10 ways to Identify if you are Surviving Life instead of Thriving

by | Oct 12, 2016 | Surviving vs. Thriving | 14 comments

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I’m going to be brutally honest. Surviving life SUCKS.

Like, really sucks.

As we discussed before, there is a big difference between surviving life and thriving. But how do you know if you’re just surviving life? Is it a feeling? Do you just know? Or is it sometimes hard to tell? Can some people go their whole lives surviving and never “know” (I put it in quotation because I believe that we all know on some level when we are not completely satisfied, we just often make excuses or we choose to focus on the parts of our lives where we are thriving).

Here are 10 ways to identify if you are in survival mode:


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Each day you get up because you have to. Surviving is about moving through life without PASSION. Its about just getting by.  Not LOVING life, but just liking it a little bit (or not at all).  It doesn’t mean you’re depressed and always down.  It doesn’t mean that you’re always anxious and worried.  Nope. It means that you’re just getting through the day.  Doing what you have to do. Getting things done.

You often just run through the motions.  Alarm goes off and you get up. You grab your coffee because you need it.  You do your morning routine (whatever that may be) and head to work. You do your work (you might even kickass at it) and you wait until that moment you can go home.  You may even meet friends for happy hour.  You may not.  You even may work out. You may not. You may just go home, plop down on your couch, turn on Netflix, order some take-out and settle down for the night. You may even cook an amazing meal. You may even have a partner to sit down with and chat about your day.  But you often have nothing exciting to share. Yeah, maybe you nailed that presentation, or booked a new client, but still felt like something was missing.  A day without passion means a day that was just another day.

You are engaged in the things you are doing, but you’re not excited about them.  To just be surviving doesn’t mean that you’re not successful in your job.  It also doesn’t mean you’re in a low-paying, dead-end job.  You could be running your own company and still be in the surviving category.  You could be making $1 million a year and be surviving (I know that sounds ludicrous to some of you, but money definitely isn’t everything – and yes, yes, that’s what they all say).  You could be moving up the corporate ladder at an earth-shattering pace. Yes, you can be all these things (because you’re still a kickass human being who is pretty freakin’ smart) and still be just surviving. And this relates to relationships too (don’t think I forget about your love life!).

You’re riding the rails of an emotional roller coaster.  Some people say that there are good days and bad days.  Now, I agree, there are definitely good days and bad days.  Some days are just inherently better than others.  But when you are surviving, the swing between good days and bad days is HUGE.  There are a lot of bad days and when it’s a bad day, it is a BAD day.  And when it’s a good day, it’s a GOOD day.  Sometimes there is an anxiety in the morning about what kind of day it will be. And when a bad day happens, it often makes you lose sight of all the good days like the good days never happen and possibly won’t happen again, that life its just a string of bad days put together.

You hide (aka stuff) your emotions. When you feel a strong emotion, you don’t tell anyone about it. Or you minimize it. Or you tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way. You push your feelings aside and tell yourself that they are not important, or no one will understand, or no one will accept them. You tell yourself that you can get over it or that maybe you were misinterpreting something. When you’re mad, you tell yourself you’re over-reacting (and maybe you do end up over-reacting because of all the times when you have told yourself you shouldn’t be angry). When you’re hurt, you cry alone (or you suck it up and shove it aside). When someone lets you down, you cut them out of your life as a way to avoid telling them they messed up. Your feelings are like an iceberg: only showing about 10% to the world.

You live for the weekend.  I hear this a lot. “I just LIVE for the weekend.” Fridays can’t come soon enough. So each week is 7 days and you “live” for only 2 of them? Wow. That sounds really tough.  Turns out, you’re only “living” 104 days out of the year. No matter how you fill your weekend (sleeping in, making plans with friends, drinking, or binge watching Netflix), 2 days is just not enough time to truly be living.

You often see the negatives in a situation first.  This doesn’t mean that you are always a negative person, but it does mean that whenever something happens to you or others, or someone has an idea and explains it to you, or you’re faced with adversity, you often recognize the negatives about whatever it is first.  You might get to the positives eventually, but the negatives are what pop into your mind initially.

You live your life for others. As a mom, my days right now are pretty much dictated by what my baby needs (she’s only 7 months old, so that kind of makes sense).  And that’s ok, but many many years of only doing what my babies and kids (and husband too!) need, now that’s draining and a life that is not lived for me, its lived solely for others.  Maybe you’re not married and don’t have kids, but you’re constantly having to answer to bosses, or family members, or friends, or a partner, who drain you of your “you-ness,” who occupy all the emotional space in your life and don’t allow you (maybe they don’t even mean to, most people don’t) any space in your own life.  You’re constantly thinking about what others need and rarely thinking about what you need. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a client, “What do you want [or need]” and they pause, tear up, maybe even cry, because no one, not even themselves, has ever asked them that question.

You’re making no progress. Life is all about progress.  We never want to be stagnant.  Stagnant = stuck. No progress = stuck.  And stuck = surviving.  When you’re not progressing you are settling.  You are settling for the life you were given, not the life you have seized.  We can settle in so many areas of our lives: work/career, relationships, family conflicts/situations, friendships, where we live, where we travel (or if we travel at all), etc.

You think you’re “just ok.” This is a bit of a self esteem and self confidence issue. You don’t really believe in yourself.  You might sometimes (on those good days), but generally, most of the time, you don’t.  You often use negative language to describe yourself or your situation in life. You get down on yourself A LOT. You believe that your qualities are fixed, that there is no room for growth (more on the fixed vs. growth mindset later).   All in all, you’re just not jazzed about being you.

You could be ALL of the above things or just a few, but no matter what if you identified with any of these statements you might be closer to the “surviving” end of the spectrum (everything is on a spectrum – you’re never ALL one thing or ALL another, that’s life, we don’t live in black or white, we live in the grey and sometimes that can be hard).

And you might not have identified with some of the above statements.  So that brings me to what thriving is.

So what does thriving look like?

Read more here.

So where are you?  Did you relate with any of the above?

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Download my FREE CHECKLIST: 10 action-steps you can take today to tackle any of the issues above and deepen your self-understanding.


More From the surviving vs. thriving series:


Surviving vs. Thriving: Which one are You? 


8 Ways you Know you are Thriving


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