As I saw when the economy crumbled, sometimes it takes a crisis to teach us the importance of social investment. In a front-page story on this phenomenon, the Washington Post reported a marked increase in carpooling and community bonding once the recession hit; people even started holding “yardwork parties” where neighbors could swap lawnmowers and landscaping advice. As one man noted, “People are helping each other and getting back together. You’re not a long ranger anymore.”
Related: The Value of Friendship
Even the executives I work with—people who only months before the recession had been inward-looking, personal-results-driven and intent on going it alone—started espousing and practicing cooperation and teamwork in those dark days after the collapse. Workaholics with suddenly less on their plate started coming home earlier to spend more time with their children and spouses. Formerly individualistic managers started leaving the comfort of their offices and making the rounds, cubicle to cubicle. They might have been let no other choice at first, and they might backslide once the economy goes on the upswing again, but many have told me that being forced to re-examine their way of life (and work) has ended up being the best thing that could have happened to them.
In an ideal world, of course, it shouldn’t take a crisis to bring this point home, especially given the wealth of evidence showing that our relationships are the greatest predictor of both happiness and high performance. So even though our basic instincts might tell us to turn inward, positive psychology knows better. When caught in a fire, holding on to other is the best chance we have for successfully finding our way out of the maze. And in everyday life, both at work and at home, our social support can prove the difference between succumbing to the cult of the average and achieving our fullest potential.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.