There are three things to know about thriving;
- It is about enjoying the process and not focusing on the result.
- It is about truly "seeing the surround;" being present in the moment.
- It is about living the journey moment-by-moment.
When it comes to the word thrive, I like the definition of "flourishing." Imagine it is mid-summer and you are standing on the sidewalk admiring your neighbor's planting of zinnias. Each plant is large, almost the size of a small bush and covered in huge blossoms. Wouldn't you say that the zinnias were flourishing? Thriving? This, I think, is a good way to see ourselves as thriving. When we are thriving, our life is full of possibilities and bright with opportunities. When we're thriving, our face is to the sun. Just like the zinnias.
1. Enjoy the process. The Industrial Revolution brought along with it a mindset that working towards results was the goal of what we did; what we do. Set up the assembly lines and then race to celebrate the finished product. The result of the mechanization was deemed far more important than the process worked along the way.
As example think about weaving a blanket. There was a time, long ago, when the entire process, start to finish, was done by hand. The wool had to be shorn from the animal and then cleaned and made into thread or yarn. The thread had to be dyed into various colors. A design needed to be created and then the slow, painstaking process began of weaving the blanket on a hand-built wooden loom. Each step was done by hand, thoughtfully and creatively.
Now, with automation, blankets can be produced quickly without hands touching them until the quality control step before retail takes over. Yes, a design was created and fed into the computer, but then mechanization takes over. Most wool is still shorn from the sheep by hand, but processing into thread/yarn is done by machine. Again, it is the result, the end product, that is celebrated. Not the process.
The 21st century is seeing a return to "do it yourself" projects, even entire do-it-yourself lifestyle choices. There is a movement back to doing things by hand, including processing wool and weaving cloth. Those who do these processes revel in the processes themselves as much as they celebrate the end result. You could say there is a "thriving industry" of do-it-yourselfers in the world.
The idea is that thriving should be about the joy of the process as much as the end result or finished product. Make the process pleasurable could be the mantra here.
2. Seeing the surroundings means that you live with eyes wide open. It means that you take in the sounds, smells, sights and impressions of your surroundings in a purposeful way. Thriving means taking nothing for granted and giving everything its due.
This is an idea that requires us to slow down and not accidentally get from point A in our day to point B. Yes, many of us are busy and the tendency to overbook, over-schedule and cram more into a day - even an hour - has become the standard for success. Here's a thought, though: can you say that a physician's practice is a thriving one simply because he or she can see eight patients in one hour's time? How is this thriving? This is classic overbooking. The benefits are negative ones: less than ten minutes per patient causes abbreviated appointments and incomplete consultation...both for the patient and the doctor. If the physician works an eight-hour day and every patient slot is filled, that is 64 less-than-satisfactory appointments that day. Again is the question, how is this thriving?
Using this same doctor/patient example, a determination to be present in the moment would mean that during an appointment the doctor would truly focus on the person in the room and not thinking two appointments ahead. It would mean that the patient would focus on connecting with the doctor and communicating fully his or her concerns. It would result in a flourishing relationship where the healthcare given was need-based and not time-based or time-constrained. Here's a question: have you ever been the patient in the exam room, talking with your doctor and a nurse interrupts to remind the doctor that another patient is waiting in the next exam room?
Somewhere along the way our lives became governed more by clocks and calendars than by the relationships we share one with another. Is it even possible to 'see the surround' when talking with your doctor? On my most recent appointment I decided to be present in the moment. As I waited in the exam room I looked around. I noted the decor and saw, as if for the first time, reproductions of paintings by an artist whose work I admire. When the doctor came into the room I said 'hello' first, stood and shook his hand and asked him about the artwork. I decided that for me to flourish in my life I need to make relationships important. Surprisingly, he stopped a moment and looked at the print on the wall and did share with me that he had chosen the art displayed in the office and exam rooms. I felt that we both humanized this health encounter by connecting as people before beginning a discussion of my health needs.
Being present in the moment requires you to be fully awake and aware and the rewards are a richer Life.
3. A life that is flourishing is one that is lived moment-by-moment. Nothing is missed. Everything is seen and heard. One of the technological innovations that I have to admit truly enjoying is the cell phone. I enjoy the immediacy of it and the convenience. Texting allows me connectivity with family that is revolutionary in its way. It has convenience features such as the contact list, camera, photos and calendar that have eliminated the need to carry around hardcover address books, planners, photo albums and 'happy snap' cameras. However, the human penchant for obsession and overdoing a good thing has allowed the cell phone to be a thief. A thief of appreciation and attention.
A good example is a lunch date. Meeting a friend for lunch at a local eatery is an enjoyable encounter...or should be. It is the perfect situation for being in-the-moment and enriching a relationship. If you are sitting across the table from your friend, and you are totally present, then you would be relaxed. You would give the menu attention and choose food to eat that would please your taste. You would notice the decor of the establishment and embrace the aromas from the kitchen. The water glass would feel cold and the water would taste refreshing.
You would look at your companion and notice what he or she was wearing, how their hair was styled, whether they were carefree or had concerns etched into their face. You would notice the waitperson and note their name and be polite, saying 'please' and 'thank you.'
When your order arrived you would breathe in the smells and your first bite would explode in flavor on your tongue. You would remark to your friend that, "...this tastes really good...."
To thrive we have to live moment-by-moment. If you put your cell phone on the table next to your plate, instantly the experience has changed to one of anticipating interruption. A distinct portion of your attention would be devoted to the phone and taken from the full experience of lunch with your friend.
To say that we are thriving, flourishing, is to say that we are presently aware. It is to say that we live in-the-now appreciatively. A life that flourishes is a life lived purposefully.