How to Move from Surviving to Thriving

We often think of survival mode as the flight/fight/freeze response we experience when we encounter a life threatening situation. 


If we feel threatened or are actually being physically assaulted or abused, our survival instincts automatically kick in.  Survival is our top priority; we will run if we can, fight if we have to or freeze, shutting ourselves down, to get through the experience. 


Awareness and safety are two key points. The earlier we are aware of a dangerous situation, the sooner we are able to respond and take appropriate action to get ourselves to a safe place.  We are able to see situations as they arise, think clearly, make good choices, and move towards safety. 


However, I believe that many of us feel far from safe.  Instead, we live and experience our lives through survival mode.  No, I don’t mean that our lives are physically threatened on a daily basis, though in many homes up and down the country, this is indeed the case. 


I mean that we live in a perpetual mode of knee jerk reactions, as we move from one drama or disaster to another.  And rather than physical danger, we face or perceive the threats mentally and emotionally, through our interactions with others at work, home, socially, in our marriages and personal relationships.


In survival mode, our sense of safety is compromised further, as we rarely have time to think about ourselves and what we need.  Instead we are focused on what we have to do, where we have to be, who we need to take care of, the deadlines we need to meet, the projects that need to be completed, that next meeting, and how are we going to fit it all in, is there not enough time / money, what happens if ‘this or that’ is not done.….and it goes on and on.  


As a result, we panic, become angry, frustrated, hurt, upset, worry, lay blame.  We take flight by running away from people and situations; we fight to defend ourselves and attack others or put ourselves down, or just completely shut down as we struggle to keep up with ourselves and the demands of our lives.


Not sure about you, but for me, this is not living!!


10 Ways to recognise if you are living in Survival Mode?

Circle the points that resonate with you.

Do you frequently

  • run late; for work, meeting deadlines, paying bills, etc
  • struggle or simply do not prepare for the day, week, meeting, getting the kids ready for school, etc
  • find yourself fighting your way out of situations; arguing or defending yourself.
  • react out of anger first and think later
  • struggle or panic to make those crucial decisions
  • need everything to happen yesterday.
  • miss key signs and signals that demonstrate your life is about to hit the fan, 
  • shut down, pretend that everything is fine and refuse to deal with your issues head on or take responsibility.  
  • run away as far away as you can to avoid rather than face up to your issues.
  • jump into things without really thinking through all of the pros and cons.  It was a good idea at the time.

So, How do you Shift from Surviving to Thriving? 

Imagine survival mode as us living on a merry-go-round.  Therefore, in thriving, we are getting off and putting ourselves back in control and in the driving seat of our lives.  


When we do ‘just enough’ to get through our most recent drama, we stay on the merry-go-round.  However, don’t knock it too much, short term solutions do have there place.  A bit of breathing space can help you think and plan for your next move.  The trick is not to get too comfortable.  A short term solution is just that and is not to be relied upon, in the long term.  


Therefore, we need to take some time to really consider what we want in the long term.  The most important question is what type of lifestyle do want like to lead, what would make our lives more comfortable?  To do this, there are three key steps we can take


  1. Stop!!! Step away from your life.  Stop running around trying to catch your tail. 
  2. Take a breath and reflect on the points and the areas of your life where you most live in survival mode.  Where you are now?  What would you normally do in these circumstances?  Remember the old adage, a sign of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  So is there something you could do differently?  
  3. Take a step back and picture what you want to create.  What would it take for you to arrive at your version of thriving.  Explore the different options and the different directions each one could take you.
    • From the options you have explored, which ones provide a short term solution and what subsequent action can you take to move from surviving to thriving.
    • Which ones are more long term and will take you into thriving?  Try each one on for size.  How do they feel and which one is more likely to take you closer to the lifestyle you would like. 

By making this change, you are committing to yourself.  This is a process, so be gentle with yourself, it took you time to get into survival mode.  Thriving will take time and require you to be consistent and persistent.   Just don’t give up, you will get ‘there’ in the end – just have an idea of what that end will look like. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. 

Please get in touch if you resonate with anything in this article and want to discuss your story and the changes you would like to make.