Define Your Own Path: Thriving is Better Than Survival Mode.

The other day my friend Rachel had an odd request of me:  to take a picture with the note she had given me when she asked me to be a bridesmaid and send it to her for her wedding website.  I obliged even though I had yet to shower or put makeup on that day.  I could choose to wait to respond, go—as my mother would say—”put my face on” for the day, fix up my hair, and change out of my workout clothes into a cute outfit…but I didn’t because that wasn’t me in that moment.  If there is anything I have learned over the past few months is that being me—the real, authentic me—is crucial for me to continue to thrive in my journey.  And it just so happened that me in that moment was exhausted, hungry (due to a day of fasting), unshowered (pretty sure that isn’t a recognized word), and content in my sports bra and workout pants.  So, that is what Rachel got from me.  I cracked a joke about no shower and no makeup with a laughing emoji because I am human and at times still catch myself providing a sarcastic, backhanded explanation for things. Her response:  Okay, you’re like glowing Linds—seriously.   

Glowing.  A word I wouldn’t have used to describe myself in what I considered an unkept, messy state. 

Nevertheless, Rachel’s comment put a smile on my face, and not because she gave me a compliment about my appearance or because she reassured me that I looked ok for the picture.  It put a smile on my face because in that moment I realized the work I put into developing and strengthening my inner mindset, discovering my true passions, and embracing my potential was  actually physically noticed.  I was “glowing” because I finally discovered my  inner happiness.  In my attempt to improve my mindset and find ways to go beyond “survival mode” in my life, I failed to recognize that something I thought was an internal accomplishment for myself would also be apparent to those around me.  People noticed the change and not just my physical change. 

I realized a few things from my conversation with Rachel.

  •  We tend to live a life in “survival mode”.  Instead of living in this mode, we should strive to overcome the obstacles that hinder us from thriving above our survival. 
  •  We choose to live consumed with worry about others dependency on us or their reactions to our emotions and decisions.  This is a lot of unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves.
  • We go through the motions of life because we are terrified to define our own paths.  We are not risk-takers.

But I also realized something else:

  •  The moment we allow ourselves to be free from expectations, free from living a life that only “gets me through my day” and choose to live a life that satisfies and fulfills because we are living out our passion, that is the moment our inner strength will shine.  This moment will free us from “survival mode”.  Drain out the worry and fear.  Give us direction for our own path.

For years, I trudged through the motions of life.  Do well in school.  Stay active in sports and clubs to look better on my college applications.  Go to college.  Study toward a specific job or career.  Graduate.  Find a job for my major.  Find a roommate and apartment (or in my case move back home for a bit).  Start job.   Stay in this field for 8  years, even though something else was tugging at me to leave. Instead of continuing, I ended the motions there.  I could have continued with all the motions, but all those descriptions, they weren’t fully me.  I realized, and so should you, that there is so much more to us than what is seen on paper. 

I am more than my title.  I am more than the image perceived by others.  I am more than my “grade” as an employee.

 I could have continued to stay in a job that wasn’t fulfilling me, but I chose a different path. Prior to leaving, my depression and anxiety consumed me, yet I stayed out of fear of the unknown.   I stayed because I doubted my capability in anything else. I stayed because I felt lost and staying on this unhealthy path seemed better than getting lost further in the woods.  I didn’t realize just how unhealthy I had become in every area of my life because I allowed one aspect to breath toxicity into my lungs, pulling me into a mindset that I had to stay because I had no other option.  Staying when I knew I should have left, robbed me of my passion.  Of my dreams.  Of my potential.  Of my thriving.  I lived for survival when I should have lived to thrive. 

Why do we choose to seek out only survival?  “As long as my head is still floating above water, I’m surviving.  I’m doing good.”    Anyone else say this to themselves?  I don’t want to just keep my head above water.  I want to dive into the water and swim through the mess, uncertainty, and fear because staying and floating gets me nowhere.  Swimming can take me in so many directions, the possibilities are numerous.  Swimming takes me to something new.  Swimming won’t keep me in a state of “I’m good” but will allow me to be in a state of greatness.        

We live in a world that always tells us we must be the best.  The best athlete.  The best employee.  The best boss. The best parent. Why don’t we include one of the most important “best”?  The best us.  If we don’t strive to be the best us, we will always feel like we are failing at the rest, never living up to what we misguidedly believe to be our potential. 

How can we give our best to others when we aren’t willing to give it to ourselves?  

So that is what I am attempting to do.  A few months ago, I went in and resigned from my job with no backup plan, ready to get lost in the woods to discover my true passions.  I am choosing to do the hard work on creating my best me, so I can offer that to others.  I stepped off my path and I don’t know what lies ahead of me. At moments, I am terrified.  At moments, I want to retract every step I have taken for myself.  At moments, I just want to sit down in my muddy path and cry for help.  But then there are moments like Rachel seeing my inner glow that remind me why I chose this path for myself.  I know it may sound cheesy or a bit cliché, but your inner glow, your genuine happiness will resonate on the outside when you decide to strive for greatness.  Stop floating with your head above water and swim!

It isn’t easy, but it is freeing, when you put the work in to strengthen, improve, and care for your own healthy mindset. It will not go unnoticed.   If you find yourself stuck on a path that you feel trapped on, be bold.  Be fearless.  Step off the path and define your own.  Get out of your “survival mode”, and when you do, people will see just how much you can thrive, unkept, messy and all.

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