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How Hard Work Can Thwart Your Vision

Thriving is a state of mind and a way of living. Ironically, what most often interferes with thriving is our obsessive efforts to survive. Many people—both in their personal lives and at work—often feel like success means being able to keep their heads above water. That’s staying alive, but it’s not much fun and it doesn’t really seem like success, it’s more like not drowning.

So, how do we do both? How do we take care of our day-to-day responsibilities plus develop a thriving lifestyle?

The key is vision. Vision means, literally, seeing. So, what do we see? When we have our noses to the grindstone, as the saying goes, all we see is… the grindstone!

This calls to mind the expression, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” It’s true that when we’re obsessed with details we do miss the big picture but we also misinterpret those same details. It’s like trying to choose a paint color without knowing what room you’re going to paint. You could play it safe (a survival strategy) and choose white because it goes with everything.

Then you might work incredibly hard doing a truly beautiful job covering the walls with the best quality white paint. But if white might doesn't convey the feeling the room is being designed to generate your end result will be anything but satisfying.

The late bestselling author, Stephen Covey, used to encourage readers to take time out to "sharpen the saw." He was referring to our need to step back, gain perspective, and sharpen our focus on what really matters. Too often, with our metaphorical dull saw in hand, we continue to slave away while actually getting further and further away from what we truly want. In such moments, we feel adrift. . . because we've lost sight of the destination and our reason for even heading in that direction.

It’s like the joke about the pilot who informs his passengers that he has some good news and some bad news. “Folks, we’re well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, we’re hopelessly lost.”

Imagine embarking on a trip without knowing your destination or your reason for going. How would you know which way to turn? How would you stay motivated when the going got tough?

We need to see where we are going in life as well and have a clear sense of why such a journey matters. Too often we plunge ahead, micromanaging the urgent details of the job at hand, perhaps doing that very well, but drift off course at the same time.

Those who’ve learned to effectively incorporate vision into their lives make sure they know where they are heading before obsessing over the details of the voyage. Along the way, they discover something interesting: it’s much easier when we live “vision first.”

Vison provides a compass that helps you know how to steer. Vision provides a better guidance system than hunches, habits, tradition, following orders, and the pressure of succeeding. Vision enables us to navigate successfully towards our intended destination.

Of course, the destination relates to what you really want. Where do you want to go . . . and why? Those seem to be a simple enough questions but many people don’t actually know.

It’s easy to say “I want more money, better health, an improved relationship, a promotion, etc.” but none of those in themselves actually deliver much of a reward.

And here’s an important secret about creating effective visions.

We actually want the feeling those achievements will give us. That feeling is the why behind our quest and it's what best serves as our compass. If we accomplish the details of the vision but doing so doesn’t actually fulfill the longing or passion we had when we envisioned it, our accoplishment will seem hollow. Because, as we learn in such instances, the true destination was much more than the details or the hard work . . . more than simply a place on the map.

The challenge with creating fulfilling visions is that we are usually not taught to make this important connection. What feeling will accomplishing that vision provide for you? How will both its accomplishment and the pursuit of its completion light you up?

With this principle in mind, you can realize that the goal of an improved relationship leads to more love and fun. The vision of extra cash eases lifestyle pressures, improves quality of life, finances important purchases, or even allows for a vacation. All of those deliver feeling rewards. After all, getting on a plane isn’t really that enjoyable… it’s what happens when you get to the beach that matters, when the cares of the office are a thousand miles behind you and your stress drains away into the surf.

Great visionaries know that what we really want—the thing that truly motivates us—is the emotional experience that achieving our goals can give us. Focusing on the feeling we want is a fundamental ingredient to staying motivated, on course, and experiencing the meaningful accomplishment of our vision.

When we know up front that it’s the feeling we’re ultimately seeking, we realize it’s easier than we thought to get that feeling. Maybe we can’t afford a trip to Maui, right now. But what was it we were hoping to feel while we were there? How about a “stay-cation?” We might achieve a similar emotional result right in our own city or town. It would certainly take some ingenuity but that could be part of the fun.

The point is to transcend the type of limited thinking that dooms us to unhappiness. All of us live inside our own particular limitations; the question is how we deal with them. Complaint guarantees dissatisfaction; an adventurous spirit creates… adventures!

Thriving, in the end, is a state of mind. And, as William Arthur Ward said, “If you can imagine it, you can create it.” What we really want is the ability to imagine and create and that is what learning how to thrive gives us.

Here’s your Thriving tip for the week:

“Thriving is a state of mind where we’ve become a creator rather than a consumer.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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