OUTsight/ Alone Or Together

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Manila, 3 January 2018 — Better than relying on your New Year resolutions is answering a simple question. Will you achieve your goals alone or together this year?

Fresh into the new year, for many people, this is the time to set your annual objectives at work as well as your new year's resolutions for your personal goals. 

From these two, your objectives at work will have a higher chance of being realized, because they come embedded in a structure of teamwork, resources, and accountability.

New year's resolutions, on the other hand, only have a 1 in 10 chance of achievement, according to David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in the US. 

How then, do we maximize our chance of success to fulfill what we aim for at the beginning of the year?

Need for Self-Control

The conventional answer is that we should exercise 'grit' as we put more work into using our willpower with discipline and perseverance.

It is a matter of self-control, in other words, and to ensure that we can be successful, we need to exercise our individual commitment and effort.

While this prescription works, DeSteno recommends that we balance our 'grit' with 'grace' by embracing a complementary approach, that is, to invest energy into working with social emotions for others, and benefit from feeling pride, gratitude, and compassion.

DeSteno explains that research in his lab has shown how gratitude increases self-control, which is the all-important ingredient to realize our goals. Similar research findings were produced for the benefits of pride (the healthy version of it) and compassion.

Engaging Social Emotions

Of course, these research findings of the benefits of social emotions are consistent with what we already know from other sources of inspiration. We just have not connected them properly in how we go about implementing our goals, argues DeSteno. 

Take for example the words of Pope Francis, that “life is a precious gift, but we realize this only when we share it with others.” His message is that it is by working with and for others that we can achieve our best results.

In a similar vein, collaboration guru Adam Kahane draws on the work of theologian Paul Tillich when he advocates the need to combine Power—the drive of everything living to realize itself (with effort and assertion)and Love—the drive towards the unity of the separated (with empathy and engagement).

And consider integral philosopher Ken Wilber who produced some of his deepest insights when he wrote Grace and Grit after supporting his life partner in her battle with cancer.

Moreover, we are reminded of life's continuous and foundational interplay of Yang (fire, hot, taking initiative individually) and Yin (water, cool, being receptive to others).

A single-minded pursuit of Yang 'grit' for self-control can cause harm if it is not tempered by receptive, collaborative Yin. A harmful impact on health from individual overexertion showed up in the research findings of DeSteno's lab. 

Working Together with Others

In my post about Triple C Leaders, I wrote about curiosity and cheerfulness as defining characteristics of leaders, together with having the ability to convince. I remarked how leaders, in my experience, stand out because they engage in working with others.

Looking at the trends of 2018, Andrew Hill, a management editor at the Financial Times, observed how young leaders today "already place more emphasis on using their influence rather than trying to exert power through the authority of their position or assigned title." He expects "more companies to develop leaders who know how to manage networks." The trend, as he sees it, is towards working together. 

In Time to Reframe in preparation for 2018, the first of the three reflections I mentioned was to celebrate gratitude for the people we worked with during the past year, and "for the power that comes with connecting, co-creating, and collaborating."

The prescription for achieving more of our 2018 goals seems clear. We will do better if we see our goals as opportunities to work together with others and, in DeSteno's words, engage in our work with pride, gratitude, and compassion.

So who will you work together with to achieve your 2018 goals? 

As you ponder the answer, you can start with your loved ones, friends, peers, partners, mentors, and coaches.