The Importance of Self-Reliance

Sep 22, 2011
4 Min Read

Everywhere you look there are people willing and able to do things for you. We’ll mow your lawn, we’ll clean your house, we’ll cook you dinner. Often the affordability and convenience of these services is very tempting. These days you can get a burger at a fast-food restaurant not only faster, but also cheaper than you can make a similar burger yourself. But at what cost?

This dependence extends to our work life. Do you have a problem with your computer? IT will fix it. Are you having an issue with a co-worker? We look to HR. Need to learn a new skill? Perhaps there is a training course for that. Need to make a tough decision? Let’s check with the boss and form a committee. Need to implement a new strategy? Better hire those consultants.

Such an extensive support network would be fantastic if it weren’t for the negative consequences that tend to arise. Instead of increasing efficiency, over-reliance on others slows everything down. When we expect others to do the thinking for us, we stop learning and we stop innovating. And when leave the responsibility with others, we feel helpless and less in control of our own destiny when things don’t go well, and we have less to celebrate when success occurs.

In this day and age, even the most independent amongst us have a weak spot somewhere when it comes to autonomy. Where is yours?

  • Is most of your knowledge self-taught or from formal schooling?
  • What does your career path look like and did you design that yourself?
  • Do new opportunities, promotions, etc. find you or do you go after them?
  • Is the workflow of your day determined by a schedule or by your inbox?
  • How do you make decisions about where to invest your money?
  • When do you decide to go to the doctor when you are sick versus over-the-counter and at-home remedies?

We learn to rely on others because others do the same and because it is convenient. We also learn to rely on others because complexity sells. By making things appear complex, people and organizations can entice you to buy their product, take their advice, or rely on their skills. But it does a disservice to the do-it-yourselfer that doesn’t need that structure, it places limits on your self-sufficiency, and it is very opposing to a learning organization. Things are often simpler than they seem and usually completely within your reach to overcome yourself.

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