Survival Mode is Killing You
Survival Mode is Killing You
Have you been living too long in survival mode? Survival mode is the short-term, fear-based mode of thinking you enter when your fight-or-flight response is triggered. It’s the poisonous mentality that leads you to attack or retreat during stressful times rather than communicate and embrace. In survival mode, you spend so much time focusing on the dangers that you miss out on the opportunities; you spend so much time cursing the bad things that happen to you that you miss the important lessons they were designed to teach (and end up going through similar experiences over and over until you reflect more carefully). Survival mode shuts off the part of you that takes risks, uses your imagination, and goes with the flow, and instead directs all that precious energy to the part that plays it safe, holds on to regret and resentment, and too often demands control. It’s fine to go into this state if you’re standing in front of a hungry mountain lion, but living in survival mode on a daily basis will exact a terrible toll on your mind, body and spirit over time. If you’ve found yourself stuck in survival mode recently, below are some damaging side effects it might be having on you, followed by some tips to snap out of the survival mode trap and switch to thrival mode instead.
Survival Mode Swallows You Up in Comparison
Iyanla Vanzant said it best: comparison is an act of violence against the self. Survival mode thinkers, being in an unspoken state of fear, constantly compare themselves to people around them. Comparing yourself to another person can only end with you either looking down on yourself, or you looking down on that other person, both of which are poisonous acts. If you habitually compare yourself to other people, you’re destined to look in the mirror one day and realize that you have thrown away your individuality, that you have forfeited your unique gifts. This world has never been given the gifts of your life and your perspective before, and it will never have those gifts again after you’re gone. It’s really important that you live your own life, your authentic life, because you weren’t put here to be a photocopy of someone else. Instead of comparison, which is a survival mode habit, try inspiration, which is a thrival mode habit. When you focus on inspiration, you try to motivate and uplift people, and you open yourself to receive motivation and be uplifted by them in return. Inspiration requires you to stand firmly in your own self-worth while simultaneously acknowledging the worth of the people in your life, people you’re pretty lucky to have. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. A thrival mode thinker understands that a win for one in his tribe is a win for all, so there’s no need to compare. He also avoids comparison by being authentic and by encouraging authenticity in others. He understands that, as the saying goes, “you can’t out-do me at doing me.”
Survival Mode Makes You Selfish
Survival mode also amps up your stress and anxiety by placing a toxic focus on you. If you’re not careful, you can get so wrapped up in your own problems and needs that you risk neglecting the needs of your friends, family and community. It’s great (you might even say necessary) to focus on self-improvement, but we have to be careful not to become self-absorbed in the process. When you adopt a thrival mode mentality, you can avoid becoming self-centered by instead becoming help-centered. In thrival mode, you understand that at least some of the time you needlessly spend stressing could be better spent serving someone less fortunate. You’d be surprised how well you can heal your own wounds by helping someone else heal theirs. In fact, your biggest scars usually cover your biggest gifts: It’s your unique experience with the pain that will make you indispensable in helping others overcome it down the line.
Survival Mode Makes You Ungrateful
We all develop tunnel vision in survival mode. We focus so much on the bad that we overlook the counterbalancing good. We focus so much on our own flaws that we miss how much we’ve grown and matured. We get so consumed by lack in survival mode that we start taking the relationships, privileges and special possessions in our lives for granted. Take inventory of your life right now, breathe it in, and reflect on it just as it is. Odds are, you have a life that someone else would really appreciate. Don’t let survival mode make you forget how lucky you are. We live in a consumerist society designed to make us focus on lack (after all, you’re not out shopping if you feel content with what you have), and that has to be counteracted with conscious gratitude. In thrival mode, you make it a daily practice to say “thank you” to somebody or otherwise express appreciation for your life.
Perhaps survival mode can be so potent because, as its name implies, it reminds us of our own mortality. After all, any creature in the flight or fight stance has been hit with a reminder that its physical existence won’t last forever. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed; one day your life as it exists now is going to end. But rather than spark fear, let that spark fire in you. Let that be the reason you vigorously chase your dreams, move away from anyone or anything that makes you unhappy, and live your life to the fullest. Let’s adopt the words of Diane Ackerman, who gave us perhaps the best thrival mode affirmation: “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” You owe it to yourself to thrive, and not just survive.