Surviving vs. Thriving
Surviving vs. Thriving by Bob Hudson
An important question to ask oneself is am I thriving in life, or am I simply surviving? A few years ago, I went to my favorite national park – Yosemite Valley. A couple of days after my 12 hour hike up to Half Dome and back, when I finally had the energy to reflect on the hike itself, I became aware of a few things. The day of the hike, at 7 AM, my friend William and I started up the mountain. We had a great time enjoying the scenery, the waterfalls, and all the unique granite formations that make up Yosemite Valley. Between regular exclamations of – “Oh, that is beautiful!” – we enjoyed talking and connecting as brothers. It was a great time. We were thriving in the experience.
About two thirds of the way up, I started to connect to some serious pain in my legs. I was surprised, but I kept plodding along. I was still enjoying the time, but with regular five minute breaks spread out along the path! After the 4,800 foot ascent from the valley floor we made it up to the top of Half Dome and I immediately took a 20 minute nap! My thighs and calves were pretty sore and at this point I was gingerly walking around the top of this granite mountain.
After a time of exploring the dome and enjoying the majestic views we began our way back down. About two hours before we reached the bottom, I ran out of water and was simply willing myself forward during this last stage of the hike. As I reflected on this later, I realized that William and I had stopped talking to one another and we see ceased basking in the beauty and grandeur of our surroundings. No more – “Wow, that is fantastic!” We were focused on getting down and getting off of our feet. All of our energy went to this end. Although William was fairing much better than me! However, I had definitely transitioned from thriving to surviving.
What is survival about? Part of it is about expending all of our energy to get what is needed in the moment. It was striking to me that we had nothing left within us to enjoy the moment and all that it presented. No energy for beauty. No energy for relationship. We are in survival mode when most of our energy is spent on trying to obtain what we think we need.
When we are thriving, we have reserves. We have a well to draw from that energizes us and enables us to be present with ourselves, others and with God. There is space for the enjoyment of beauty. There is a reservoir out of which pours our capacity for relationship, love and joy. Surviving can look different for each of us. For some, survival is simply the status quo, the sum of our daily efforts to make it through another day, leaving little room for what might fill us up to a place of thriving. For others, it’s plodding along unconscious of even the possibility of what thriving would feel like.
Take a moment and ask yourself – “Am I surviving or thriving? In relationships? In my purpose in life?” Ask yourself if you’re living from a place of reserves and fulness, or are you living off of the fumes of your own efforts, challenged to experience joy and beauty, not to mention the gift of intimate relationship with God and others. If so, you might take a look at what you were focused on and consider another way. Maybe it’s time to step off of your survival path – just existing – and risk discovering ways that will fill you up to a place of thriving. For me, this looks like being in nature, stillness and silence or worship and meditation on God. Everyone one gets “filled up” in their own way. However we do it, to thrive requires that we make space to be filled so that we have the energy, the spirit, to LIVE, to LOVE, to ENJOY the grandeur of GOD and his PRESENCE in all arenas of our lives. After all, Jesus did say that he came to give us an abundant life – a life of not just surviving but a life of thriving in him. Amen!