The Maturity Continuum
Dependent – relying on someone or something else for support Independent – not ruled, controlled, or supported by others Interdependent – mutually dependent, collaborative
In his classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey discusses a concept called the Maturity Continuum.
As infants, we all start out in life totally dependent. Without the assistance and help from someone caring for our basic needs, we die. It would be absurd for us to believe that a small child could survive on their own. But as children grow and mature, it is appropriate and important for them to become independent. The teenage years are often fraught with this passage from dependence to independence as a person grows and learns how to live and stand on their own.
What is most interesting about growth and maturity is that there is an even more effective place than independence called interdependence. This is a state of mutual dependence that creates greater possibilities through synergy and team. For people to effectively participate in an interdependent team, they must first become an independent person that can contribute. Independence is that state of being responsible and taking personal ownership. Only independent people can participate in an interdependent relationship. Independent people who have developed a sense of identity and individuality can achieve more that those who rely on others for purpose, identity, and function.
Those who refuse to move from dependence to independence often develop a sense of entitlement and victim mindset. They carry a belief that they have a right to have whatever they want, and that when others do not provide what they want, they are being abused and mistreated. They live in a state of excuse, blame, and denial.
For an independent person to mature to the most effective state of interdependence, they must learn how to depend on others, not as takers, but as givers. Independent people are often proud of their achievement, and reluctant and skeptical to move toward interdependence. In their disdain of dependence, they avoid any admission of weakness or reliance on others. Rugged individualists are limited in their pursuits and outcomes. It is in the synergy of a functional team that the most can be achieved. Nature and life itself teach us that interdependence is a reality, whether we admit it or not. Just consider how long you could survive if you were cut off from all outside resource today.
Here’s the application for you today. First, consider where you might be immature and dependent, and break that unhealthy state of dependence on others. Take full responsibility and ownership for your life. Second, consider how you could vastly increase your effectiveness and results in interdependence, and take the steps necessary to grow and mature in your communication and relationships so that you can be interdependent and promote interdependence on your team.
We all have amazing potential, and the greatest of our potential will be tapped in collaboration and mutual dependence with others.