Are You Striving or Thriving?

How to take struggle and conflict out of your life

A woman stretching in front of a sunset. Words — what if -Here & now — As I am — Simply Being
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I‘m pretty sure most of us want to thrive. To feel alive in the moment and in connection with ourselves and the rest of humanity.

Thrive: To prosper; be fortunate or successful. To grow or develop vigorously, to flourish.

The trouble is we have collapsed the idea of thriving with striving.

Strive: To make strenuous efforts toward any goal. To contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete.

The striving mindset

We have created the idea that to achieve any success, you have to struggle and enter into conflict. In reality, being in a state of struggle and conflict is the polar opposite of thriving.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how you may take the struggle and conflict out of your life. I know that the first step is to recognise that you are in a state of striving, which is the very thing preventing you from thriving.

One indicator that you are striving rather than thriving is that you were attracted to this article by thinking I would show you “how to” do something immediately.

Striving is a state of doing, and thriving is a state of being.

The human capacity to strive is a vital one for survival. We all need to strive to survive if we are struck down by an illness or attacked by an enemy. However, it has become the default mode for some to engage in a fight for survival every day and every moment.

One suggestion for moving towards a thriving life is to watch out for the “flashover” points.


n. the moment a conversation becomes real and alive, which occurs when a spark of trust shorts out the delicate circuits you keep insulated under layers of irony, momentarily grounding the static emotional charge you’ve built up through decades of friction with the world.

From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

I can recognise those flashover points in my life.

That exquisite concert where the music took on a life of its own and began to give me back more energy than I was giving out.

The breakfast with a friend where I decided to set up my own business, which thrived for 13 years until it didn’t.

The moment on Tower Bridge when I touched my future wife’s cheek and felt that exquisite static charge, melting the forcefield I had built around myself.

Then there are those moments of intense struggle where letting go and stepping away, abandoning the goal, seems to be the only choice.

When years of friction with the world, flashover in a burst of static electricity. All those months of intense striving suddenly drop away, and for a moment, you experience weightlessness and freedom.

I resigned from a job when I realised that my conception of what I was doing was entirely different for the rest of the management team. After months of striving to do my job to the best of my ability and keep my integrity, I had a sudden realisation that no amount of striving would bring me any closer connection with the rest of the team.

I still have no idea what their goals and aspirations were other than surviving another day and getting home unscathed. I stood next to a policeman who had assisted us in that day’s crisis and firefighting, and I had such a sense of peace. No great involved thought process took place.  I simply knew in my body and soul that I was done striving. I got in my car and drove away and never came back.

Observing flashover points in others

A client had been struggling at work for nigh on twenty years. His mental health was suffering, and he had experienced a mini breakdown. He was constantly striving but had ceased to thrive.

Over 20 weeks, we moved from constant repetition of daily struggles, through discussing traumatic and life-changing experiences and onto simple survival mechanisms set up in childhood.

One day he arrived visibly transformed. He was no longer carrying a weight on his shoulders. I asked him if something had changed at work.

“No, not really, but it just doesn’t seem to bother me anymore.”

He had shifted from striving to thriving, and he still doesn’t really know why.

Take a step back and view things from above.

This story is repeated in many people I see. They arrive with their faces buried in their hands, desperately trying to work out what has gone wrong in some part of their life. They are doing their best. They are investing vast amounts of energy in trying to get their lives back on track.

I see myself encouraging them to take a step back and give themselves an overview. By the end of our time together, they can see the whole of their life laid out on a table before them. The struggle they came with is a small detail in the repeated pattern of the fabric of their life. The significance and power of it disappear.

Striving is all about trying to prove your worth. Who are you trying to prove it to? Yourself? One of your parents? A sibling? God? The Great Spirit?

Look at your whole life. Is your present concern such a big deal? Earning more money, owning more things, gaining more status, likes, and friends. Does any of that matter if you are not living a life you love?

You are thriving no matter what your inner critic screams at you daily. If you focus on the things in life that feel right, you will continue to thrive. You can still have dreams and aspirations but take your eyes off goals and targets. Dreams and aspirations are fluid, and they alter with your mood. They are possibilities that breathe and change throughout the day.

Thriving is about being human, and striving is about becoming a machine.

Which do you choose?

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