Are You Surviving or Thriving?

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Dear Jane,
Everyone talks about thriving. How do I know if I’m thriving? What’s the difference between surviving and thriving?

In both surviving and thriving, we may struggle at times, feel fear of failure or rejection, or worry that we are not worthy of what we long for. So the distinction between surviving and thriving can easily get blurred.

But surviving will lead us to a dead end whereas thriving, although it may take us down a long and meandering path, offers up surprises, serendipity, and synchronicity.

Surviving can be identified by our endurance symptoms—anxiety, boredom, self-criticism, addiction, low energy, avoidance, depression, lethargy—to name just a few that I discuss in Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life.

When we habitually wake up in the morning dreading that today will be a repeat of yesterday and the day before and the day before that, we are enduring, not thriving. The bad news is that endurance sneaks up on us. We don’t know we’re in endurance until we’re pretty miserable. The good news is that, once we recognize the sources of our endurance, we can say “Enough is enough!” and begin leading a more fulfilling life.

We endure because we’re fearful, self-judging, or believing a limiting thought. Often, these sources of endurance overlap such that we are experiencing two or even three of them. We may be fearful because of a limiting belief. For example, if I believe that I am not good enough in some way, I may be quite fearful of putting myself in situations that will likely trigger this belief.

The problem with latching onto our fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs is that they constrict us. How can I have new experiences that debunk my limiting belief about being unworthy if I avoid situations that have the potential of making me realize I was wrong? Instead, in endurance, I will get to be right…and miserable.

Thriving isn’t necessarily any less challenging than endurance, but it does lead someplace new and different. Instead of being right and miserable, we get to be surprised and excited about life.

So what is thriving? It is our willingness to commit to our spirit’s longings no matter what! No matter what fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs pop up to distract us or try to protect us from humiliation. It involves perseverance: committing no matter what others say the odds against our achieving our goals are. No matter what we have told ourselves about being too old, too young, too uneducated, too busy, or too poor. Thriving is choosing to pay attention to our spirit rather than to all the chatter that has stopped us from living our extraordinary life.

Thriving is like buying a car. When we purchase a new vehicle, we suddenly see the same car in greater numbers on the road. This isn’t because more people bought the same car on the same day we did, is it? It’s because our attention is now focused differently from where it was before. Wherever we focus our attention dictates what we see and experience. If we focus on our fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs, it’s like putting blinders on. These are all we will see and experience. On the other hand, if we focus on listening and attending to our spirit’s callings, we will see and experience extraordinary new people, events, feelings, and thoughts.

As soon as we shift from surviving to thriving, we allow surprise, serendipity, and synchronicity to help our spirit along. We are now saying “yes” to the Universe, which expands our peripheral vision and gives us a new view of potentials and possibilities. Thriving requires three things: a willingness to listen to ourselves; a willingness to be wrong about our prior fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs; and the courage to be explorers.

The first two requirements must come from within. The third one—courage—we can allow others to support us in. Find people who listen to their own spirits, who have beaten odds, live joyfully, and find compassion for themselves and those around them. These are your mentors and your heroes and heroines.

Many of us wait to listen to our spirit until tragedy or illness strikes. My wake-up call came in the form of a brain tumor. But we don’t need to wait to allow ourselves to be inspired. Let today—your child’s smile, your urge to paint, the sun warming your skin, a desire to help someone in need—be enough.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at

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