Good day, team.
This week’s challenge is about separation. That is, how we sometimes separate ourselves from others, including family, co-workers and friends.
All of us experience this sense of being separate from time to time. Sometimes it’s caused by a succession of failures, too much stress, or being out of sorts with family members or friends. Whatever the cause, when I feel disconnected from others, it is frequently accompanied by a state of depression and I experience a lot of negative thoughts:
“No one understands me.”
“Why do I have to do this all on my own?”
“No one likes me, so it won’t matter whether I show up or not.”
“I’m such a failure, I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m really an impostor here; if people really knew that I have no idea what I’m doing, I’d never have a job.”
All of these thoughts have the ring of separation to them. In these moments, I see myself as separate from the team, from my family, from my friends. I’m not like them. I’m different in some way.
When I work with teams, I often notice that someone on the team is separating themselves from the others. They may do this by not responding when asked to participate or by having the attitude that they know more than the rest of the group. If someone acts in an antagonistic or provocative way, it can separate him or her from the team. At the same time, feeling like a victim can separate a person from the whole. Even leaders who see themselves as powerful or authoritative can begin to feel separate from their teams. Whether a person sees him- or herself as special or insignificant, the results can be the same: separation.
This feeling of separateness is an illusion. Although we play different roles in our lives, we are all connected to one another. When we forget our connection to all other living beings, we start to get into trouble. I may think the Japanese tsunami last year was an event separate from me, but the remaining debris from that tsunami’s aftermath is about to show up on our west coast shores. I can judge my neighbors and feel like I’m better or smarter — until I need to call them for help. Will they judge me in return in that moment? What about when a fellow team member needs to pick up some of my job responsibilities when I’m out sick? I hope he or she won’t be feeling separate from me and will be able to see the importance of supporting me when I need it. Every action we take impacts someone else somewhere, somehow.
The best metaphor for this is the ocean and the wave. In our various roles, we show up as a wave. Sometimes waves are big and powerful, and other times, they roll calmly onto the shore. Waves can be bright and beautiful with white, frothy crests and deep blue colors or dark and grey with a slick surface. Just as we can be bright and beautiful or dark and grey, our various personalities show up as waves. Believing that our wave is separated from all the other waves can make us feel alone — but in reality, we are part of a huge ocean. That ocean is made of water and the water is what makes up the waves. Without the ocean, there is no wave. Without the rest of humanity, there is no one person.
This week, see whether you’ve separated yourself from others in some part of your life. Do you pride yourself in being different and, in turn, think you’re better than or less than others? How about with your family — are you the black sheep or the odd one or the best one? Do you separate yourself by spending most of your time alone? Do you not pay attention to others when you’re in a meeting and separate your attention away from everyone else? When you resist participating, what is it in you that thinks you’re not connected to everyone else? If you envision a sports team playing on the field, what if someone kicks the ball to their teammate and their teammate decides not to play anymore? Doesn’t the game stop? We are indeed each unique individuals, but it’s important to understand that what makes us special doesn’t need to separate us from others. In fact, that’s what makes teams so great — all of those unique qualities and strengths directed toward a common goal.
This week, appreciate how connected you are to others in all things. We were not put here to be alone and belonging to each other is one of the great gifts of humankind.
Have a good week,