Many of us have a life that others envy – picture-perfect to the outside eye. And yet, it may not be filled with joy, especially when we lose our way. We reach a place where we can no longer see the forest for the trees – caught up in the day-to-day, like a hamster on a wheel. People only see the parts of the “photos” that we crop and filter to them. We project an image of ourselves (even our families) that are far from reality.
We hide any signs of struggle – doing our very best to live up to everyone’s expectations! What does it take to get out from under – from surviving to thriving?
Is surviving really living?
When we live in survival mode, we get busy doing what it takes to get by. No matter how great it looks from the outside, we feel that we are simply existing. Often, that feels stuck in
If I could just get through…
- the day
- the week
- the month
- the year
- the birthday party
- the next exam
- this presentation
It feels like the world is upside down, and you have no control. So, you get busy putting out the next fire, because there is no time for long term planning or perspectives! You’ve stopped thinking about the future because you are simply focused on getting through the day.
A hamster on a wheel
Whether we like it or not, survival mode is waking up tired each morning, instantly irritable – and you haven’t even gotten out of bed!
As you get out of bed, you wonder what fires there will be that need to be put out today – because there’s no time for planning to avoid them.
And we get ourselves in this place, frantically trying to keep up with schedules, juggling needs and demands. We allow ourselves to think everything is urgent and “I’m the only one that can take care of this”. You can never get caught up. Because it doesn’t feel like you can ask for help.
Living like this, day after day – the stress becomes overwhelming. You live trying to keep all the balls in the air. Unable to drop anything or let someone down. Drowning in the day-to-day craziness that is your life.
Nonetheless, the joy is gone – it became a “should” – no longer a “could” or “I choose”.
Living up to everyone’s ideals and expectations
You begin to wonder how you got to this place – where “perfect” looks like this! You feel failure and despair, but everyone expects you to show up smiling and happy! Because you are busy living up to that perfect image:
- the perfect image of the societal ideal – perfect mother/father, perfect wife/husband, perfect entrepreneur
- the woman who has the never-ending patience with her children
- the man that always finds time to go to the gym and keep to his fitness routine, having the perfect physique
- always on time and never late
And always tired. Irritable. Cranky. You push others away, because “I don’t have the energy for this.” Always hidden by the perfect smile. Unless something changes, it will continue to feel like everything is careening out of control.
When was the last time you laughed and had fun? You truly had a day of joy?
But how to move out of surviving to thriving?
What it feels like when we are thriving
When you are thriving, life feels intentional, full of joy, significance, and meaning. It’s hard to describe, without looking at the factors that contribute.
[Thriving] appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something. In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.
–Dr. Daniel Brown
Factors that contribute to you feeling like you are thriving:
- autonomy – the power of choice & decision
- a positive outlook on your life
- proactivity – intentional choices
- religious or spiritual consciousness
- commitment to learning – expanding your knowledge
- your “tribe” – network & support based on trust – family, friends & colleagues
- challenges proportional to your capabilities
Let’s look at four aspects of thriving.
Life feels intentional
When you are thriving, you feel the power of choice – you can choose what you do, where you spend or invest your time, and how you spend your money. Additionally, you determine whether or not you live up to your potential – will I take the steps necessary to get to where I want to be?
When you are intentional – you choose that “more” that comes with “I can do more than this”. You choose more.
Joy is an option
The same way, with Konmari, you choose which objects to keep in your house – “do they bring me joy?” — when you thrive, you choose what to keep in your life those things that bring you joy.
Does exercise bring you joy? Perhaps not – but health and wellbeing do, so you keep exercise.
You may choose a longer-term definition of joy, rather than immediate satisfaction, but you actively choose those things in your life that will bring you joy:
- personal growth & development
- work & professional activities
- entrepreneurship & finances
You consider your worth
When you are in survival mode – you may feel worthless. But when you move from surviving to thriving, you see yourself as worthy of investment. You become forward-thinking – how will I grow into my future?
When you consider your growth, look at:
- emotional – emotional intelligence and wellbeing
- physical – health, wellbeing & energy levels
- mental – mindset
- spiritual – where do you want to be?
- financial – what are your goals and dreams?
- retirement – do you want a life you don’t need to retire from? or are you planning a retirement?
But when you are thriving – you consider your worth in the decisions you make.
Even in considering the people you spend time with.
Choosing your tribe
If you are the average of the five or six people that you spend the most time with – who are you? Look around the room – look at your life.
When you come from a space of thriving – you give from a cup that overflows. Relationships have healthy boundaries. People no longer feel like a burden or imposition.
Because you prioritise your self-care, you know what you have to give in caring for others, and what you need to recharge your batteries.
Inhale… I choose to love myself…
Exhale… so that I have energy to love others.
And just like that, you find balance.
The path from surviving to thriving
Unfortunately, when you are in survival mode – thinking when this is over it will get better – you couldn’t be further from the truth. Life does not magically fix itself once “this” – whatever this is – is over and taken care of. You cannot magically get from surviving to thriving!
Stop and acknowledge where you are
Stop avoiding and denying that you are stuck and perhaps don’t know how to get off the hamster wheel! Allow yourself to see and admit that you cannot keep this up. Create some time and space for yourself to sit down and look at the process of getting from surviving the thriving. Allow yourself to feel the overwhelm – even the sense of guilt. Give yourself permission to cry.
This too shall pass!
Allow yourself, for a moment, to take a good look at the longterm damage this is causing to yourself, your family and your team. Stop putting your hope in a future moment, and recognise that you need to start making difficult decisions for yourself now.
Then, start making choices.
Commit to radical changes
The first radical choice and change is to stop waiting for things to get better and easier. Stop believing the lies that you have been telling yourself. Accept that perhaps you need some help moving from surviving to thriving:
- general support
Whatever the help is that you need – commit to getting it for yourself!
Be prepared to simplify your life. If you were on a sinking ship – what cargo would you be prepared to throw overboard in order to save yourself and those on the ship? Likewise, in your life – what are you willing to throw overboard in order to bring balance back into your life?
Questions from the heart:
Starting from your heart – practice some compassion and kindness to yourself! Kindness is not “being nice” – it is practicing compassion. Sometimes that’s tough love, and many times it’s gentleness! Ask yourself this:
- What is important?
- What do I truly want in my life?
Questions from the gut:
Your intelligence center in your gut is all about protecting your safety, security & identity. It’s not the same as your ego (false sense of self), although it often gets mixed up with that false sense – where identity takes on labels and believes them to be true.
Consider carefully – what titles and labels of “this is who I am” are you willing to release in order to start thriving? Perhaps you could drop the label of “perfect mother” in favour of “I am an excellent mother”.
Questions to brainstorm
Give yourself permission to think about who you could ask for help: perhaps look at what you are doing that you could delegate to someone else.
One of the hardest choices I made was putting my daughter with a driver to go to and from school, rather than taking herself myself. I enjoyed the trip with her to school and the time I had alone in the car. But, unfortunately, her private school is some 20-25 minutes away from our home (without heavy traffic), and this meant about two hours each day in the car for me. Was that really how I wanted to spend my time? Was I being realistic about how important that time with her was?
I choose to delegate that to a driver – and now pick her up twice a month after school, and take her to a coffee shop – where we sit and actually spend time together. I no longer feel frazzled or constantly watching the clock to make sure that I’m not late!
Getting someone else to do the job is just as effective at getting the job done as doing it yourself! But it takes courage, sometimes, to ask for help.
Consider – what in your life could you outsource?
Plan out the short-term future
Finally, it’s time to start planning out your future. Use your schedule for planning & prioritising, rather than for noting down all your obligations! If you find it helpful – use an Eisenhower Matrix to map out important/urgent.
Take your time planning this out, evaluating not only your thinking but also considering your feelings and needs. Allow yourself, at least in the immediate short-term, to cut back to a baseline – these are the bare essentials. Quite likely – the bare essentials are less than you think! Consciously and intentionally choose – this is what I will focus on.
Because, when you are moving from surviving to thriving – after you’ve thrown things overboard to save the sinking ship — now it’s time to fix the holes in the ship!
Bringing your life back into balance – rediscovering joy – is an intentional process.
The first step is to choose to hop off the hamster wheel.
Why not set up a call?
7 thoughts on “Take that picture perfect life from surviving to thriving”
Oh! I can so relate to this post. Thank you for identifying what my life seems like at times. Just a constant battle of firefighting.
I love all the great advice and tips for moving from Surviving to Thriving.
Such great information! Sometimes (many times recently) I really do feel like I’m just surviving!
I love this…I didn’t realize how much I needed to read this. There is definitely times that I feel like I’m just surviving and it’s easy to get stuck in that place. Great article
[…] Take that picture perfect life from surviving to thriving […]
I saw a lot of myself in this post! Thank you for sharing. I always feel like I’m just floating along the surface, surviving, rather than actually living.
I’m so often just surviving.
I think that in order to truly thrive I need to get out of my current living situation (I’ve been back at my parents for 4 1/2 years since my breakdown) because Mom is a narcissistic abuser. It’s gotten steadily worse while I’ve been here, and she’s retiring at the end of the year….and her rules include that I’m not allowed to use the kitchen or take a bath or shower when she’s at home. So I don’t know how to cope with that when she’s at home all the time.
Dad is my carer and we’ve been fighting, I’ve been fighting, to try and get me adequate support for years now but it’s so hard to get services involved when I’m stuck between mental health services and autism services and neither want me because of the other condition. (Autism say I’m too mentally ill for them, mental health say they don’t deal with Autistic people).
Trying to figure out what kind of care I need in the community is complicated because I probably need a cleaner….except I can’t handle strangers in my living space or touching my stuff. I need a PA to deal with letters and appointments, but they don’t seem to exist in the community. It’s just all such a mess.
Starting my blog has me moving closer towards thriving but I’m so stuck in this shitty living situation where I’m constantly stressed and afraid to even leave my room when she’s home. I can’t keep surviving like this.
[…] habits are just survival […]