What do a chick, a four-year old and an established neurosurgeon in an African country have in common?

Sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? No joke, their shared characteristics of self-reliance, independence and a don’t hear no attitude are important in creating a bigger life. Important for us, too.

Saving isn’t helping and doing for teaches nothing

It is crucial to a baby chick’s development to make its own way out of the egg. In fact the pecking starts the process, then it uses its legs. Birds need strong legs to hold them up, to hold onto their perches. Weak, under developed legs and they will perish. Stand on your own two legs has a clearer meaning, when you think about the chicks. You can “save” them and help them out of the egg, but what are the long-term consequences?

Ever encounter a four-year old’s adamant “I can do it” attitude? That’s the beginning  thrust for independence and self-reliance. Take that away and you have kids standing around waiting for you to do up their zipper, cut their food and do an A+ job on their school project – maybe even in college! Taking over and doing for them may mean a life long job you hadn’t counted on.

Just because it’s the way it’s always been….

And the western neurosurgeon? His story was a part of what really got me thinking about independence. I listened to a radio interview about his work and how he was able to stand back and see that what had always been done wasn’t the answer. In fact, what had always been done was resulting in an entire country stuck in a dependent and reliant relationship with the foreign doctors that came to help them.

The doctor had been a part of a multi-national group of NGO’s (non government organizations) that take several weeks or months and use their medical skills to help the citizens of various countries that have limited access to doctors. On the surface, it seems an admirable thing to do, but in fact it changes nothing. The people who have the skills, knowledge and resources continue to have them and the people who don’t, don’t.

Dr. Ellegala saw a new model and new possibilities. Work with the local hospital assistants. Train those who possessed the intelligence, drive and desire. Teaching was something he already did back in the US. This time though, he would ditch the model requiring a decade of education and teach this group differently. It’s no surprise that his efforts were initially met with great resistance from his fellow doctors and a lot of negativity. He continued on, despite the lack of support.

As a result of his efforts, thousands of lives are saved. Not by outsiders but by the very citizens of the country. Just because it hadn’t been done, didn’t mean it couldn’t be. He saw the value of self-reliance and independence.

The doctor’s final comment in the interview, was that we all need to learn independence to expand what we think is possible. He didn’t say other people, he said all people.

It’s hard though, isn’t it? To trust there is something beyond the shell of what is and what you’ve always known? Hard too, to see where we have allowed others to do for us and as a result how we have quit expanding our world and developing all parts of ourselves.

Independence and Self Reliance aren’t sexy words

Independence. Self reliance. They aren’t very sexy words. They don’t exactly jump out and say, hey baby invite me over and live large. Too bad, because learning the lessons of those two concepts can in fact make our lives very large. Not learning them, keeps us stuck and doing the same old things without ever realizing there is more we could do with what we know, more we can bring to the world and yes, add to it.

If we don’t believe in ourselves, especially in areas that we have no experience in, then it is too easy to accept the opinions of those who operate from a base of fear. Sometimes we have to start out alone, leaving behind those who tell us why not. As we step out beyond them, we often find others pleased to help us along, to offer different kinds of knowledge and expertise. Of course if we don’t step out of the known, we will never meet them.

Whatever aspects of our lives we are trying to enlarge, or things we need to challenge, they exist as opportunities to discover more of ourselves and more of the world. The chick, the child and certainly you and me have so much that awaits us. We just have to embrace the kick ass, don’t accept no attitude and allow ourselves the pleasure of pursuit.

Have a story to share? Encouraging words are always welcome, because even though we may have to do some of our journey alone, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few people along the way, waiting to hear your story.