they bring to my life. How do I evaluate their contribution? How do I learn to listen?
This truth is one of the most consistent “interruptions” in my sabbatical experience. In my opening entry, I talked about ICM’s sabbatical policies and one of the requirements being an accountability structure. This isn’t an oppressive or crushing presence in the sabbatical. It’s simply designed to make sure you are talking to others about your experience so you don’t miss opportunities. You want to get all the potential good out of your time. It’s a statement that comes from the belief that we are better together.
But I don’t naturally gravitate to this relationship. I have the planned calls (structure? plans? I like structure!) I make every other week or so to discuss my experience, but I assume this is the accountability structure at work. And it is.
But there is also so much more. And I’m thankful for other people in my life who tend to see this reality so much more than I do.
Because I was recently asked — again — by my team about my sabbatical experience when we were all together. And I — again — was initially frustrated by the question. I had already processed the current season and had answered the same question a few weeks earlier. I had shown up for my phone calls and I had written about it here on the blog. What more was there to do? Did I really have to answer this question again?
But I did, and it was uncomfortable, because I couldn’t simply repeat my answers from three weeks ago. That would’ve been awkward. So I had to pause, and reflect, and consider where I had been in the last three weeks. I had to think about some of the other things I had talked about and consider new things. I had to do the work of reflection, yet again, because they had asked.
And it probably won’t shock you to know I saw some new things during that conversation. It probably shouldn’t have surprised me, either, but it did. All of these things I wouldn’t have without those teammates asking me questions and asking me to keep doing good internal work. So I find myself writing about a part of our policy that I never thought would inspire much writing, but here we are — better together.