“…You take it all, and there you have The Facts of Life. The Fa-cts of Life.”
How does the theme song from the 1980’s sitcom The Facts of Live enter into a leadership blog? So glad you asked!Allow me to explain.
It all started after I attended the In the Know discussion on Adam Grant’s book Give and Take. As I was describing the central concept in the book to a friend, he gently interrupted, “Oh, it’s so funny that you mentioned this because I was home alone the other night flipping through the channels and the same concept came up on ‘The Facts of Life.’”
Ha! I knew we were friends for good reason! First, he admitted to me that he was alone, without the kids, watching an episode of ‘The Facts of Life.” And second, he was inspired by the life lessons of the beloved Mrs. Garrett.
I was intrigued. I asked to hear more. He recapped the episode as follows:
Street-smart Jo was torn between her old boyfriend from home (who just happened to be visiting) and her interest in a new guy from Bates Military Academy. Jo was feeling selfish for even considering going out with the new guy. She asked the reliable housemother Mrs. Garrett for advice. That’s when things took an interesting turn.
“I think that word [selfish] gets a bad rap,” Mrs. Garrett said. “What’s so wrong with doing something for yourself?” She continued, “If you don’t feel fulfilled as a person, if you’re not your best self, what good are you to anyone else?”
Whoa! All-of-a-sudden, this 1980s sitcom got real! Mrs. Garrett was ahead of her time. The lessons from that episode were right in line with the Give and Take Concept. “Givers” and “takers” are defined as follows:
Similar to Jo, I am a Giver. So much so that (TMI alert) most of my therapy sessions were about how I needed to stop giving so much and start looking out for myself. As a middle child, I was always looking out for everyone else and thinking of ways to keep the harmony.
As a Giver, at work or at home, I would look for opportunities to help others. Not only did the other person feel grateful for my support, but I was able to build deeper connections with others by giving. There is also a downside to Giving. For example, as a manager at work, I would make time for everyone else during the day and then I would end up staying up until midnight to finish my own work. I quickly became burned out and resentful.
How did I find balance? Overtime, I taught myself to distinguish between a healthy selfishness and an unhealthy selfishness. I learned to establish boundaries and take care of myself. And, the beauty is that I didn’t have to give up my Giver self. I learned to take care of myself and others. Although Grant refers to this concept a little differently, using the term “others-ish” (describing Givers who focus on others’ needs and their own needs), I believe we’re both arriving at the same place.
How does this concept resonate with you at home or work? Send me a Tweet @LauraMendelow or post a comment below.
(And, in case you were wondering, Jo broke up with her boyfriend from home. And she didn’t feel selfish for doing so.)