Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence

by William Reed on May 27, 2010

Want a shortcut to improve your life? Change the way you see and engage with your world.

Things are not always as they seem. What you thought was a snake in the grass turns out to be a rope. A person you dislike says something good about you, and you suddenly see them in a better light. A flexible mind is free of fixed perceptions.

The sand under your feet can be material for a sand castle, or for a silicon chip. A cup becomes a cup if you use it to drink with. To another person it might be a pencil holder, or even a weapon. We experience things less by what they are, than by how we see them.

Abraham Lincoln said that, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. When you are dealt a wild card, you decide what it will be. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

There are 3 ways to engage with the world, each reflecting a different level of maturity. The same process applies to the development of individuals, organizations and nations.

Dependence is where you take your instructions from others, and depend on others for your material needs. Outside influences largely determine how you think, feel, and decide. It is the state in which we are born, and in which some remain.

Independence is where you feed and fend for yourself, and strive to break free from the controlling influence of others. It is the creed of self-reliance, the striving to be captain of your own life. It is also a state of limited freedom, a gilded cage.

Interdependence is where you realize and cultivate the power of connection, and strive for synergy through the power of relationships. Knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, you thrive by working for the good of others.

The progression from dependence to interdependence comes with growth and maturity. It is also possible to stagnate or regress, causing things to get worse. The cure for this is continuous improvement, for which the Mandala Chart gives you a map and a method.

Six steps to continuous improvement

  1. Give to others without expecting reward in return: While many people believe in give and take, this results in relationships tied to temporary transactions. A different perspective is giving without strings attached, knowing that givers gain. This results in long-lasting and rewarding relationships. There are many ways to extend a helping hand, if not through money or tangible resources, then through your time, expertise, and many small acts of kindness. Lighting the candle for others does not diminish your own flame.
  2. Maintain standards for the common good: Seek to act in a way that does not harm or inconvenience others. You can practice this in daily life simply by following rules that have been set for the common good. See that your lifestyle is one of health and sustainability (LOHAS). Behave in a way that is considerate of others. Some of these standards are set by law, others are dictated by common sense. You can also set higher standards for yourself that go beyond the minimum.
  3. Acknowledge and accept your current condition: Nobody is blessed with the best in all areas of their life. You may be financially secure, but not in good health. You may be happy at home, but miserable at work. Misery loves company, so you will find no lack of people wanting to pull you down to their level. However bad your current condition, complaining is likely to make it worse. You have to truly face and understand your condition before you can plan ways to improve it.
  4. Strive for continuous improvement: The power of continuous improvement is similar to the power of compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe. Don’t underestimate the results that you can achieve over time, nor the power of neglect over time. There is nothing in the world that cannot be improved, as long as you have the mindset to make things better. Though it may take time for outer results to appear, the best part is that you yourself will improve in the process.
  5. Be calm and act without confusion or haste: A Japanese proverb says that the hurried beggar stays empty handed. You might say that the beggar mentality is self-reinforcing. One thing people who rise above their circumstances have in common is a calm and steady commitment to improve.
  6. Polish yourself through practice: There are three kinds of people in life: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You can live your life as a spectator or as a player. The best way to improve as a player is to practice. Continuous improvement is a verb.

In Eastern thought the word karma refers to the actions which actively shape our past, present, and future experience. Like the Celtic Knot, our world is closely woven and interconnected. It is through action that we engage more deeply in that connection. The rules of engagement are that if you engage in a positive manner, you get positive results in return.

Download a Mandala Chart showing the 8 fundamental areas of life. Ask yourself in your life, if they are happily interwoven, or a tangled mess? In future articles we will look at the 8 frames of life, and how to gain comprehensive life/work balance.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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  • garymonti

    William, very refreshing to read. These 3 principles – dependence, independence, and interdependence – are a key part of my project- and change management practice. The 6 steps are keepers. Thanks for taking the time and making the effort.

    Gary

  • http://www.williamreed.jp William Reed

    Thank you, Gary! These get very interesting as the plot develops in the 8 Areas of Life, and as the 8 Principles of the Mandala Chart unfold. I love how it is ancient and new at the same time.

  • http://blog.publishedandprofitable.com Roger C. Parker

    Dear Will:
    This is a very strong post introduced with a message for just about everyone. The graphic caught my eye and made reading mandatory.

    The post is also an excellent example of a way of structuring

    It's also a I love the way you balance the idea with the 6 actionable alternatives.

  • garymonti

    Your last sentence is something I've learned to come back to when confusion hits. It helps level-set and move on (or be still 🙂 ).

  • garymonti

    Your last sentence is something I've learned to come back to when confusion hits. It helps level-set and move on (or be still 🙂 ).

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    I’ll
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