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How to Move from Surviving to Thriving.

Updated: Apr 21

by Thandie Balfour


The first quarter of 2021 is over and when you speak to a lot of people a common phrase that comes up is ‘survival mode’. It appears most people just want to go through 2021 with minimal damage. A lot of people are grateful to have survived 2020 and so appear to be satisfied with just the same for 2021. This is all well and good except for the fact that when people talk about surviving there is usually a heaviness and reluctance that goes with it as well. People want to survive however there is also a sense desperation that is linked to survival. The problem is that survival mode almost implies trauma or some form of struggle. At its most basic survival means there is some imminent danger out there that needs to be survived.


At its most basic survival means there is some imminent danger out there

that needs to be survived.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines surviving as ‘remaining alive or in existence; living on or continuing to function’ whilst defining thriving as ‘to grow vigorously; to flourish; to progress towards or to prosper’. Just from the definitions one can already tell which one we should be working towards. While survival is good in that it implies continuation, what people really want out of life is to thrive.


While survival is good in that it implies continuation,

what people really want out of life is to thrive.


Let us look at what that means by looking at a few contrasts between surviving and thriving.

  • Survival is about staying afloat, doing everything necessary to stay alive or merely maintaining the status quo. Thriving on the other hand is about not just being satisfied with merely surviving but wanting more. It is about growing, flourishing, developing.

  • Survival is determined by external circumstances and is largely driven by a mindset of fear. Thriving requires internal strength and is driven by a mindset of possibilities.

  • Survival is about being stuck in a ‘comfort zone’ while thriving is about being uncomfortable with prolonged comfort.

  • Surviving is about looking back at the past and thriving is about looking forward to the future.

Survival is good and necessary but thriving is clearly so much better.

So how do we move from merely surviving to actually thriving?


Well the starting point is to have a mindset of gratitude. As indicated survival implies hard or harsh circumstances that one has had to go through, so knowing that one has made it is cause for appreciation. There is however a risk of complacency as a result of surviving. People may end up being satisfied with ‘just surviving’. A mindset of thriving is about not being satisfied with what society defines as enough but knowing that there is more.


So instead of using gratitude as an anchor it should actually be the springboard from which we leap forward.


So instead of using gratitude as an anchor to hold us down it should actually be the springboard from which we leap forward. Gratitude has been shown to help increase people’s mental strength, helping them overcome traumas. It is not about being grateful for a stressful event but rather finding something to be grateful for irrespective. What this does is build resilience. Gratitude compels us to not allow circumstances to be a deterrent whilst balancing that with having compassion for those around us.


Thriving requires a mindset of knowing that life is bigger than just the current circumstances and faith that things will ultimately work out.


We need to cultivate a curiosity and a hunger for life. When we approach the future with a sense of adventure we develop passion and determination and we allow ourselves to dream and to fully commit to the future.


Thriving is about seeing each new day as a gift and as an opportunity to do or be better than yesterday. It is about loving yourself so much that you know deep in your soul that you can be or do better.


So instead of merely enduring the rest of 2021 I would implore you to enjoy it, to look forward to all the surprises it has in store for you and to pursue those with a hunger and a passion that only comes from a desire to thrive.


‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style’. –Maya Angelou

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