“Most people think self-oriented and other-oriented motivations are opposite ends of a continuum… Yet, I’ve consistently found that they’re completely independent. You can have neither, and you can have both,” with UPenn Prof. Duckworth quoting Wharton Prof. Adam Grant (Duckworth, 2016, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, New York: Scribner, p.159). Angela Duckworth’s research shows that people who most persevere–her paragons of grit–have found and work deeply with both (1) their own passion, their relationship to their own self potential and its manifestation, and (2) the purpose for their engagement, their unique contribution to the group (which she refers to as the other).
Grant’s and Duckworth’s research, and that of others I have shared in earlier blogposts, supports what we are finding, that where you experience a vibrant relationship with your own potential and its development, you also experience a vibrant relationship with the other and with the group, where your unique contribution is invited and acknowledged, and with the source and process of creativity. The research suggests a correlation–these primary relationships tend to be at a similar level of vibrancy–where one is, the others tend to be. This is correlational, not causal. We don’t really know which comes first, which would be the causal explanation, only that they tend to be at similar levels of vibrancy experienced.
The perennial question is, “Which comes first?” The self, the other, the group, nature, spirit? This seems to be a question that elicits lots of opinion and dogma, and has for thousands of years. Maybe a more fruitful question explores where we get the most leverage in shifting our experience to a more vibrant one, where the vibrancy experienced in all five primary relationships is higher? Some of our research suggests that the highest leverage is to start with yourself, because it is the easiest and most direct intervention we each have on a continuous basis. While it is definitely hard work to change your own perceptions and behaviors, you have permanent and continuous access to them, and you get to choose. It is much harder, if not impossible, to do this for others. So, maybe a more interesting question focuses on where the leverage is. The self?
As the Adam Grant quote I started with suggests, maybe the power of being able to choose an experience of higher vibrancy comes from not having to choose a point on a continuum between serving your self or another, because the five primary relationships are not tradeoffs, rather something achieved together, because they are fundamentally different, because they are independent.