Communities are what make us human. As humans, we tend to flock in groups, or packs if you will. We are social animals who need and desire the herd around us to interact with, offer protection and procreate with. Numbers = evolutionary success. Some definitions of this basic animal instinct is “the tendency for groups of individuals to act together without planned direction.” It’s an interesting concept when it comes to promoting behaviour within us that is beneficial not only to ourselves but to our fellow ‘pack members’.
Abraham Maslow cites 5 levels of motivation that are needed to satisfy the human being in his Theory of Human Motivation (1943). Survival / Safety / Social / Esteem and Fulfilment. It’s interesting that fulfilment as at the tail end of this equation. It is an assumption that many of us in the western world are concerned with a singular focus of the bottom end of this scale of Motivation, but I believe there is a heavy weight of emphasis here. Some of us spend much of our time chasing fulfilment and yet are often neglecting our social and esteem values in a seemingly disconnected fashion, when in truth, they preceed and actually make the 5th value of fulfilment possible.
As achievements go it is one thing to achieve the accolades of being the person on the top of the podium at the end of the day. We all thrive on achievements and these are necessary to build our pillar of esteem and self value. It is imperative to we recognise that these accolades are sweet when achieved as an individual but no man is capable of being the superhero... The lone masked avenger and all over great guy. Batman had Alfred! Superman has his Mom, Aquaman has the Little Mermaid - ok so not all great analogies can be found in Marvel Comics! (Note to self). But the precedent is there. We are better when we are backed up by another. We tend to achieve more.
As intrinsically social creatures we are better when we join forces. Each individual has their own strengths and their own powers that can benefit and compliment a 'team' or 'project'. Identifying what you are good at and finding the right balance of complimentary 'fabulousness' can only bring about better results. Going down familiar paths needs the input of another element to make you change tack or change process. This can bring about different results - not necessarily better, sometimes worse, but different results nonetheless. This in itself leads to a sense of development. How we choose to interpret that development comes down to our own unique set of values and understanding. But it is true that we are social beings and that when we employ the minds of two people working towards a common goal, it usually serves a higher and better purpose.
Identifying what type of person we are within a partnership is often the hardest task. What is it that you do best? What is your one thing that you do than anybody better? Staying on that skill base is often difficult as increasingly we are asked to perform things outside of our sphere of expertise or skill base. This is a challenge that we are all forced to do, whether it be in the workplace, on the sporting field or in a personal relationship. Rising to the challenge can be a great experience as you can unlock skills or talents that you never knew you possessed so these challenges are not to be shied away from. But it is interesting when you get weighed down in those roles and the effect this can have on your own development. When it isn't necessarily your best role or skill, it is important to maintain the awareness of what it is you are trying to achieve. And if that skill base is the thing that you really 'desire' to be doing?
Within this is also the competitive aspect. What if someone comes along that is better at that skill than I am? What's the opportunity here? The hardest thing to let go of in this instance is the ego. The willingness to identify when someone does something better than you is a hard pill to swallow at times, especially when your whole identity is locked up in that one skill. "That was always the thing that I used to do best". There are two opportunities here. One is to increase your own efficiency and ability by rising to the challenge to better yourself. Rather than submitting to doing a lesser skill that is not in line with your needs/desires/talents, you can find ways of increasing your own results. The 2nd option which actually can help you to achieve the first one is to learn from the efficiency of others. What is it that someone else is doing better than I am that is resulting in 'X'? Can I apply what they are doing? Or an even better question, can I use them to help me better myself? This last point is a huge opportunity to create an advance for yourself. We move forward when we learn. Learning from those around you is often the best way to make some self improvement or refine your process to create better results. And a gear to learning is by identifying those that have the greater experience and knowledge than you. They have made the mistakes already which can lend you to creating less mistakes. Not eliminating them (for we all have mistakes we must make) but by heeding the lessons of experience.
What is also interesting is that every person has a role to play in the social structure. When we look at pack mentality as it exists in the natural world, we all know about the alpha and beta male/female. But even the Omega individual plays a role. In the natural world the omega plays the role of the runt; the individual on the bottom rung of the hierarchy. Whilst serving as the vulnerable one that bears the brunt of the infighting and 'punching bag' of the herd, the omega still serves a valuable purpose. That of being the comic relief. Often in moments of high competitiveness or status determination, the omega identity instigates play to ease tensions and create a sense of ease within the pack. The effect is not to be laughed at as it can certainly help to promote a sense of cohesion and settle a pack's higher emotions. It creates harmony where before there may be competitiveness.
There is a great deal of emphasis coming through about humans as relational thinkers and not just as efficiency thinkers. We are not just people who respond to goals and targets until we endlessly find ourselves unable to 'outperform' what we have achieved before. The ever changing goal posts cannot be made greater, larger or more finite and we cannot be expected to jump through an ever decreasing sized hoop! Efficiency thinking is self focused, and a great deal of discipline and goal orientated fulfilment. These ideals can be hugely valuable in a world where achieving targets is paramount and also hugely validated by our peers. However the trends in this singular goal orientated focus is changing and relational thinking is rising in value. Building relationships with people to create better outcomes and better solutions is an ever expanding concept. That far outlives and outlasts our singular goal focus. Relationship building can add compounding value to your experiences in all realms of your life as the nature of relationships increases over time to compound and provide benefits that far outstrip their original intention. Its an intensely expansive way of thinking which differs so much from the 'head down singular task focus' that leads to success in efficiency thinking. Adam Grant states "no matter how goal orientated you are, a good chunk of your success depends on your peripheral vision". It validates the notion that every now and then you have to look beyond the short term goal and think of the impact on a broader scale.
As a therapist I relate to this quite intensely. I have a certain skill and knowledge base that allows me to target the body in all it's intricate manner of operation and try to achieve the most efficient function or 'health' of the system to create lasting operation. In this pursuit I am often faced with points where my knowledge and skill base may not be completely sufficient and must needs to be reinforced with other skilled and talented professionals who can bring even more experience and talent to the equation. I would be most foolish to believe that I was the be all and end all of a solution to an issue. Every practitioner in their way and with their chosen skill has a role to play in the 'pack'. To find the solution and the betterment of the whole. In just the same was that massage is not the only solution. Chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy, naturopathy, chinese medicine... all have a part to play in the betterment of the issue at hand. One should never try to exist in opposition or in denial of the other.
But at the core of the concept is that we as humans are social beings. We are meant to drive in packs, we are meant to incorporate the needs of the group above the needs of the individual. In this way we are also at our best when we strive to use the wisdom and knowledge of the many as opposed to the genius of the solo. So to relate this back to our common goals: when struggling to find results where you have plateaued or achieved before, perhaps you need to bring in the help of those more experienced. After all, we are all better off as part of the social community - even as a lone wolf.