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The Thriving Equation

You have a fundamental choice: to be the architect of your experience OR the victim of your environment. One leads to thriving, the other to suffering.

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thrive (verb)

/THrīv/

  1. To grow vigorously: FLOURISH
  2. To gain in wealth or possessions: PROSPER
  3. To progress toward or realize a goal despite of or because of circumstances

Last week, I wrote about thriving in the context of antifragility, the phenomenon coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his groundbreaking 2012 book of the same name. This week, I’d like to go deeper.

I want to introduce a powerful equation in which there are two variables. The first is Focus on Self (FS). People with a high FS believe they are responsible for the outcomes in their lives. They understand that the environment matters, but they focus on what they can control. As a result, they spend most of their time and energy inward. They ask questions like, “What can I do to learn, grow, and get better in this situation?” If they have an extremely high FS, they realize that they can not only withstand the effects of their environment (i.e., resilience) but they can grow and get stronger from adversity (i.e., antifragility). At worst, people with high FS survive. At best, they thrive.

The second variable is what I’m calling Focus on Environment (FE). People with a high FE believe there is very little they can do to affect their situation. They believe that the key to happiness is one’s circumstances. Thus, they get frustrated and become powerless when life doesn’t go the way it is “supposed” to. They are at the effect of circumstances, as opposed to being the shaper of them. They are thus fragile. At best, people with high FE survive. At worst, they suffer.

Thus, the following:

If FS > FE, then THRIVING

If FS = FE, then SURVIVAL

IF FS < FE, then SUFFERING

What is your FS:FE ratio right now? Are you focused mostly on how you can grow and get stronger? Or do you find yourself spending most of your time wishing things were different or would return to “normal?” Or is it a mix of both? The key to thriving is in this mix. And the human superpower is that you get to choose. Choose wisely.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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