Sunday, April 14, 2013

Survive or Thrive

We all struggle in the ether between surviving and thriving.  

I encountered the concept in international development:
  • People have only so much physical and mental energy.  
  • Our efforts first go to meet basic human needs: enough food, safe and loving shelter.  
  • Provide those and then we can successfully pursue education and income creation.  
  • Meet all of those and people can thrive: create art, start businesses and generate jobs, cause social change.  
What I'm describing is also known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  And you're living your own, Western version of it.  

The vast majority of Americans have their basic needs met.  As my friend living in Malawi said, America is a fantasy land.  We get what we want, when we want.  The rest of the world is not like that.  Still, few of us thrive.

What are you doing with your vast resources and material comfort?  Are you changing lives?  Creating art or value for society?  Pursuing your passions?  Making memories that last?  Living the good life?  

The single largest reason we don't thrive is our busy lifestyles.  Ask someone how things are, and the number one reply is "busy."  Our mental capacity is stretched so thin with work or school, financial worries, children, extra curriculars and other things that we lose the bigger picture.  If you are running from one thing to another, you are surviving.

How do you thrive in our busy world?  

1.  Find your purpose.
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  Without a plan you're only going through the motions. Give yourself something to strive for each day.  Give your time and effort a purpose.  You only get one shot, and on your Death Bed you want to look back with no regret.  Here's how:

Find what you value in life.  Family. Helping others. Career. Financial security.  Fitness.  Write them down.

Find your passions.  Helping others.  Writing.  Music.  Travel.  Golf.   Write them down.

Set goals and a plan to achieve them.  Look at what you value and look at what you are passionate about.  Set goals.  Make a bucket list.  What will you achieve during your life?

Dream big.  Do not be afraid to fail.  There is no shame in setting a big goal and falling short.  There is shame in never trying.  As Confucius said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."  If you aren't failing once in a while, you aren't really living.

2.  Budget your time (and money) to achieve your goals.
Ben Franklin did more in his life than a 100 average men.  While uniquely talented, he also budgeted his time and lived very intentionally.  He even made a daily plan.  Goals are just goals until you act on them.  Time is a finite resource and you need to use it well.  Here are a few tips.

Put the big things first.  Look at your life goals and make time to pursue them each day, if even for 15 minutes.  These are more important than any "To Do" list!

Cut out anything that gives you nothing in return.  TV, video games, and mindless internet surfing are a few time-sucks that offer you little to no benefit.  Get rid of them.  There are only so many hours in each day and yours are better spent.

Divide your "To Do" list into Large, Medium, and Quick projects.  Get a white board for your living room or bedroom.  Most of my projects revolve around keeping up my home and yard.
    • Large projects take the better part of a day to finish: caulking siding, installing a sprinkler system, etc.  I try to do one every two weeks.
    • Medium projects require one to two hours.  Sometimes less.  Things like changing a light fixture or grocery shopping.  I try do at least one of every week day.  Or, I can crush quite a few of them on a good weekend.  It's amazing how quickly the list goes down.
    • Quick projects are the day to day minutia.  Paying bills, vacuuming, whatever needs to be done that day.  If its quick, do it right away in the morning, or when you get home from work.
I've found this system to be an effective and stress reducing way to take care of the things I need to do.  When you accomplish something, cross it out, but leave it on the board!  Nothing is more satisfying.

Put your hobbies and passions on your "To Do" list.  Don't just put the work on the list.  Make time for yourself.  For me that's golfing 1-2 a week and riding my bike 4-5 times.

Make time to do good every day. Every day, make someone's life better.  If you are thriving, use your blessings to help others.  Write down what you did, just like Ben Franklin.

(Money)  We trade our time for money in the form of wages.  I could write for days on budgeting money, but just check out Dave Ramsey.  His formula is simple: spend less than you earn!  With a budget and a plan, you can be a millionaire when you retire.  Don't believe me?  Check it out.


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