Are you thriving or surviving? Be truthful. In the evening are you exhausted and just happy to have made it through another day? Are stress and worry; rather than joy, peace and passion fueling your life? Then you’re probably surviving and not living in a state of optimal wellbeing.
There’s a huge difference between surviving and thriving. Survive means to “continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.” Thrive means to “prosper, be fortunate or successful, to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.”
Survive mode is characterized by:
- Choosing the path with the least resistance
- Experiencing lack rather than abundance
- Reacting rather than responding
- Complaining and blaming others for your circumstances
- Feeling inauthentic and stuck
- Fearing failure and viewing it as a sign that things are going wrong instead of seeing it as a necessary part of success
Thrive mode is characterized by what psychologist Martin Seligman refers to in his book Flourish as experiencing PERMA:
- Positive emotions
- Engagement and flow
- Positive Relationships
Many women, especially at midlife, want to thrive, and yet the majority of us are simply surviving. We want to feel vital, passionate, energized and exited about life, but the sense of flourishing we felt in our 20s and 30s has vanished.
Why are we surviving rather than thriving? The two main reasons I see with my clients are fear and habit. We’re scared of stepping into our brilliance and facing the unknown. Or we’re comfortably uncomfortable, stuck in a routine that’s kind of working but certainly isn’t making us happy. As I’ve discussed in previous posts there’s a nagging sense that you’re running out of time as if a Divine alarm clock has gone off signaling: “Get your shit together now and make something of this wonderful life before it’s too late.”
So how do you move from survive mode into thrive mode? Fortunately there are scientifically proven strategies you can use to live a vibrant, happier life. The first step is to admit you’re merely surviving and want to thrive. Like Maya Angelou make thriving your mission in life!
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. –Maya Angelou
After you set an intention to THRIVE start using the 10 strategies below!
Remember a period in your life when you were thriving. Spend time re experiencing how thriving felt. Think about what you can do now to get that feeling back.
- The Gratitude Visit
This one’s simple, but effective. Think of someone who has had a major impact on your life and tell her how she’s helped you. You can send an e-mail, a letter, call or visit.
Engage in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. You’ll improve the health of your brain and body and feel more vital and energized.
- What Went Well
Every evening write down three things that when well in your life AND what you did to make them happen. (This is one of my favorite exercises in Seligman’s book.)
- Welcome change and challenges
Be optimistic. Rather than avoiding change and challenges welcome them as powerful tools to help you grow and learn. Believe that you have the resources and ability to thrive when faced with change and challenges. Not challenged? Do something that scares you. Click HERE for ideas.
- Discover your strengths
Make a list of your strengths. (Ask someone to help you or take Seligman’s FREE VIA Survey of character strengths test by clicking HERE.) Once you identify your strengths find new ways to use them.
- Increase positivity
According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson experiencing more positive emotions when we interact with others is key for wellbeing. Be positive when you interact with others and encourage others to do the same for you. Surround yourself with people who are positive, thriving and supportive and limit your exposure to people who are negative
Take the time to savor all life’s joys and pleasures. When something good happens to you take it all in. Be mindful. Slow down. Pause for a moment to take in the good around you. Congratulate yourself when you do well. Spend time with people you love. Fill your life with pleasure and give yourself permission to enjoy.
- Increase flow experiences
Flow, also known as being in the zone, is the mental state where you are fully engaged, focused and involved in an activity. Find at least one activity (such as dancing, painting, singing, bird watching, hiking, playing a game or instrument, writing….) that puts you in this state of enjoyment. Do it several times a week.
- Be kind
One of the most powerful ways to thrive is simply being kind. Being kind is easy. Yet doing a kind act creates a powerful, scientifically proven increase in wellbeing. Don’t take my word for it, experiment with kindness today. Find one completely unexpected kind thing to do and just do it. Notice how your mood shifts. For ideas click HERE. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. It’s a fabulous way to practice self-compassion.
Set an intention TODAY to thrive rather than merely survive. Yes, choosing to thrive will push you out of your comfort zone and may feel harder than surviving especially initially. But is surviving really that comfortable?
Need help thriving? Click HERE to contact me and schedule a complimentary coaching session.
I’m guilty of surviving, not thriving….going to start with setting an intent to thrive and work on the other items in your list as well.
Thanks for an outstanding article!
Thanks for sharing, Chris. It’s great that you realized that you’re surviving and want to thrive. Let me know how it goes.
I love this site and tips. Thank you. Its been a slow process to apply the practice of thriving everyday, I can’t imagine how beautiful it must feel to thrive full force.
Hi Natasha, thank you for your kind, encouraging comment. I’m so glad you love my site and tips. How can you enjoy the journey more. Being present and loving and accepting yourself every step of the way is one of the keys to thriving. I look forward to helping you thrive full force. Be well, Dr. Ellen
I’m in my early 30’s and I often feel everything mentioned in both the thrive and survive lists. Thanks for the tips! I’m going to remind myself of these everyday.
You’re welcome, Jackson. Glad you found the article helpful and thanks for sharing.
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My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it.
2020…In the middle of what seems like the world is coming to an end, and yet I came here because I want to thrive. The opposite is true for me. I don’t think I have ever felt a sense of thriving in my 20s, 30s, and now late 40s. Well I feel like I’m thriving and surviving now, but time to push thriving into high gear… Awesome read,!!!
Thank you so much for your comment. Glad that you enjoyed the read!
Well put together! I think that it is also important to recognize that being able to survive is not something to be taken for granted. However, thriving, especially when it comes to our health and self-care, affects our ability to survive.
So true. Thank you for sharing.
You’re so welcome! Thank YOU for both the time you put into the article and for responding to my comment!
Sometimes surviving is thrust on you, from your childhood environment that is full of abuse, so that you have to become a survivor, so it’s not always exactly a choice, but I agree that it’s necessary to thrive too. How to do that is the question? That’s what I want to move towards now!
Thanks for sharing, Marcia. I totally get that. The first thing you need to do is see that you have choices and let go of the old stories and behaviors that are keeping you stuck. Self-compassion can really help you heal and also feel safe and more courageous. Hope that helps.