Surviving vs. Thriving

You can approach life in one of two ways.

You can focus on surviving, or you can focus on thriving.

There’s a time and place for both approaches.

Like most things in life, neither is inherently good or bad.

These approaches are merely tools — to be applied in the appropriate situation.

More than approaches to life, they are categories of skills.

Surviving is a skill set.

Thriving is also a skill set.

Having spent many years of my life in both categories, I have concluded that the skill sets are quite different.

The most important thing to understand is not mixing up when to use each skill set.

A survival skill set is appropriate when you have a very real risk of not being able to pay the bills, get food, or have a place to sleep at night.

A thriving skill set is appropriate when the actual risk of being homeless is very low.

When it’s time to thrive, the focus is on life fulfillment, meaning, and contribution.

The problem comes in the transition period between the two.

If you want to transition from surviving to thriving, using more of your survival skills doesn’t work.

For example, if your focus is survival, always take the highest paying opportunity.

If money is the only thing standing between you and starvation, by all means, take the highest paying job you can find.

However, if your goal is to thrive, you might take the job that’s more enjoyable with better long-term potential, even if it pays less.

If you merely want to survive, you may not need to build relationships with others.

If you want to thrive (both personally and professionally), it's awfully difficult to do so without building high-quality relationships with other people.

(Professionally, you want a varied and diverse network of contacts. Personally, you want a robust support network of friends and family with whom you derive great personal joy and satisfaction.)

If you want to survive, an argument could be made for sabotaging other people’s careers -- if doing so benefits your career in the short run.

If you want to thrive, a counter-argument could be made for helping other people’s careers -- as they may be able and willing to help your career in the long run.

Here are my two questions for you to consider:

1) Which strategic focus serves you better right now: surviving or thriving?

2) Are your daily actions consistent with your answer to question #1?

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2 comments… add one
  • Dipesh Guwalani Aug 5, 2018, 10:21 am

    Hi Victor,

    I keep reading your articles, they are extremely helpful. I wanted to know if you have any guidelines on “how to comprehend like a consultant?”

    • Victor Cheng Aug 7, 2018, 4:19 pm

      Hi Dipesh,

      I don’t think I have an article on that specific topic. Could you be more specific in what you’re trying to understand? I can keep it mind for articles I write in the future.


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