A systemic perspective on making a contract
I grew up with the motto ‘persevere’ and ‘finish where you start’. For me, these were self-evident things. I was a child who did not need much encouragement from my parents: I did my homework on my own, made sure my things were in order and rarely forgot anything. My independence was further strengthened when I was selected for the Dutch Junior Volleyball Team at the age of fifteen. From then on, I regularly spent whole weekends alone, for training courses or foreign tournaments. I loved it, that space and independence! In my adult life, I still like to arrange my own affairs by myself. My independence and self-starting ability are strong impulses that I still use easily.
The place that is closely connected with your family of origin and where you feel comfortable, is called in systemic terms the ‘magical place’. In the above example this is ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘being independent’. The term ‘magical’ is used because it stems from the illusion that this behaviour could give the child love, attention or safety. Children are sensitive to what is missing or needed in the family and try to fill in that part. You too. This way you grow up with certain behaviour, which will feel safe and normal. Everyone has these kind of behaviour patterns. They are not positive or negative. They are just there.
In the magical place you have spent a lot of time, you are very familiar with it. So familiar that you will easily use this behaviour in the rest of your life, and therefor also in the work place. Many of your core qualities you have developed from that magical place. They are so obvious that also assignment givers feel flawlessly what you are good at. Just check out what kind of jobs you are regularly asked for… That’s really no coincidence! In your assignments you are often invited (this is the ‘offered place’) to do what you are good at. In many situations that works fine. You feel comfortable and your qualities are shown to their best advantage in the assignment.
Yet the magical place is not always the most ‘serving place’ for the organisation or team you work with. Especially when you feel that there is an ‘hidden contract’ in the offered place, for example an assignment giver who tries – consciously or not – to ‘outsource’ his own tasks and obligations to you. Or when you sense that something that belongs to the assignment giver and the organisational system is put on your plate. In such situations it makes sense to make a new contract. So, be aware of what you are asked for before saying ‘Yes’ to a new assignment!