“Survive or thrive” is a very hot topic these days.  Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington were lead speakers at the QuickBook Connect conference in San Francisco giving advice to young small business owners seeking to make it big like them. Their advice to chill out each day away from computers and social media was not readily accepted. Take time out, sleep more, turn off the tech connections – yeah right!  The response from these up and coming business owners was “I’ll sleep when I’m rich like you”.

Our American culture is well known to value long working hours, competition and material accumulation. It’s how we “get ahead” and how we think that we”succeed”. The pressures to succeed or just keep up whether in the work force or daily living do not value taking time out but in staying wired and connected to many tech venues 24/7.  We have become a society that has forgotten how to care for our bodies and souls and to communicate and interact with those in our community. Too much world news, demands, material accumulation, tech talk not face to face talk……..We become life survivors who at the end of the day find ourselves fatigued in body and soul and often lacking in time and inclination to look within at what may be our passion and purpose in life.

When I think about “Survive or Thrive” in my own life, I have to admit that I was once driven to succeed by long working  hours and exhausting my mind and body to complete work projects.  Work was my mission in life. The money was great.  My material desires were met. Goals to help the world through my philanthropic consulting seemed to help the community.  Yet, something was missing inside.  At the end of the day I  felt depleted not excited. I was surviving but in retrospect not thriving. There were elements in my life that just did not exist and I often thought those elements of living my passion (whatever that was) would come at some later point (who had time?).  Little did I realize that the elements that would define how I thrive in life were pieces of my life puzzle that I needed to define and nurture. They were not something that could be handed to me by someone else. I was surviving in life when I thought I was thriving.

So what is the difference between survive and thrive? Here are my thoughts:

A dictionary definition states: “Survive means to remain and continue in existence and persevere especially in spite of danger or hardship.”  We survive the demands of a long work project. We survive the death of a loved one. We survive the damage of mother nature’s earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes.  In each case, we are reacting to some circumstance outside of ourselves .  We move through each day and do what it takes to make life work.  It’s true that each situation challenges us to dig deep and discover what we are made of. It may surprise us to know that we possess survival skills (perseverance, determination, strength, courage) that may open our awareness and appreciation to who and what we are.  But operating in survival mode day after day will take its toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions.  Sooner or later we could find ourselves in burn-out mode and operating on a tank of empty energy. Its when surviving becomes a lifestyle with no reflection or down time that we lose a sense of joy and verve for life.

“Thrive is to prosper, be fortunate or successful and grow and develop vigorously and flourish.” It comes from a place of knowing our life purpose, fully embracing our passions and confidently living life with gusto and enthusiasm.  It manifests as we actively nurture the gem within ourselves that is our unique knowledge, skills and being to offer to the world around us.  To thrive is trust our inner wisdom that acts as our compass to navigate life in the best way we know how for our own well being and the well being of others around us. The ability to thrive is not measured by outside standards but by a set of internal measurements that each of us must devise and which determines our perception and behavior to the situations we face each day.

The truth is that we need the skills of both surviving and thriving – the ability to face and work through challenges head-on and the ability to reflect, recognize and appreciate our unique inner wisdom that leads us toward a life worth living. Both require effort and commitment and a choice.

For me, choosing to thrive in life has meant a letting go of a way of thinking, competing, and accumulating that was valued by outside standards but really did not bring me happiness nor stoke my inner fire.  And it has taken some time to come to terms and acknowledgement of what “Thrive” means for me and how I can nurture that.  Looking outside the box for health care solutions took me in the direction of Traditional Chinese Medicine, qigong practice, meditation, Reiki energy work – all of which helped me to slow down, tune inward and discover what was important to me.  These modalities were the gateway to my now choice to approach life with an attitude and action to not waste time but to appreciate each moment as an opportunity to thrive.  And to thrive means to be happy, true to myself, and most of all enjoying life with all its ups and downs and challenges and opportunities.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive…and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”   – Maya Angelou

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