I was struck this morning by this quote from Maya Angelou, “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.” It really made me think about how I am living my life.
I’m a survivor
I have always said, “I am a Survivor” and been proud of it! I identify as a survivor because I have been knocked down and picked myself back up so many times. I did this the best way I knew how, by doing everything myself and choosing habits that made me feel safe. Habits that no longer serve me or allow me to be powerful.
I want to thrive
I have survived many things in my life beginning with my birth as a two-pound premie. I thought these events made me who I am. As I started to think about this quote, I realized these events do not make me who I am. I no longer want to survive, I want to thrive.
I found it important to look up the definitions:
To survive: is the act of surviving under adverse conditions; in my case: divorce, jobs I didn’t like, menopause, you get the picture.
To thrive: to grow or develop and is characterized by success.
As I dove deeper into the meaning of surviving and thriving, I realized that I was so entrenched in survival mode, I didn’t even see that there was another way to live. I listed the things I do when I am living in survival mode. The list is long! I blindly put one foot in front of the other trudging through each day. Happy to have made it through another day. I am often exhausted at the end of the day, thinking there has to be another way.
I became comfortably uncomfortable, doing the same thing day, in day and day out, because I was comfortable. What I was doing no longer worked for me. I wanted my life to be different. Yet, I couldn’t seem to change.
After all, I was surviving, right?
As I read the descriptions of these words in dictionaries and articles on surviving, I saw that the act of surviving was really meant to provide basic life needs: such as food, clothing, and shelter. Having the skills necessary to maintain life. If I could provide those things for myself and my family, I considered myself successful. After all, I was surviving, right?
Research equates surviving with barely getting by, a daily grind, feeling unfulfilled, feeling like you are drowning so much in problems that even a simple act of survival feels like a win.
It gets even deeper—survival is fueled by fear; it is always hustling to be able to get by, it is the fear of running out, fear of not having enough, fear of losing everything. Knowing that if you do what you have always done, you will be OK. This was me!
The horizon in survival mode is small and closed up.
You are only able to focus on the next thing to be done. Survival means taking the path of least resistance, living from a place of lack, and feeling stuck. When I am in survival mode, I fear failure and see it as wrong. This way of thinking keeps me small and afraid to grow. I am reacting to people and challenges, so I push them away. I find myself complaining and blaming others for my circumstances. All these things I realize have become so embedded in my daily life.
In survival mode, I surround myself with negative people and experiences because it is what I know. I am lonely and isolated because it is hard to reach out for help and support when times are tough, and in survival mode, times are always tough. I have learned that I don’t need anyone. I’ll do it myself.
Survival means I am afraid to step into my power because I am afraid of the unknown. This is not the kind of life I want to lead!
To thrive is to be healthy, to flourish.
To thrive means to make steady progress, to grow healthy and strong. To live your best life. To think and live abundantly and joyfully. Thriving is a choice. Choosing to thrive pushes you outside your comfort zone. You can choose to live a life of optimal wellbeing, including having compassion for yourself and self-care. It means no longer reacting to situations but taking the time to respond instead.
Thriving means taking 100% responsibility for myself and my actions. It means seeing “failure” as a step to success. It means getting to know myself, finding my strengths, and acknowledging my accomplishments. It means welcoming change and challenges into my life. It means surrounding myself with positive people and things that make me happy. It means choosing connection, looking for the good in life, and giving back.
What can we do to go from surviving to thriving?
- Own it! Realize that you have been living in a place of survival because life knocked you down and you picked yourself back up again. Set an intention every day that you want to thrive.
- Be honest about your feelings. Name them. Feel them in your body. Then let them go.
- Journal about 5 things you are grateful for every day.
- Celebrate your wins: at the end of each day, focus on what went well.
- Move your body for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Find more opportunities to be in the “zone.” Find your “flow” activities, those activities where you are fully engaged and hours go by without you even noticing. These activities could be dancing, hiking, painting, singing, playing a game or an instrument, reading a book, or writing. Do these activities several times per week.
Like Maya Angelou, if we find things we are passionate about, have some compassion for ourselves, laugh a little, and have a little style, we can learn to survive and thrive.