I had to look this one up.  Autonomy, per Webster is “having self-government” or “existing or functioning independently”.  Then I looked at the word just ahead of it in the dictionary which was AUTONOMIC  and noticed they both have the same root.  Autonomic means”of or controlled by that part of the nervous system that regulates the motor functions of the heart. lungs, etc.”

Isn’t it interesting to think that functioning independently could become automatic?  But don’t we really strive to do this as we grow and learn exactly what it takes to become independent from our parents, school, etc.?  The word “rely” seems to pop up when talking about autonomy as the opposite.  If we rely on something or someone we lose some of our autonomy.

Now comes the quagmire.  We have to rely on our parents for many years to get us to adulthood.  Then we rely on the person we partner with and with our friends.  Although to some less decree as we become more independent.  No more do we have to call our girlfriends the night before school to find out what they are wearing!

For most of us, the fear of having to do something totally on our own never leaves us.  The truth is also that you cannot accomplish a lot totally on your own.  So why is Autonomy considered right up there with Mastery and Purpose in being successful?  Because before we can truly find success, we must GROW UP.  This means taking responsibility for our actions, disciplining ourselves to avoid bad habits such as drug taking, helping other people and caring for the environment as examples of grown up behavior.

As we begin these actions, we start towards becoming independent and not influenced by destructive outside forces.  This is all important in building success into our lives.

Now the question is, could we be doing this automatically?  Like breathing?  It seems to me that this takes place only after we reach each plateau in our quest for independence.  Once we walk, we never stop.  Once we venture out and find a friend, we do it again.  Once we leave our parents, most of the time, we don’t go back.  We are becoming independent. If we slip back to a more dependent position such as living again with our parents, we have lost a certain amount of independence.  There are circumstances, of course, that you might return home to a parent to help them but you are strongly aware that this hasn’t diminished your independence, only changed it because now you are caring for a more dependent person.  Its important to recognize this difference.

So the secret to autonomy seems to be to Grow Up.  Many people struggle with this.  They cling to toxic people in their life.  They keep doing childish acts that keep them from facing the perils and rewards of growing up.  Many people and yes, lawyers, don’t even know what it is to live a grown up life…….let’s talk about that next time. In the meantime, where are you in the cycle of getting to GROWN UP (that’s a noun)!