What does it mean to survive or thrive?
Put simply, surviving is a matter of struggling through hardship versus being able to enjoy the journey of your life. Of course, that can mean different things to different people. However, one continues to exist despite the danger or hardship they face.
But to thrive? To thrive is to grow, develop, and flourish. Thriving is to enjoy life despite the suffering and challenges that come with it.
The survival component is often more literal than many realize.
It may be self-medicating, that is, drinking or drugs to deal with life or what goes on in your mind. Some people cope with life’s stress, pain, or trauma by using harmful substances that often degrade their ability to recover and thrive. Others who may be mentally ill could be trying to change what goes on in their head to seek relief for a little while.
It may be someone trapped in an abusive relationship who stays in the relationship, constantly struggling with the fear of leaving and the fear of staying. You regularly hear naive people who don’t understand say things like, “Well, if it’s that bad, why don’t they just leave? They could go stay with a friend or family!” But what if they don’t have a friend or family? What if their abuser has isolated and alienated them, a common tactic of abusers to control the abused? What if their choice is the streets or being in danger? What if they have kids they are trying to protect?
It could also be the person buried in debt, working two or three jobs to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head, still on assistance programs because they don’t make enough money. People today and throughout history live this kind of life in some form, whether buried in school loan debt today, working for company scrip 100 years ago in a mine, or subsistence farming to put some food on the table.
Then there is mental health. Mental health is often a major component of surviving or thriving. A person with depression may struggle every day to get through the day. Some days it’s so hard to even do the bare necessities of life, like getting out of bed or eating. The depressed may struggle with caring or having the energy to worry about things like brushing their teeth, bathing, or cleaning up. Still, many depressed people have to get up and go to work because others are relying on them, and they have bills to pay.
That depressed person may have a great family, job, and an otherwise good life. Still, because of their depression, survival is a struggle and they may constantly feel tired of life. Depression saps their energy, diminishes their ability to enjoy life, and prevents them from mentally and emotionally thriving.
But to thrive?
Thriving is to take control of your life instead of being controlled by life. That may be seeking appropriate help to deal with stress, mental illness, or trauma to end the cycle of substance abuse. That may be making the very difficult decision to step out of a toxic, unhealthy relationship into the unknown, wherever that may lead. That may be finding some way to make one’s money go further or start trying to get a better job.
To thrive is to be in the driver’s seat of your life, heading toward whatever it means for you to be happy, healthy, and in control of your life. That’s something everyone deserves to have.
How Do I Go From Surviving To Thriving?
This is an extremely broad question that doesn’t have a single answer, as much as we’d love to be able to give you one.
The answer lies in why you’re just surviving and not thriving. That may be something that needs to change, like ending a relationship or trying to get a better job. It could also be more serious, like treating mental illness or substance abuse.
Additionally, if life feels stagnant, you may need to address bad habits and negative perceptions that hold you back.
So, while we can’t just give you one answer, we can provide some building blocks and places to start working on improving your quality of mind and life so that you can learn how to take your power back.
Can you identify any specific problems preventing you from thriving?
Take some time to examine your life and what is lacking. What exactly is holding you back from being able to thrive? Can you put it into words? Can you write it out in a single sentence so that you can fully articulate the problem? If you can, that’s a great place to start. If you can make a list of these things, that’s even better because you’re creating a checklist that you can work through.
To solve any problem, you must first identify what the problem is. Once you do that, then you can pursue the appropriate solution to the problem.
Do you have a good relationship with yourself?
How do you speak to yourself? Do you believe that you are a person who is capable of doing a good thing? Do you do good things? Do you tear yourself down? Do you tell yourself that you aren’t good enough? Do you feel unworthy of good things? Do you feel unworthy of love, kindness, and compassion? What is your internal narrative about yourself like?
People who feel negatively about themselves are regularly eroding their ability to enjoy life and thrive. How can anyone thrive if they believe they are not worthy of something good? Of being happy? Feeling at peace?
Improving your relationship with yourself is a great place to start. But, frankly, this is probably going to require some professional help. No one comes into the world feeling like they aren’t worthy. That is behavior and belief imposed on people from outside sources, often in childhood, often by adults that were supposed to be loving and nurturing.
Of course, not everyone is so fortunate to be born into those circumstances. However, your past doesn’t need to define you or control the rest of your life.
Building a good relationship with yourself is hard, but it makes every other load you’ll carry in life all that much lighter. People who treat themselves with self-compassion can view their imperfections as valuable and their mistakes as learning experiences for growth.
Building and improving resilience.
Some people are more resilient than others. Some have strong resilience, while others suffer severely from any minor setback for various reasons that may not be within their control. Anxiety and depression often amplify life’s difficulties, making small things seem like insurmountable mountains that cannot be climbed.
Developing mental and emotional resilience is a habit that will help you thrive.
How do you do that?
- You may need to seek appropriate mental health care to get mental illnesses under control.
- You may need therapy to resolve trauma or learn to self-manage mental health challenges.
- You may need to develop friendships or allow yourself to be more vulnerable in your relationships. Many people don’t want to be a bother or a burden, so we don’t reach out to those who will love and support us. But the emotional load of the world is much lighter when many people work to carry it.
- Embrace and love the change in your life. People often interpret “loving” the change in your life as only positive and good things. That’s not where the power of the practice is. The power is in learning to love the negative things. Granted, that is far easier said than done. Who could possibly love being diagnosed with incurable cancer or a loved one dying? It would take a truly enlightened person to reach that level of acceptance. Thankfully, not every negative thing in your life will be that severe. You can smooth your path by learning to love the challenges and troubles in your life.
- Focus on smaller, more achievable goals than the mountains that are your larger goals. Paving your way with smaller wins can help build momentum toward bigger wins.
- Take better physical care of yourself. A healthy diet and exercise can significantly boost your mental and emotional well-being, which translates to easier handling of your emotions and stress. However, improving one’s physical health is an often-neglected aspect of improving one’s mental health.
As you can see, transitioning from someone who survives to someone who thrives can be challenging. These are all pretty serious steps that require work and time.
It’s okay, though! Take things one step at a time. You don’t have to make huge, sweeping changes all at once. In fact, it’s better if you don’t, because small changes are more likely to stick with you as new habits.
Life doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. You can find peace with yourself and life, but it will take some focused effort. Do reach out to a certified mental health professional if you feel lost or unsure how to proceed. They will be able to help you with resolving more serious issues.