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Collaboration and the self-responsibility for knowing your limits

By Lizandra Barbuto¹

January 2022


“Collaboration” is a contemporary theme. People are finally able to understand that each of them can be the key to the success of projects—and of the very existence of human life on the planet as well.


Collaboration can be a very attractive idea, word or concept, but it also carries many challenges. Collaboration requires overcoming personal desires in order to go beyond yourself, considering others, setting boundaries and taking responsibility for yourself—both to commit and not to overload yourself in different projects and tasks.


Therefore, the first reflection I will bring is from the perspective of overcoming egocentric aspects. The second reflection concerns the challenges of not being overwhelmed to meet a contemporary social and cultural demand: to be collaborative.

Flexibility to adjust different demands


As human beings, we have an innate tendency toward egocentricity and narcissism, which are characteristics of the ego. By the way, here ego is understood as a “private illusion that gives the individual a false sense of self-worth” (Baudino, 2017), generating attitudes that tend to meet only their own needs and to see the world considering their own perspective (Tart, 2000). In a collaborative context, it is necessary: ​​to overcome this individualistic attitude, to see beyond one's own desires, to broaden the vision to take context into consideration, and to develop adaptability and flexibility.


The first step is to get to know yourself. For so many reasons already discussed in philosophy, psychology and even spirituality, when we get to know ourselves, it becomes easier to understand what our own needs are in order to know how to satisfy them, becoming responsible for the process—that is, not demanding that someone else meet them.


For example, organizing one's life is a factor that demonstrates maturity. Therefore, having a lot of activities and not meeting the deadlines, in addition to generating stress and anxiety—exacerbating egoic aspects—is an attitude of little responsibility toward oneself and life itself.




Self-responsibility gives each person the power to evolve and to contribute to the improvement of the context in which they live. Consequently, demanding and blaming should decrease. Once each person is able to take responsibility for themselves, it will be possible to see the other as an ally for a joint construction and, more than that, as a support that contributes to seeing what it is not possible to see for themselves due to egocentric blindness. This concept concerns the inability to see, in that focus and perception are referred only to what the individual thinks or feels.


Thus, starting to take responsibility for all aspects of life contributes to better choices, awareness of the next steps and healthier social relationships that lead to collaboration.


A constant cycle


Continuous learning is another essential element for collaboration. Learning about yourself and about new techniques, technologies etc, is a survival skill in a historical context of rapid and diverse changes.


There is also a kind of adaptation directly connected to discernment, that is, knowing how to select with wisdom and awareness, which is an essential component for collaboration and to avoid overload. This is because the ability to discern leads to the perception of what can be changed and what cannot. Therefore, if it cannot be changed even with great efforts, it is necessary to adapt.


That said, we can say that collaboration is a continuous cycle between the person and the world around them. It is a constant feedback, in which the person contributes to the improvement of the environment and it, in turn, cooperates for constant personal improvement.


Figure 1: Continuous Learning Cycle


With each influence of the environment, with each new learning, the individual can adapt and evolve to be better. Being better, this person contributes to the improvement of society. A better society contributes to better people. A constant cycle of evolution for the better.


Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate… but what’s the limit?


To maintain continuous and healthy improvement, there is a major challenge that everyone should be aware of: the demand for collaboration generates a huge overload. Under the desire to be collaborative in the infinity of networks that are formed, there is a risk that people take up too many activities and commitments. (Cross, 2021)


In this quest to take part and collaborate—be it for the egocentricity of being seen, or for having the merit of being a collaborative person—there is an increase in demands, along with stress, anxiety and missed deadlines. So, for a healthier collaborative life, it is interesting to select what is possible and what you actually need to be a part of. The more appointments, the more demands; therefore, an increase in the number of meetings, pressure on deadlines and tasks to complete. This process has been called “collaborative burnout”. (Cross, 2021)


What can be done?


For teams to become more collaborative, it is necessary to pay attention to:


- Building a sense of “us”. This is mainly done by maintaining a continuous flow of information that is easily accessible to all involved;


- Being careful not to create an information network centered in the control of one or a few;


- Overcoming some patterns of overestimating the power of leaders over group members. This can generate apprehension and little autonomy for those responsible for carrying out the tasks, thus limiting or preventing collaboration;


- Having clear responsibilities and roles, so each person knows what is expected and also knows where to ask for help or connect with someone who will contribute to the accomplishment of their work;


- Being aware of the broader context of the effects of the intervention of each person or team.

Thus, for healthy and effective collaborative behavior, it is even more necessary to be open to the process of continuous self-knowledge. In other words, always reviewing oneself, which can be improved by what an individual received through feedback and by observing the context and the lived experiences.


Considering these aspects, it is possible to make assertive decisions to meet the demands and take responsibility for one’s own decisions, whether positive or negative, as well as learn to say “no”. Being aware that closing processes is what inspires and motivates us to open new ones. Thus, people can be part of one (or more) group(s) in which they can act, in fact, collaboratively. With that, producing efficiently and creatively, and empowering the potential of collective wisdom.


¹ Master of Science - GAIA University



Baldino, A. K. Ejercicios de Psicologia Sufi – Basados en las enseñanzas de Mawlana Sheikh Nazim, G. I. Gurdjieff y El Eneagrama. Huwa Ediciones, Argentina. 2017.


Carboni, I.; Cross, R. When collaboration fails and how to fix it. MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2021. 


GRANT, A. Think Again – The Power of Knowing what you don’t know. Viking. New York. 2021.


Perry-Smith,J. How Collaboration needs change from mind to marketplace. MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2022. 


Tart, T. C. States of Consciousness. Back USA. 2000.

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