You overcame challenges. You lost dreams, hopes and loved ones. Yet you survived. You paid with blood, sweat and tears to be where you are today and now you’d rather stay dormant. Because you only know two states: when you have no choice, you fight to survive; when you do have a choice, you become passive. In other words, you waste the life you fought for. Because you don’t know how to spend it wisely. You don’t know how to be happy.
You probably heard that about 70% of the people who win the lottery go bankrupt within a few years – having money is unfamiliar; they don’t have a spending plan, are overwhelmed or simply have an “easy come, easy go” mentality. But the reverse – “hard come, easy go” – is also true: when you’ve been fighting to survive for so long and you finally get to experience peace, you are overwhelmed. No wonder you go idle after all that you’ve been through; like a caterpillar too tired to become a butterfly.
Shifting from merely existing to thriving is not easy, but it’s worth it. Do you remember when you were deep in the storm and didn’t know how to fight? Yet adversity forced you to level up. Adversity pushes. But happiness invites. Happiness doesn’t threaten your survival; it threatens your habit to fight for survival. And that is unfamiliar, confusing. You’d rather fight a demon you know than embrace an angel you don’t trust. But how can you start to trust? How can you actively engage in bringing yourself into blossom?
This journey takes time and change doesn’t happen overnight, so patience is key. Like with any other skill, you will need a lot of practice until you get better at it; but it’s worth it. You deserve to enjoy the return on your investment. You fought hard to survive. Now reclaim your right to be happy. While there is no universal recipe, here are a few points to help you make the shift from surviving to thriving:
1. Process your fights. Give them a meaning. You made it this far for a reason. What’s the story you tell yourself? Are you aware of all the strength inside? Do you see yourself as a victim or as a warrior? Give yourself time to mourn the amazing things you deserved but didn’t get to experience. Find the thread that connects your struggles to your gift and acknowledge how they’ve equipped you to make a difference in this world.
2. Observe your coping mechanisms with curiosity – these patterns are the legacy of your fights. What behaviours helped you come out the other end? What are your dominant thoughts? Are you afraid of getting used to joy and then being robbed of it? Do you find it hard to trust others? Do you think you don’t deserve to be happy? How often do you feel this way? In which context do you experience these thoughts?
3. Interrupt the patterns that no longer serve you, with patience and compassion. At first, you will feel uneasy every time you do so – should you listen to your gut or not? You will often slip back into the old habits but that’s okay. With every attempt to override your default reactions, you learn to trust the process. You could also benefit from the support of a coach or therapist along the way, to distil your feelings and recalibrate your inner compass.
4. Leverage your unique strengths. Thriving and happiness also involve fighting to some degree; but this is a challenge you embrace and enjoy. It implies grit, hard work, falling and getting back up – these are skills you master already. Yet instead of using them as a prerequisite to survival, you use them to maximise your life. Think of it this way: Fighting got you fit. But being fit will also help you be a good dancer.
5. Ensure your blooming is seen and shared. Not on social media; in real life. Connection will help your growth pass the test of time. Imagine how different time would be in the absence of life that measures it; how different a piano would sound in the absence of the ear that rejoices in it; how different turquoise would look like in the absence of the eye that marvels it. Blooming is also more meaningful when witnessed by a loving heart who roots for you.
Take heart. You made it to the shore already. Rest for as long as you need. But keep going. Some amazing views are waiting to delight you as you climb to the fullness of your life.