I’m taking part in yet another Quest, put on by my friend and mentor, Jeffery Davis and his team at Tracking Wonder. Usually, I respond to the “instigations” proffered throughout the month of December on the private FB forum created for our group, but the latest has implications for my own readers, so I wanted to share with all of you here.

(If you’re interested in what this whole Quest is about, I encourage you to check it out here. There’s a growing group of creatives from around the globe who are signing up for this free month-long discovery into how each one of us can look into “doing business as un-usual” in the New Year)

This past week, the two visionaries that Jeffrey spoke with — Pam Slim and Leo Babauta — discussed what seem to be contradicting ideas: working in solitude and collaboration. They talked about how important both of these are in doing your best work.

Seeing as I’m a devout “ “extremeovert” you might think that I only want to work in collaboration with others. And I DO love it! The open exchange of thoughts spurs me on and provides me with that social connection that I crave to take a project from idea to completion. I find collaboration to be both personally and professionally fulfilling.

But collaboration requires some things in order for it to go well…

You need to like the person you’re collaborating with. They need to be people that you enjoy spending time with and that you’re eager to make time for in your calendar. We’re all busy people, so spending your most precious commodity — time — in any pursuit should happen with those people you really enjoy.

There also needs to be a level of trust. Trust that you can share your ideas freely and not feel uncertain or concern about being judged or shot down. You need to feel like the people you’re collaborating with have your back. They’re willing to speak truthfully when needed to help you course-correct, but they will always do so in a way that’s supportive and has your best interests at heart.

And finally, collaboration needs to be mutually beneficial.

When you’re working together with someone, both of you need to feel you’re gaining something from this relationship. You need to feel secure that one of two things will happen as a result of this collaboration: your work together will create something bigger than what you could have achieved on your own, and if/when the collaboration ends, you both feel better for having worked together in the first place.

But what about the idea of working in solitude? When does it benefit you to be “on your own” even if you don’t consider yourself to be someone who needs or desires that alone time?

In the beginning of anything new, everyone can benefit from some time spent alone trying to gather one’s thoughts and beliefs about the next steps. Before you can consider collaborating with someone else, you have to discover what you stand for and what you stand against. You need to know your own bottom line, so that others can only influence — not undermine — what your core beliefs are.

There’s also something to be said about working in solitude for the all-important step of assimilation of new thoughts and ideas that might arise from a period of intense collaboration. It’s important to edit and see what bits and pieces from that collaboration ring true, what you’d like to adopt into your own process, and what should be left on the cutting room floor.

My work as a Health Educator gives me the best of both worlds: I teach my classes in my own style and without anyone micro-managing my day-to-day work of providing families with information and support as they prepare for one of the biggest transformations in their lives. I also write in solitude and need that break from the outside world to create and edit my words on the page. But I have a team of fellow educators I can call on for support on how they might handle situations that come up in the important work that we do and I learn so much from the families that I teach about the topics that are most important to them as they begin their parenting journey.

I’m also lucky enough to be collaborating with Elly Taylor, of Becoming Us, in creating new curriculum and feeling supported as we work together to take these classes aimed at “baby-proofing the couple relationship” to the next exciting level. I’ve developed a new collaboration in working with a 2nd local Becoming Us Facilitator, Michelle Yorn, and we’re bringing these classes out into the community with our first class happening in mid-January.

I’m looking forward to next year in keeping this balance between collaboration and solitude going. I continue to write and submit for publications, conferences, and speaking engagements in solitude. And I’m excited to share some of the results of these efforts.

My story was selected for the Expressing Motherhood event that will be happening this April. I’ll be woking on and refining this story in solitude, but also sharing the stage in a collaborative way with eleven other women in a one-night production that will provide our audience with variations on the same theme of what it means to be a mother. I can’t wait!

I was just interviewed this past week for an episode of the podcast, Productive Flourishing, and spoke about the role vulnerability plays in pregnancy, birth and parenting. I’m loving these opportunities to further spread my message on how embracing these feelings can lead to greater self-confidence and joy through these life transformations. Speaking with Charlie Gilkey and Angela Wheeler was a wonderful collaboration and I’m excited for the broadcast release later in January.

These new ventures stretch me and I’m grateful for these opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Moving forward and looking into the New Year, I’m considering creating a podcast series for expecting and new parents. My husband is excellent at pre- and post-production (Game of Throne lovers can check out his work here), and he’s been asking to produce a professional podcast with me for the past couple of years. This venture would be a collaboration that I would enjoy both personally and professionally!

But, listen: there’s a reason why I’m sharing this piece about #SolitudeCollaboration here on my blog and not just on the private FB Forum for this year’s Quest 2018 community…

If you re-read this blogpost and consider how important it is for you in your new “job” of parenting to work in collaboration with others and when necessary, in solitude, you can see how this applies to you.

Being able to identify what matters most to you as an expecting or new parent on your own (or as a couple) is vital as you begin this journey. Becoming a parent is a huge life transforming event and you need to feel like you have an idea of what your core beliefs are before you venture out to connect with others who are doing the same thing.

But collaboration with other new parents can be so affirming!

You need to see how others are doing this parenting gig differently from you. Try not to judge. Be curious. Ask questions to deepen your understanding. Take what they offer and edit it to fit your own situation. Build trusting relationships with those you gift with your time and attention. And cultivate a sense that whether or not this collaboration will be short-lived or life-long, each of you will have gained something positive that you can take into your solo parenting journey.

Solitude and Collaboration are great ideas to consider when you’re looking to build your professional resumé.

But they just might be the best skills to cultivate when you’re trying to build a family, too.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this latest post. How do you balance solitude and collaboration as a new parent? What thoughts do you have for my new podcast idea? I’d love to collaborate with you on what topics to cover — please comment here, or contact me directly.

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