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Will You Play Safe or Go For Gold?

There are two pulls in the human condition: the pull to stay where we are and consolidate what we have and the pull to discover what is still possible, what we could achieve, how far we could go. The result of these two opposing pulls is that some of us - perhaps the majority - choose the path of safety and security while wondering what we might have missed. Others take risks, go on adventures, seek to maximise what they possess, even at the expense of a quiet life. That's why, while many people exist in a state of survival and maintenance, others adventure into states of growth and development.

1. Survival

All of us in our adult lives find ourselves predominantly in one of three states: survival, maintenance or development. A state of surviving is about living from day to day, managing to get by, keeping our heads above water. Survival is when we just manage to beat off outside forces that threaten to overwhelm us. For most of us survival may be a rare experience which we meet just a few times in our lives: perhaps a serious financial crisis, an emotionally disastrous relationship, illness, job difficulties or an emergency. Fortunately, the ultimate survival tests - war, famine and natural disaster - pass most of us by. Survival is a state that is like a shipwrecked sailor afloat on a life raft in a hostile sea struggling to cling to any passing wreckage.

2. Maintenance

The state of "maintenance" is one most people are in for much of their lives. It is a safe balance between ourselves and our environment which ocasionally may go against us, if we are unlucky or in our favour if we are lucky. Maintenance is the steady job, the money in the bank for a rainy day, the relationship which is fine but based on routine and security. Maintenance is like being on a surfboard on the open seas. We can thank God that we're not in the water floundering around; most of our efforts are focused on staying upright and not falling off. Yet, as we sail along, without any other aim than to stay upright, there is the nagging feeling that perhaps there is more to life than just drifting along aimlessly.

3. Development

The state of development is of a different order to survival and maintenance. Whereas these are ways of coping with our environments, development is a state which we control and determine ourselves. We move from survival and maintenance into development when we decide that our lives will be qualitatively better than now, that we will use our inner gifts and strengths and that we will move to new goals and achievements. If survival is like a swimmer in a hostile sea and maintenance is like a plumber on a leaky boat, development is like an oarsman with a course, a plan and a destination. Just as we as individuals can be at any of the stages of survival, maintenance or development, so too can teams and organisations.

All of us have two distinct choices to make about what we will accomplish with our lives. The first choice is to be less than we can be. To earn less, have less, do less, and think less. To just survive. Our second choice is to strive, produce and accomplish as much as we possibly can. To create as much as our talent, ability and desire will allow us to create. The greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring the greatest value to themselves and those around them as a result of who they are and who they have become.

Are You an Adventurer or Consolidator?

This video from BigIdeasGrowingMinds looks at Carol Dweck's book, "Mindset", in which she contrasts the Growth mindset (aka the Adventurer) with the Fixed mindset (aka the Consolidator).