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When Do the Means Determine the End?

It’s amazing what an extended trip to another part of the world can do to provide a new, fresh perspective. The following approximates the conversations we had after Will’s return from the island country of New Zealand.

WILL: It’s good to be back Chris, after a full month in New Zealand.

CHRIS: You told me you met some amazing people there.

WILL: I love the country; it was my fourth visit, first for my wife. The people are wonderful. The weather, the beauty, what’s not to love? And there’s literally a feeling of thriving in the air.

CHRIS: You said something about The Kiwi Way. What is that?

WILL: There’s many interpretations, but primarily it’s being helpful and friendly, going out of your way to accommodate others’ needs if you can.

CHRIS: That sounds like an empathetic version of situational awareness.

WILL: That’s a good way to put it, being consciously interested in what’s going on around you and tuning in to how you can help.

CHRIS: What I love about that is that it seems they have an interest in everybody’s well-being; in how everyone can thrive together.

WILL: Exactly.

CHRIS AND WILL: Travel is a great reminder that we’re always presented with opportunities to learn. Familiarity can blind us to the gems that are hidden in plain sight. That’s why part of the thriving mindset we aim to maintain is to always be anticipating something new, to experience and to learn.

When we’re functioning at our best, we operate like detectives, always tracing clues to discover innovative solutions or like inventors in our labs, experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. Both approaches stand in stark contrast to the “I already know what I need to know” attitude that requires defensiveness to maintain.

In some ways it’s accurate to say that the age of the expert is giving way to the age of the discoverer, as if we—as a species—are replaying an earlier epoch in our development. When the original peoples migrated here to North America, they had no idea what they might discover. But they had faith . . . and maybe the spirit of a quest that left them believing that the journey was going to be worth it.

Similarly, when early European explorers set sail, some of them feared that they would sail right over the edge of the world. But they went anyway. We may be familiar with that feeling when we are exploring new territory in our lives. It feels risky. We could fail, maybe not as dramatically as that idea of going over the edge of the world… although it can feel that stressful at times.

For us personally, that’s when we encourage each other to rely on the principles we explore in our Thriving work. It’s not always easy . . . but having friends, family, and peers who can help us reboot into the right frame of mind is so valuable.

And, just to rehearse a few of those principles—that inspired by the Kiwi Way, we could call the Thriving Way—here are some simple tips.

First, as we’ve said in numerous ways in our work, it helps to know that we are all imposing meaning onto the facts we encounter in our lives. In other words, we’re constantly creating stories about who we are, who others are, and what it all means for us.

Since all of us are doing this all of the time (usually at an unconscious level), it’s easy to understand why and how we get into conflict with each other. One person’s reality collides with another person’s perspective and unless we learn to combine our stories, we miss out on some vital information that could make each of our stories more closely resemble the larger reality.

So, realizing this point represents a big step forward toward maintaining a thriving state of mind. Because, instead of defending our position or arguing with someone about theirs, we can examine our story to determine if it’s really serving us and those around us. If we’re not getting the results we want, instead of trying to manipulate circumstances and others to get the change we want, we can change our story by doing a reframe of the situation.

What can you make the situation mean that will enable you to create a better outcome? It’s kind of like changing channels with your remote because you can literally begin to live out a different story.

Secondly, we recommend leading with vision. This is not always easy and sometimes we forget to do it ourselves. But we explain what leading with vision means in our book Thriving in Business and Life and in our soon-to-be-release online course. But, simply put, it’s the opposite of leading with problem solving.

Granted, problem solving is the usual approach. It’s what many people recognize as the problem-solution paradigm. You identify the problem, then work on a solution. The reason this approach can often run into problems is because we tend to use the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place. Einstein said it well, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”

Another often-used approach is to focus on changing behaviors to change results. This can work, short term. But until we change the mindset that led to the behaviors there is always going to be a magnetic pull to revert back to the old behaviors and repeat the same results.

This is why we often describe our thriving work as upgrading the software of your mind. Thriving really is learning to think in a fundamentally different way. And like all upgrades, we have the chance to continually improve—to grow more and more adept at inhabiting a thriving state of mind more and more regularly.

Having acknowledged that the stories we are generating are creating our moment to moment experience, we can take another step in choosing to act out a different story. This step starts by realizing that we’re not going simply create a different version of the old story. The story—and our approach to creating it—are going to be radically different.

What makes it so different? We start by creating a vision and in doing so, we start fresh, shifting from problem solving to vision-casting. We determine what results we want, and then create a detailed vision for it, including how we will feel when we accomplish our goals. In other words, we start with the end in mind and allow that outcome to inform the mindset we need to inhabit and the role and behaviors we’ll engage in to get there.

Then, and this is the thriving difference, we release our attachment to that specific ending or goal. Instead we let the feeling of our having reached that goal serve as a compass that heads toward an outcome that can often be even better than what we originally envisioned.

Along the way, instead of playing by the old rules—like the end justifies the means—we continue working to master a new approach; the means determine the end.

When we engage this approach, we are now able to navigate towards our destination, course correcting as we go, dealing with the storms and detours that may come along, while keeping the feeling of our emotional reward fully activated.

This means that we’re not waiting for results. We’re experiencing the feeling of the completed outcome all along the way. It’s vision first, results now. That’s the Thriving Way . . . and it’s a process we continue to learn from regularly . . . because, as the saying goes, we teach best what we most need to learn.

So, here’s your (and our) thriving challenge for the week:

Consider an aspect of your working life where you have been experiencing a result you don’t like, over and over again. What is the new story you could create about this? What vision can you generate about the results you want to achieve? Daydream about this and identify how success will feel. Then use that feeling as a compass to navigate forward towards the new results you want.

Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding

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