Isn’t it funny how your best thoughts come to you while you are driving or in the shower? Both of these places have one thing in common which irritates me: no way to write things down. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk where she tells the story of a great American poet who would be in the fields working when she would feel the poem thundering towards her. She would run to the house to fetch a pencil and paper to record it, and if she didn’t get there on time, it would pass her by. One day she “grabbed it by the tail and pulled it back in” and literally wrote the poem backwards. Whether that is true or not, I just love the story and this is very much like my process... NOT. I do, however, identify with the frustration of getting these amazing ideas for blogs, talks and for my book as I am driving because there is no way to capture them at that time. Yes, I have voice recorded them once or twice, but listen, my life and the lives around me are far too valuable so I have stopped that.
I tell you all this because I had a thought while driving the other day which actually stuck – “Am I surviving or thriving?” Which led me to question that, which is something I have been doing a lot lately. Are there only two options?
Let’s look at each of them as I process this.
Surviving in my mind is when we are just getting by, and the focus is on what’s in front of us and dealing with it as it comes. Surviving is about creating safety and certainty – it’s about protecting ourselves. It’s about battening down the hatches to weather the storm and just trying to get by as comfortably as possible. It’s about not rocking the boat or upsetting others, it’s about fitting in. It speaks to me about being confined or hemmed in and not having much wiggle room. I don’t know about you, but when I am in survival mode I can go from fight mode to flight mode to freeze mode all in one day. Surviving is all about getting my needs met – my need for certainty, variety, significance and connection in big amounts and at all costs. It’s about getting attention, getting approval and getting even. It is exhausting and isolating.
Thriving, on the other hand, is all about wide open spaces, living with margin and abundance. It is about contribution and growth. Pushing the boundaries and extending the borders. Taking risks and leaping with faith. Walking and working in peace, no matter the circumstances. Standing firm and speaking the truth in love. Belonging and knowing the gift of community. Living with honour and being generous with your time, treasure and talent because you know you have more than enough. Thriving is about knowing, really knowing, your identity. Thriving is about having vision for the future and being able to impart that vision to others to bring them hope too. Thriving is about being able to shine not just for our ourselves but to be a light to others to empower and lift them up.
Man I don’t know about you, but I want to thrive this year.
I think thriving or surviving is a mindset. I have seen people in the most dismal circumstances who are thriving, and I have also seen people in the most wonderful circumstances who are stuck in survival mode. It is not about your circumstances, it is about what you are focused on, what meaning you are creating out of what you see and say. Remember, what you are talking or complaining about will lead you to a conclusion and that conclusion will become your reality.
I am not talking about standing in front of a mirror just telling yourself good things, I am talking about actively looking for the blessing in every day. Lift your eyes from your circumstances to something greater than yourself. Look for the blessing and be grateful, then look around and see where there are needs other than your own and reach out. Contribution is the secret of every breakthrough.
Where could you contribute today? Do you think there is third option? What are your thoughts?