The answer is easy. We tend to be in survival mode all the time. If you were wondering, there are two modes: surviving and thriving. When we are in survival mode, it means that we are trying to mitigate risk. The biggest importance to you is to make sure that you are safe and that you have your basic needs of food and shelter. Thriving is different. Thriving is trying to ascend your current state, not through fear, but through desire.
Acting based on survival is essentially acting based on fear. If a lion is chasing you in the jungle, running away from it is due to the fear of being eaten, or mauled to death. Hunger is the way to tell your body you need nutrition. If you ignore these impulsions in the stone age, you’d probably die. It’s the basis of natural selection.
In the modern era, we don’t have to really worry about a lion attack. Food also comes in abundance even though those who live in less fortunate conditions would say otherwise. Thankfully, a majority of us get by with food in our stomachs. This brings us to the other part of our evolution in thriving in order to do what our bodies are meant to do in reproduction. Yes, sexual selection. The reason why guys buy fancy cars they can’t afford and women extensively use Instagram filters. These things serve as the value for potential mates and the mate allows them to successfully reproduce.
In the simplest form, I’m saying that there is a natural need for us to survive, but there is also a yearning to go beyond just survival and thrive. The thriving aspect of life makes us feel like we’re living up to our fullest potential. Some people may see it as a way to accumulate wealth, but I see it as the yearning to be one’s fullest self.
So how does one go from surviving to thriving? There seems to be a bit of a gap between the two. Everyone tries to survive, but not everyone thrives. Thriving only occurs with emotional stability. It’s great that we no longer have to worry about a lion, but this type of abundance has given us other issues. We use to have to protect ourselves from the physical aspects of life. Now we do it from the mental.
Every day we are pummeled with information. Our phones give us a 24-hour news cycle from every part of the globe. We have to deal with people in front of us and icons we scroll on or swipe through on social media. Even going out with friends may come with some considerations to make in order to be cool with the topics and trends. None of this is really an issue. The issue is being able to control it all, which not a lot of people know how to do. Our mind spends most of our time with seemingly useless information and gets too tired to think about things that are worthwhile.
It really goes back into assimilating into everything that’s going on all the time: survival. In order to thrive, you must embrace difference. Being different says that you’re comfortable with the abundance of the world and ready to navigate it in a way that is personal to you. It’s also important to see the world as a coherent whole rather than millions of chaotic individual events. Discovering your differences is another way to discover your own values while deriving meaning that drives those values in your day-to-day actions.
It sounds simple, but not a lot of people do it, or it’s incomplete. For instance, people have values but have never looked at the world as a coherent whole. In other words, they haven’t cared to inspect the other side of the coin. They are stuck in the ideology of their culture, their family, or their (wait a second) political affiliation. These people are happy to be there and become ignorant of any of the other multiple perspectives. They believe it’s easy to ignore because anything else is noise, but in reality, they are cutting themselves off from experiencing what the world has to offer.
Then you have another person who has experienced the world. You see them in their traveling photos. They definitely live life to the fullest and have an open mind toward just about anything. The problem is they have a hard time creating a set of values that they can adhere to. Something that’s their north star. There’s no real meaning to the things that they do, and it becomes a problem when the thrills of a trip across the world don’t happen every day. The things that they do tend to then either be a distraction or an addiction. The seduction of life is forever constant in this world of information. There’s no real way of knowing when to stop.
In both cases, people have a hard time digging deep into themselves to find the answer. Actually, people look at surface-level issues as the cause of not being able to do the things that they want. We blame how we look, or the company we work for as excuses to limit our possibilities. There are some small-town kids looking for the opportunity to move, but not doing a single thing until that happens. What we deem as obstacles are just symptoms of a bigger underlying issue.
How Do We Get Rid of the Survival Mindset?
You’re not going to like this answer. I give this answer a lot at work and people just stare blankly at me as if I told them nothing. The answer to moving behind survival is cultivating awareness. We have to be aware of our own actions and be our own therapists. When something occurs in which you feel like you are living in a survival mindset, you must stop and consult with yourself. You’re the only one watching your own actions. No one else can be your guide.
This is hard because it is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, meaning that given your current situation, in comparison to others, others may have had a head start to actualization. Everyone’s had a different born with different privileges, different experiences, different parents, and mentors. Some haven’t been as good as others. Even with these inequities, we do know that the information that can help us out there in the world. We all have access to the information. It’s up to us to take the initiative to find it.