How To Move from Surviving to Thriving
Recently, I heard Dr. Henry Cloud explain the difference between a “surviving” mindset and a “thriving” mindset. It hit me that for the last nine months, many of my activities have come from a surviving mindset.
My wife has had very significant health challenges which required us to abruptly shift into survival mode this past year. Almost overnight, we had to stop most of our typical activities and rhythms. So many things were placed on hold as we focused on my wife’s care. Nine months later, we are finally beginning to get back to some of our normal rhythms and habits.
It’s a picture of what’s been going on for all of us, at a much bigger scale. For the last three years, we have all adopted some survival mindsets as we’ve weathered a global pandemic. Initially, I think everyone thought it might last for a few weeks. Then the timeline for returning to normal shifted to a few months. And then variants and mutations extended that yet again into a year or more.
Back in 2020, we all moved into survival mode in some way or another: working from home, stopping our social engagements, changing our relational habits, and adopting a new way of living digitally. We shifted to telemedicine calls, online grocery shopping, online church, and super-casual comfortable clothing for seven days a week.
And though these changes were in many cases necessary, they did not come without a cost. I think many people would say they have been surviving but not thriving these past few years. We are seeing how mental health challenges—already an issue before the pandemic—have skyrocketed. Physical health is declining, relational skills are on the decline, and we are lonelier than ever before. Hostility has replaced civility. In the business arena, companies have burned through cash reserves, and other companies and individuals have had to declare bankruptcy.
Survival is still very much an issue. But as leaders, we each have a critical opportunity to help move people from survive mode to thrive mode. In order to do that, we must first make that shift for ourselves.
So what does that look like? Here are few initial steps toward thriving that we can make together:
1. Start re-introducing some consistent social interactions into our lives.We need people, and we weren’t designed to live in isolation. Isolation is a “survival” practice, not a “thriving” practice. For me personally, I have started scheduling some coffee time and lunches with leaders that I used to meet with, and it has been incredibly life-giving.
2. Get the heart rate going again with some vigorous exercise.We all know how good exercise is for us mentally, emotionally, and physically. I just cut my gym membership cost by half, thanks to post-pandemic pricing. I now go to the gym during off-peak hours because I still have to guard against germs and sickness, but my time in the gym is life-giving as well.
3. Reconnect with a group or start a group that provides support and connection.For many people, this habit got lost due to the pandemic. Groups are sort of like exercise: they aren’t always fun and there are a few people (like a few exercises) that can be a pain, but we know we are better for it when we do it.
4. Have fun again.My daughter and I recently went down to White Rock Lake in Dallas and biked for a while. That’s something I used to do weekly. It was so invigorating! We have so many fun activities that are available to us, now that the seasons are changing, and things have reopened. Try shifting from survival mode to thriving mode and give yourself permission to go have some fun.
5. Vacation again.That two-year home “staycation” wasn’t really a vacation. It was survival behavior. It sometimes felt like prison. Use your vacation time to take a mental break and experience some of the amazingness available to us.
Here is the fun part of making the shift from surviving to thriving: it’s contagious. Yes, the coronavirus is still contagious, but so is a mindset that embraces the fullness of all that life has to offer. As a leader, people will watch how you live and will often follow your lead. We can teach people how to thrive again partly by seeking to thrive, ourselves.
We don’t have to say much. As we start getting together again with people, exercising, getting in a group, having some fun, and taking vacations, people will catch what we are doing. They’ll realize what’s been missing from our lives these past few years and see how they can begin to move toward reclaiming those things in their own lives.
Let’s thrive again!