Living Gently: A 30-Day Challenge: The Art of Cooperation

If you’ve ever seen the 1995 film “The Brady Bunch Movie,” you may be familiar with the line spoken by Mike Brady, “Alone, we can only move buckets. But if we work together, we can drain rivers.” This line has always made me laugh, but it actually has a pretty powerful message about cooperation. As I write this, we have just concluded the midterm elections and as I think about one political opponent bashing another… Or one political party essentially calling the other a “big fat dummy-head,” I think about how much more powerful we could be as individuals, cities, counties, states, and a country – if we could all just learn the art of cooperation.

The thing is, our individual ideals, no matter how different, have something in common: each of us believes ours are the right ones. Okay. So you believe you’re right. How do you effectively convince someone of your position? What method works better? Educated discussion? Or insults and belittlement? It’s really a no-brainer which method is more effective, however, if my Facebook wall is indicative of a national trend, we have no tolerance for any ideas other than our own. There’s no respectful discussion being had – instead, it’s a matter of “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re stupid.” The lines are drawn in the sand and it’s {political} warfare.

But, let’s remove politics from the equation for a moment… What would our family lives be like if husband and wife did not learn cooperation in their marriage? What would our businesses be like? What would our classrooms be like? The answer is simple – we would be in chaotic, unreasonable, uncooperative environments.

Cooperation is a significantly undervalued attribute. But I think most people look at cooperation as a compromise, and they fail to see how, with cooperation, so much more can be accomplished. Cooperation isn’t about conceding values, but rather, taking an active and decided measure to figure out how our differences can work together. It’s about saying, “I believe this way and you believe that way. That’s okay, but where can we coexist and make things better as a whole?”

This is true in politics… parenting… marriage… relationships… Really, our whole lives. Because without cooperation, we all end up going nowhere really fast.

Midterm elections are over, but the campaign for your votes is far from over. We’re entering a major campaign year for a new president in 2016. Maybe if we all take a moment to embrace the art of cooperation, we can do more good within our communities and (is it too bold to say it?) our country as a whole. Consider the following and let’s all embrace cooperation over the next 30 days:

  • Respect different beliefs and values, even if you don’t share them.
  • Don’t assume that someone’s personal value is indicative of his or her level of intelligence.
  • Name-calling is never allowed.
  • Try to understand someone else’s point of view. It doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion, but make a concerted effort to try to understand matters from a different angle.
  • Instead of focusing on the differences, try to identify the things that are in common as a starting point.

Cooperation is an effective tool because the foundation of it lies in respect. The great thing about our country is that our forefathers stated clearly that we have all been “created equal” with “unalienable Rights.” These words, stated in our Declaration of Independence mean that each of us has the right to our own opinions and choices. It says nothing about one political party being better than another. So, I end this missive with a question your mother probably asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”