Just the word creates a series of emotions: fear, anxiety, stress....
And if we're striving for survival, we're not actually thriving. Instead we're searching for a solution for the next fire, or crisis, or immediate need.
In schools, we often operate at the survival level. Consider these questions:
- Are you just trying to get through the day/week/month?
- Do others drive your work or do you drive your work?
- Do you forget the goals you set because you're just SO BUSY?
Operating in a way where survival dominates your time actually changes your brain. Consider this research from Scarcity by Mullainathan and Eldar:
When scarcity captures our attention, it changes how we think—whether it is at the level of milliseconds, hours, or days and weeks. By staying top of mind, it affects what we notice, how we weigh our choices, how we deliberate, and ultimately what we decide and how we behave.Clearly, this does not support the innovation and time needed to be successful. If our lives are dominated with the things in front of our face, then we'll never be able to change the systems that shape our lives. In essence, external stimuli will drive our outcomes in the world.
However, all is not lost. When it comes to survival, we often have a choice. The alternative to "survival mode" is "investment mode."
When you invest, you spend time on long range items that will likely pay off down the line. I consider these to be "loose bets" that will alleviate survival stresses down the line. Spending your time on investment behaviors allows you to minimize stress and the desperate need for survival over time.
This idea between survival and investment comes from Daniel Yoo, the founder of Goalbook, and I find it to be an incredibly helpful frame.
Let me give you an example. I write. A lot. I often cite blogs, quotes, and whitepapers in my writing. When in survival mode (and up against a deadline), I search for the research I needed and save links on a digital sticky note which are then saved in unsearchable stacks on my desktop. Clearly, this process (although quick) does not build a sustainable set of resources I can easily access later.
So instead of surviving via digital sticky notes, I spent an afternoon investing in the creation of a tagging system in Evernote. This tagging system allowed me to file, save, and search all the quotes I find and use. Although building this system took a bit of time, it's saved me hours in time over the last few months.
Microdecisions either focus on SURVIVAL or INVESTMENT. Being cognizant of these choices can make the difference when it comes to innovation. Innovation can't happen in survival mode. So, invest - each day and every day - to build the infrastructure for innovation.
How will you invest?