Together we survive and together we thrive

Jun 15, 20200 comments

We…. together?

Over the last 20-30 years (at least) individualism has grown exponentially.  We live by the slogan….

“survival of the fittest”, and for individualists “I” must be the fittest. The best. 

To showcase ME as the best has become easier through social media. Even if I must fake it. Even if I must step on, use, outperform, outsmart, exploit others, or nature even. We are living in a culture that celebrates individualism and wealth. One definition I found on the internet that truly resonates with me reads as follows:

Individualism is a social psychological term that refers to the ways in which people identify themselves and focus their goals. Individualism, which is the opposite of collectivism, gives priority to personal goals (as opposed to the goals of a group or society).

Individualists promote the exercise of one’s goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one’s own interests by society or institutions.

Those of us who are more individualistic will promote and defend individualism with vigour and by providing evidence supporting their own views. Those of us who are more concerned about the group and contributing to the goals of a group or society will defend collectivism with vigour and by providing evidence why this is the more appropriate way of contributing to society.

The Covid-19 pandemic challenged us to stop and honestly think about these concepts again. To re-evaluate and consider our own thinking and sentiments around surviving and thriving – not only as an individual, but as a species. As families, groups, teams, communities, cities, countries, and the world. We….together.

I want to argue my own point of view from a neuroscientific perspective. From pure, solid science. 

As human beings we were created to survive together and to thrive together. From the earliest history of humankind this is evident.  It is still the same today. Our brains work from the most basic to the most sophisticated. The most basic is our survival instinct. The part of the brain that deals with basic survival is the brainstem. It regulates our breathing, our heart rate, body temperature, or bodies’ circadian rhythms, etc. Our emotional brain (limbic system / reptilian brain) is the centre of our response to threat and reward, to pain and pleasure. For our survival, the limbic system sends messages to the rest of the body which triggers an action – fight, flee, or freeze. The intent of these actions is to ensure survival. The neo cortex and specifically the prefrontal cortex is the most sophisticated part of the brain. It allows us to, through its ability for problem-solving, analytical thinking, innovation, creativity, learning capacity, abstract thinking, and decision-making profoundly move beyond only surviving, to actual thriving.  An individual can only to a certain extent survive and thrive on his/her own. We need one another.

Dr Etienne van der Walt, and the Neurozone team of scientists, data analysists, and medical specialists, have over the past ten years researched the drivers for thriving and high performance by looking at brain body optimisation. Through solid scientific evidence and neuro analytical data they have defined ten drivers for resilience and high-performance readiness. One of these drivers are COLLECTIVE CREATIVITY. 

This refers to the significance and importance of diverse groups and teams to ensure thriving. We are more creative and innovative in groups than on our own.  Neuroscience shows that collective intelligence trumps the highest individual intelligence in a well-functioning group.  When we share the same vision, a variety of different world views / perceptions / experience / knowledge bases / intelligences, provide more possible, realistic solutions for a given problem. Essential emotional intelligences like compassion and empathy enhances group dynamics, which promotes innovation within a group. Optimised collective creativity supports individuals to also perform optimally through what is called allostasis. That is, being moved into a relaxed physiological state. The optimal state for thriving.

The Purposely Ignited team intentionally value the diversity of intelligences and purposefully collaborate to design interventions and generate opportunities for both individuals and teams to be their best at work and in life. Thereby fostering high-performing individuals and well-functioning teams/groups – co-creating that optimal state for thriving!

The time for collective WISDOM is now. 

Listen to Dr Etienne van der Walt on Resilience in a Time of Crisis:

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