How to Quit Living in Survival Mode

Are you operating in “survival mode”? Does every day feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above water?

Many of us—myself included—have lived far too much of our lives just trying to make it through another day.

It’s like we’ve been thrown into the ocean and we’re fighting desperately to keep from drowning. 

You don’t know how to swim, and you can barely tread water. 

You’re close to going under for the last time while those around you are wearing life jackets, exerting no energy at all to stay afloat. 

You can’t even think about trying to get to shore because all your efforts are going toward simply surviving.

Others appear to be thriving and are making steady progress toward their goal—the beach and the safety it offers. 

You’re terrified that at any moment a huge wave could engulf you, taking you under and sealing your demise.

You can only dream about what it would be like to float effortlessly on top of the water like you see others doing.

It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? 

Yet, that’s exactly how I’ve lived much of my adult life; maybe you have, too. Each day, I’ve spent my time and energy dealing with the demands and trials of life, waiting for my real life to begin.

That’s right—most days I’ve felt like this wasn’t my “real life”; it was more of a “starter life”—a warm-up to the real thing that I would begin someday when everything fell into place.

You know what I mean. The wonderful, awesome life I’d experience every day when I had more money than I needed, when there were no problems that required my attention, when virtually every moment of every day was as close to perfect as it could be. 

I have believed that that is when my life would begin. 

This fantasy has staked a hold in my brain for decades now. Here I am in my 50s and I’m still waiting for “real life” to begin. For everything to be exactly the way I think it should be. For there to be joy inexpressible every day without any effort on my part.

So far, none of that has happened.

I don’t believe we were put on this earth merely to survive—just to squeak by with no real progress toward anything of significance. 

So, what is the answer to this game of survival that characterizes so many people’s lives?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. If I did, then I wouldn’t have spent so many of my years as described above. 

I believe that to overcome living in survival mode we must take a step back and take a hard look at our lives. We must make a mental shift—doing it daily or even hourly if need be—to see ourselves as living our true lives now.

Life is not about to begin—we certainly don’t have any promises about the future.

Life is the here and now. Today. This hour and this moment. Every minute builds on the one just before it, so if we want to experience all that life offers, we have to live purposefully in the moment. 

We must realize that we have nothing else. The past is history. The future is not guaranteed. This very moment is all we have. 

Make this moment count, so that the next moment is even better.

Take what you have and make it the very best it can be—whether you have the metaphorical life jacket on or not. 

Life doesn’t treat everyone the same way. Some are born with advantages that others can never even dream about. 

It is up to us to use what we have to the best of our ability, realizing that even if we don’t hit every goal, we’ll still be better off than when we started because we did our best every moment of every day.

We have just one life. We must make the most of it every moment of every day.

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