Are you surviving or thriving?

3 May 2017 | beando_admin

Look around you now.

Which of your friends, family or colleagues look like they are thriving? Anyone?

How do they carry themselves, what do they do, think and say. What makes these people different from those who are just surviving? It’s a question this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on and we think we can shed a little light onto the issue. 


Sure there are economic and environmental factors, now more than ever, that impact on one’s life. They determine the difference between thriving and surviving. But not always. Sometimes we meet people who seem to thrive on adversity and challenge, while others who seem to have it all can barely keep it together.

Spotting someone living and working in survival mode is more difficult to spot. But they are huge in numbers. People who just survive are unhappy. They are experts at hiding how they are feeling.

So the difference between thriving and surviving is not necessarily bound up by traditional images and ideas regarding what we think is a happy and successful life.

It’s an internal thing. 

People in survival mode

Survival mode is a mental space, a mindset. People in survival mode are fearful. They are shaped by a multitude of self-created coping strategies. Living in survival mode means being:

  • Closed off, disconnected and isolated from the world as you cultivate distractions and avoidance techniques.
  • Determined and shaped by limiting negative judgements, impacting on everything you do and everything you feel.
  • Confidence in who you are and what you can do falls. Self-esteem plummets.
  • Imprisoned in a comfort zone living a life of least resistance, under-achievement and disappointment.
  • Angry, anxious and stressed as the above strategies and coping mechanisms fail.
  • Exhausted and tired because the coping strategies of just surviving take so much effort and energy.

All of which combines to make a life lived not in the present but in some imagined past or future experience.

The science behind this is well-known. Our own nervous system has an in-built negativity bias centred in your limbic system. It’s our survival default. It’s always running at low speed but for some it’s always turned up to the maximum. In this mode it’s impossible to thrive because you are held captive by how your mind-body is reacting. Change how you think and you can change how you are. 

People in thriving mode 

Even though we are naturally locked into survival mode there is a bigger picture too. The very reason we survive is to thrive. We want to thrive. We don’t want to just survive. Otherwise what would be the point? Our whole DNA is designed to thrive. People who thrive see the world as it really is. They are present to themselves, others and in what they do. A person in survival mode would be horrified at this because their strategy is to avoid seeing the world as it really is, not wanting to be with themselves with constant judgement about what they are doing. 

A thriving person is characterised by:

  • Ultimately knowing who they are. They are comfortable with themselves and attuned to their skills and strengths. They are not determined by salary, job, status or possessions. They are free.
  • They are aware of how they feel and where they are in the moment rather than thinking about what they do and how it should turn out. They flow.
  • They connect and share. They support others and know that real achievement is not a question of single ownership but of collaboration. They are open.
  • A connection to an inner awareness of what is right and correct. A knowing, trusting, intuitive approach which shapes every action moment to moment. They are skilful.
  • A harmony between working, eating, sleeping and living. They connect being and doing together. They are balanced.
  • A positive, generous, creative, outward can-do attitude which is not inhibited by worry, expectation or judgement. They are fearless.

All of which combines to make a life lived in optimum experience right in the heart of the present. That’s where all the good stuff is. People that thrive make happy work. 

So why isn’t everybody thriving? 

Our problem is that these days we are distracted. So instead of really knowing what it is to thrive we misunderstand what a thriving life actually is and what it looks like. The rise of social media everywhere presents us with an image of thriving which is not real; it’s only the appearance of thriving. Thriving in life is an internal thing. It’s nothing to do with how many likes you get or followers you gain.

It’s clear that thriving is also a mental space but it’s a place where you are liberated. Thriving people feel supported, confident and creative. And if you are a leader, employer or manager this is one of the most important things you can do. Help your team to thrive by encouraging and promoting ways to dial down the survival mode.

You can do this by developing a culture of change from the inside out, rather than from the traditional top-down. A business that is designed around a sense of purpose, vitality, connection, collaboration, celebration, creativity and the joy of doing is a business that’s designed to thrive.

Do this sooner rather than later as nearly half of your team are unhappy at work. 

But don’t wait to change – be the change!

You can decide to thrive now if you want to.

Yes it’s hard, but you are not on your own here. There is a 5000-year-old science of wellbeing that takes you beyond just surviving, into thriving. It’s called meditation and it will help you unlock your thriving-focused DNA. Then you will notice you already have the capacity to change.

Here are some pointers to help get you started:
  1. Decide to be different and do differently. Just that simple mind-shift will start to switch on your thriving networks and dial down your surviving networks.
  2. Recall moments when you felt like you were thriving. Visualise these times and remember how it felt.
  3. Carry a notebook, jot down observations or collect inspiring pictures, articles etc. Give yourself a break everyday and learn to be with yourself.
  4. Get outside and see the sky. Don’t limit yourself by planning the life you think you want. Live the life you are living and you will notice real change is possible
  5. Be open to new habits and patterns of thought.
  6. Meditate everyday and all of the above will happen naturally.

The place where we thrive is balance. Thriving is happiness. Not from the outside but from the inside. It has nothing to do with buying stuff or working too hard to buy yet more stuff. Balance is made of joy, love, conviviality, oneness and togetherness. These are not flaky terms; they are the real components of a thriving life for you, me and everyone.

This is how you can make happy work. 

Related posts:

How to increase your everyday happiness 

How to avoid burnout