When challenges arise we need to decide!

To take a survival approach to a challenge means to look at the challenge from a safety point of view. What are the options that offer the most security? How can I ensure that I, my stuff, my loved ones, and my lifestyle will get through this with the least upheaval, the smallest degree of loss? The safety mindset often leads to streamlining life. We look at what is absolutely necessary and we eliminate the fluff from our belongings, our expenses, our schedules. We focus on the most important aspects of seeing ourselves through the challenge. This is the up side of the survival mindset.

Survival mindset is limited, however. In survival, we think of one set of outcomes as being desirable and another set as being undesirable; then we tailor our actions to try to control things so as to minimize the risk of an undesirable outcome and to maximize the chances of a desirable one. We cannot think beyond our perception of the present circumstance, cannot see beyond our present need.

In the survival mindset our view is narrow; we see each occurrence and condition in our lives as either providing safety or not. Other considerations, such as moral values or respectability take a back seat to the survival issue. This is the point of view of the person who steals a loaf of bread to feed her hungry child, though she might never consider stealing if she did not see conditions as threatening. It is the same mindset of the manager who cuts corners on employee safety issues in order to come in under budget, and the corporate CEO who authorizes ignoring of environmental regulations in order to meet conditions set by his company’s shareholders and financiers.

This is the mindset of putting out fires – an adrenaline-soaked fight or flight existence. It is the mindset that rules most of the social institutions and businesses in the western world today. It is unsustainable. It results in stress-related disease of the body, burn out of the psyche and the collapse of the systems and organizations that depend upon it.

The Thriving mindset is different. It has a more expanded view of conditions and situations and does not succumb to the fear engendered by defining some outcomes as undesirable. Though we may have our preferences in Thriving mode, we are also aware that there are learning and growth opportunities in any outcome, and so we can relax and play the cards as they fall. We hold in our awareness a bigger picture and our actions are directed at maneuvering through the present challenge in ways that best serve that expanded context, not just our immediate need for safety.

So the mother of the hungry child holds a self-image of being a good role model for her child in mind and rather than stealing the bread, goes to the shopkeeper to see if there is any way she can work for it. The manager sees that workplace accidents ultimately negatively impact production and negotiates between his caring for his employees and the unrealistic budget demands of his superiors to find a way to meet everyone’s needs. The corporate CEO sees beyond her own tenure to the impact of her decisions in 10. 50 or 100 years and openly informs his shareholders and financiers about what is possible and in keeping with concern about the environment. Each of these works towards goals wider and bigger than the immediate need and the fear it engenders.
Within the wider context of Thriving, because we are not immersed in adrenaline, our intelligence functions at a much higher level, seeing possibilities and creative solutions that are simply not available to the survival mind. We don’t sweat the small stuff. Our bodies are not constantly tied up in stress reactions so our immune and other body functions can operate freely. We feel happier; we hold a higher, more optimistic vibration.

As we practice Thriving, our perspectives get wider and wider. Our minds get more and more freely creative. We get better at discerning effective, inspired action from desperate striving and busywork.

Ultimately our perspective will widen to the point that the possibilities we see will transcend our normal awareness; we will see patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. We will develop a deeper understanding of our extra-ordinary potential. We will be able to see the upward striving towards self-realization that exists behind all human behavior. We will become Wise and perhaps begin to have insights that seem almost paranormal. We will understand human existence in a much greater, universal context and will be able to act on our sense of entelechy and help others act on theirs.

When enough of us move in this direction, humanity will emerge into a new era. We have that opportunity right now.

Survive or Thrive? Your choice will have an impact.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Bryan MA has over 3 decades of experience helping people find ways to thrive and win in their personal and professional lives.