Surviving or Thriving?

by | Sep 13, 2020 | Well-Being | 6 comments

To survive is “to continue to live or exist in spite of (an accident or ordeal),” according to Google. COVID is definitely an “ordeal.” I can’t think of an external event in my lifetime that’s had such a profound impact. I haven’t experienced a World War and I wasn’t alive during the Great Depression. Survival mode is prevalent right now. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty is widespread. People are doing everything possible to take care of their families and meet their financial obligations. Many have lost their jobs. Many are living on a drastically reduced income, with unemployment assistance not covering their expenses. Many have been thrust into the role of educator, having to help their children with distance learning. Many businesses – both small and large – have permanently closed their doors.

Survival Mode?

Self assessment time…Are YOU in survival mode? Start by recognizing this. If so, it’s OK. No need for guilt or shame. Don’t be afraid to reach out – whether you need a friend to lend an ear or a professional. Ask for and seek the help you need. Remember, others may not know you’re struggling. Also, focus on self compassion and self care. This is highly personal, so do what feels good to you – listen to your favorite music 🎶, read a novel 📚, soak in a bubble bath 🛁, or write in your journal 📒. Move your body. Exercising produces the chemical endorphins, which causes a positive feeling in your body. Is your gym closed? Dance around the living room 💃! If possible, get out in nature 🌳 – communing with nature is also known to have positive benefits. Did you know that helping someone else can make YOU feel better? A random act of kindness, volunteering or just reaching out to a friend are simple things you can do for others that have a boomerang positive effect. The situation we’re in is challenging on many levels, so if you’re in survival mode, take care of yourself and get help from others.

Conversation With a Friend

A recent conversation with a friend really got me thinking. We were talking about goal setting and she said that owing to COVID, most people were in survival mode – think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – and not focused on setting and achieving goals. At first, I thought “she’s right!” I’d forgotten about Maslow, his pyramid and the concept that until people’s basic survival needs are met they can’t focus on much else. As I was lying in bed that night, I thought about all the people in different communities I’m connected with – the Jack Canfield community, Marie Forleo’s B-School community, Amy Porterfield’s community, Tony Robbins’ community and so on…many of the people I know in these communities are setting goals, working towards achieving them and moving forward in their lives. To those of you who are thriving during these challenging times, commend yourselves for your resilience and perseverance.


To thrive is “to grow vigorously; flourish; prosper,” according to Google. Do you know people in your life who are thriving right now in spite of COVID? I can – and I’ve also read numerous accounts of people thriving. They aren’t allowing the pandemic to hold them back. I’m sure you’ve heard the word “pivot” quite a lot over the last several months. The examples are endless. One of the biggest pivots is offering services virtually that were previously offered in person. In my community, restaurants are setting up tables and chairs in parking lots since indoor dining isn’t allowed. Creative solutions to unforeseen challenges.


Have you heard “if you’re not growing you’re dying?” I find this really thought provoking. I bring it up because I believe GROWTH is the answer to a lot of things. I believe growth contributes to happiness. I believe growth helps move us from surviving to thriving. When you’re in survival mode, you may feel stuck. Whether you’re surviving or thriving right now, I challenge you to grow. Growth doesn’t have to be giant steps – take baby steps, if necessary. Learn something new or expand your knowledge on your favorite subject. And, since I’m a “serial goal setter,” I suggest you set a goal – a goal you can complete by the end of the day, week or month of September. Even if today you’re in survival mode, I believe you don’t want to stay in survival mode. Practice self care and compassion and get the help you need to take steps forward. With time and a little effort, you’ll be growing and moving towards thriving!

To get you started on your next goal, check out my free Goal Guide here.
Please share in the comments what you’re working on. I’d love to hear!

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  1. Gina Santamaria

    This is such a great post, Susan! Inspiring and informative. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Susan Barr

      Thank you, Gina for being so inspiring to me, too!

  2. lisa

    This is such a great post, thanks for sharing! I’m definitely trying to get out of surviving and move more into thriving!

    • Susan Barr

      Thank you, Lisa! You are so inspiring to me!

  3. Anna

    You are so right! I appreciate that you have acknowledged that some people are in survival mode, and that is perfectly okay. Sometimes, it seems like people are made to feel bad or lazy for being in survival mode, but there are many factors to it. And it is true that we can get stuck in survival mode. So it’s important to be aware of where we are at. Yet you have shared small, encouraging steps for people to take towards thriving when they are ready.

    • Susan Barr

      Thank you Anna for your comment. You are correct! Survival mode is not lazy mode. We’ve all been in survival mode at some point, and sometimes it may be longer than we’d like. But if we can move forward one step at a time with the support of others and with self-care, we can be on our way towards thriving!


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