There was a time in my life when I lived in extreme survival mode.
I was in school, newly married, commuting daily between Philadelphia and New York (much bigger cities than what this hick-town girl was used to!), physically unhealthy, getting little sleep, across the country from all my friends and family and very isolated...life was, needless to say, very stressful.
But I had to keep my head down. I just had to keep working, had to keep going, had to make it through this phase in my life without stopping, because if I stopped I was terrified it would all fall apart. I was dealing with major flesh wounds (so to speak) by slapping on bandaids and drinking more water.
I'm going to venture to guess that you've probably had a phase like this in your life, or are even going through one right now. Every day is a battle, every moment you have to just keep yourself going and not stop for a minute, because if you stop, you die. (Sounds dramatic, I know, but *news flash* fighting for survival IS dramatic.)
The interesting thing is, once I got myself out of this situation and moved on to a new, less stressful, non-survival phase of life, I didn't let go of my conditioning. Life looked different, but I didn't feel all that different. I had worked so hard to get myself through survival that those habits, thought patterns, and techniques I used to get me through, stayed with me even though I was at a different point in life, no longer needing to fight every day. I had gotten to a stage where my survival was intact, and now the important thing to focus on was how to create a thriving life.
As you can guess, however, trying to implement survival tactics in a thriving world can be...difficult.
It can be like a little corgi trying to run up the slide over and over again...except a lot less cute.
Survival mode and thriving mode require two different mentalities and skillsets. Trying to match one with the other simply doesn't mesh, and it turns into a hot mess.
- When I'm in survival mode, I am wary and defensive. I have to constantly be on the lookout for any sort of threat to my well-being and my success.
- When I'm in thriving mode, I am open to connection and curious about the world. I'm always in a state of anticipatory wonder about what's going to come up next!
- When I'm in survival mode, I don't have time to create, and I don't have time to experience fun or pleasure. If I do have fun, it's for a limited time before I have to shut it down and get to work again.
- When I'm in thriving mode, I get my fuel from creation, fun, and pleasure. I let myself participate in wholesome and enjoyable activities, and I look forward to them, knowing that fun and enjoyment bring new ideas and fresh energy.
- When I'm in survival mode, nothing can please me. I have to keep everything and everyone out, so that I can focus, put my head down, and make it through the next day.
- When I'm in thriving mode, I enjoy finding the good and positive in things and people. I welcome imperfections because I know it's nobody's job to make me happy or give me what I need. I take care of myself so that I can make it through every day with ease and pleasure.
Now, life is not always so binary or black-and-white as these side-by-side comparisons. But you can probably see that they're very different approaches, and are useful in certain situations.
It is not necessarily the most helpful for a soldier in battle to be "open to connection" or "in a state of wonder." That soldier needs to be calculated, articulate, and armed with strategies in order to survive.
Likewise, it is not helpful for a life coach or teacher or spouse or plain ol' human being seeking the good life to be "wary and defensive, constantly on the lookout for a threat" or "trapped in a state of constant work and no fun." You can see how the approach here kind of beats the purpose!
When we move from one phase of life to another, specifically from survival mode to thriving mode, it typically isn't helpful to take our old tactics with us. When we hold onto these old tactics, our external situation might look a lot better, but we feel just as trapped and fearful on the inside as we did when we were fighting for survival.
If you want to get to a place of thriving, it is time to update your habits, mentality, way of living, and way of interacting with the world.
There are many people who, when they are released from prison or captivity, are fearful to "step outside the gate." They stay within the physical or mental gates of captivity because they've been so conditioned into fear and being trapped. This is where I was, operating within my old paradigms even after I physically had removed myself from a survival mode situation.
If this is you, now is your opportunity to free yourself from that. You don't have to hold yourself back from happiness and success any longer: you are free to be you. If in reading this you recognize even a small piece of yourself, I'd invite you to step onto a new plane of thinking and bring your whole self (not just your physical self) out of captivity.
There are many different ways you can do this, but the first baby step you can take is a simple mental shift using affirmations. Saying things to yourself like "I live in freedom" or "I am in a healthy environment" can be monumental in changing your mindset.
This might feel uncomfortable or even scary at first, which is why you don't have to do this alone if you don't want to. I'd like to invite you to step into a free soul dive session with me, if you feel so called, to help you free yourself to move forward.
We can't just show up physically and do all the "right" things to get ourselves to a place of thriving. Thriving requires health in the mind, body, and soul. It's all parts. If you've been trying to create external success to no avail, I'd invite you to look within through a lens of curiosity and ask yourself if there's something inside you that needs attention.
And then, let yourself have it.