Happy Independence Day, one and all in Grand County
July 3, 2008
Oh yes, we are a happy, independent lot. By nature we celebrate and cherish our autonomy, not relying on or being directed by others. Stemming from our western (as in this part of the world) culture and our western (as in our adventurous and rugged existence) heritage, we pride ourselves on our individualism.
Westerners, Americans, and Grand County-ians are what sociologists call individualistic. As a whole we find pride in being self-starters, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. We think in terms of self, using the direct “I” orientation in most of our communication and interactions. Standing alone is our style. Individual strength is our motto.
Independence, our national mindset, is a way of life that by definition seemingly avoids the support of others. Yet, the sentiment “together we stand, divided we fall” seems very familiar to all of us as well. We are encouraged to stand up for ourselves.
However, we also know that at every step of the way we conceive and accomplish monumental goals by standing for, by, and with each other.
Comparatively, collectivism is the social order that values the group’s goals and well-being over self. Loyalty, duty, respect, order, tradition, and adherence all fit into this cultural category. The orientation is “we” rather than “I” tending toward cooperation and shared decisions, credit, and responsibility. Collective membership has familiar tones of good old patriotism on every level.
Independence does keep us on our toes. Change is in constant order. Competition is the name of the game. Obligation is to the betterment of self. Collectivism, on the other hand, embraces familiarity with, caregiving for, and belonging to the in-group of choice. Contribution, in this case, is to the whole.
So what then is this independence that we so distinctly display, deeply cherish, and defiantly protect? Does individualism lend support despite our most proud efforts not to need any? If not autonomy, which personal and community habits of interaction would build our greatest strength?
It is amazing given the stereotypical characteristics of our individualistic culture that we collectively accomplish anything at all. Perhaps the answer is in the very listing of Western traits. Independence, at the top of the list, reeks of free choice. Even though we approach our challenges from unique directions, individualism does allow us to choose strategic actions for the common good.
Strength is as strength does. With that thought, individualism does not guarantee a “one for all and all for one” result with a giant WE, but it does give the opportunity for the best decisions to rise to the top as the process of choice is constantly applied to the question. We can consequently support each other with a check and balance of challenge, unique thought, diversification, and inspiration.
When it comes to the best actions for our greatest strength, I would coach individuals, communities, and countries alike to choose their actions to match their values. This is Life Coaching 101. Outstanding energy follows the marriage of belief and deed.
Sometimes you will be standing alone with your convictions and other times you will be a member of a very large group. At that point you may choose which are your best actions of individualism and/or collectivism. How wonderful to be able to mix and match knowing that true independence is not a set formula of social expectations but a powerful combination of instincts, intellect, and compassion.
“Marianne Klancke is a certified professional coach and group development facilitator. What are your coaching questions or communication concerns? She welcomes any comments email@example.com.
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