_____ + _____ = ?
Can you guess the formula?
One of the ways researchers have found to combat prejudice and aggression between differing groups of people is to give both groups a common goal that is higher than individual goals and is a benefit to both groups. A common goal should take cooperative efforts on both sides to obtain, put both groups on an equal basis and give equal benefits to both sides. This is known as applying Super Ordinate Goals.
I came across this term while studying for my state licensing board exams that I will be taking in two weeks and felt like I finally had language for why my closest relationships have been a result of working toward a shared goal. In my late teens and early twenties I worked alongside Brett and Emily supporting a Jr. High Youth Group. This was after I had spent a number of years working with Shauna in the Sr. High Youth Group. Then, I managed our church’s coffee shop with Colleen. After I had Lucy, Sarah and I worked in children’s ministry together. In graduate school, I did all my group projects with Hope, Melissa, Courtney and Stacie. And most recently, I have worked alongside Kristin at a chemical dependency treatment center for 3 years. These names don’t just represent co-workers. They are my best of friends.
Working toward a shared goal always gives you something to talk about. It also gives you a lot to do together. And when things go awry, which they inevitably do on any project, you have peers who are there to support one another. And all of that talking, doing and supporting rolls over into non-work life. Though I no longer work directly with many of these friends, we are still talking, doing and supporting each other regularly.
However, if I had to pick one other reason for how I got to be such good friends with everyone I’ve mentioned, I would say there has been an element of play. Because there are many people who I have not listed that I have worked with. We certainly shared a same goal and were working toward the same end. And yet, when the project or job was finished, the relationship was as well.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded how play is essential in my relationships when Shauna, Sarah and I* had this exchange. Since we live in different time zones, often we have to catch up on schedules and decisions for this shared endeavor through group text messages. And while business is the priority, there has never been a time where we have engaged in a conversation that is about our shared goal, which is higher than our individual goals, where there has not also been the element of individual and shared play. Super Ordinate Goals + Play = Super Extraordinary life.
*Many of these blog posts were originally featured on a project called "3 Therapists Walk Into a Blog," a collaboration between myself, Shauna Gauthier, and Sarah Isakson.