Survive or Thrive Part 2 – “The Difference Between Survive and Thrive”

Four Behaviors Survivors and Thrivers behave in distinctly different ways, as illustrated below. One behavior exhibits specific characteristics of a Survivor. The other behavior describes a Thriver’s more positive characteristics. The purpose of these Survivor-Thriver characteristics is to help you see where you are in your life. You may not resonate with each description, but you may discover that one or two of these descriptions fit your situation. Hopefully, the chart will help you identify where you are and will help you make the adjustments needed to “get off the bench” and discover a new world.

Dodging Trains
I once took an Amtrak train ride from Dallas to San Antonio. The trip took about ten hours and included a prime rib dinner in the dining car. The private cabin we were in was tiny but comfortable. The bed and a small chair folded down from the wall. The ride on the way down was worth the money. However, when I got to San Antonio, the experience was enough. I didn’t want to go back the same way! So, I decided to take a Southwest flight back to Dallas and avoid the train. On the way back home I was thinking about the number of people who are killed by trains each year. The impact of a train would be devastating. However, have you ever wondered how people get in the way of a train? When I was on my trip, it had seemed like the train was blowing the whistle every ten minutes if not more. Dodging life’s challenges is like getting out of the way of a train coming down the tracks. For those who get in the way of the train, the impact is life-changing for everyone involved. Consider for a moment that the train is named “Change” and it brings with it life’s challenges and surprises. How does someone get hit by this train? I have found that the “Change” train comes at me two ways.

1. Didn’t have a clue! I just woke up one day and found myself on the tracks. I didn’t know how or why I got there. I didn’t even see it coming. However, by the time I realized that the train was going to hit me, it was too late. No time to analyze an escape, just wham! Like the time I got a surprise letter from the IRS. Or finding out your spouse left you for someone else and you never saw it coming.

2. Tied myself up and laid down in front of the train. Sounds stupid, I know. I have made some bad choices and didn’t follow the advice I got from people who knew what this train looked like. Like forgetting I need to get my registration and inspection sticker replaced, or filing my taxes late. It’s like ignoring a speeding ticket, not paying bills on time and having to pay late fees, or not studying for a test at college. This list seems to get bigger, too.


The “Change” train is coming! Either you get in its way or you just find yourself on the tracks. What you do next is what this book is about. In the next few chapters we will look at the difference between the behaviors of a Survivor and Thriver. Let’s review those categories now.

Self-Preservation vs. Self-Growth
Are you struggling with a surprising life challenge? Have you been run over yet? If so, then you are in self-preservation. Currently still in shock, you just can’t make sense out of it. You may be asking yourself, “Why me?” You are likely feeling somewhat helpless, unsure, and withdrawn. However, maybe you are far enough down the road after the train has passed that you have a very clear assessment of the damage. You have had some time to heal and adjust. And now you desire to be more engaged with life and fight back, risk again. You are making the switch to more of a thriving mode. When you’re more certain of your direction, your confidence and decisions empower you.

Victim vs. Warrior
Victims are everywhere. Turn on the news and discover someone was robbed, swindled, or raped. It wasn’t their fault; someone else did this to them. They are, in fact, the victims. Being a victim in a surviving mode is to be expected. As victims, we blame someone else for our misfortune. We feel hopeless and our security is shattered—all of which is accompanied by lots of emotion. These are some of the signs that you are still in a surviving mode. After some time, if you’re not careful, you will get stuck at this phase. To move to a more thriving mode, you begin to make the transition to a warrior. Thrivers are warriors who understand that they are accountable to themselves to discipline their thinking and to shape their future and the future of those around them. There is a determination to win and conquer despite the loss. With each step, they are more logical and realistic in their ways, plans, and actions.

Parasite vs. Player
Initially when a crisis happens, it’s also natural to become needier. Our behaviors become more reactive and, like a hurt animal, we may bite if provoked. We attach ourselves to those people or systems that can help us, much like parasites. We don’t have enough energy of our own, so we absorb all we can get from others. Soon we find that we feed off the sympathy of others, talking about the past, going over and over in our minds what happened. Players, in contrast, are those who move from the parasite mode to a more active, assertive mode. We want to get back into the game again and start to create energy for ourselves and others. Players have a more proactive approach to life. Gone is the need to review the past mistakes or hurts. Not to ignore the past, but to learn more from what happened so we can become better players.

Actor vs. Director
Survivors tend to be actors on stage while Thrivers take charge and run the production. Actors tend to act when someone says, “Action!” At times, their real identity is hidden or unclear. Having a present focus but not looking at the entire production is the role of an actor. These characteristics are not bad but somewhat natural to the surviving mode. However, if you are not careful, you may find that after many years you’re still in Survivor/Actor role. Thrivers, as we will see, are more like directors. Endless possibilities are before them, accompanied by a “can do” attitude. They focus on the future with a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses.


The Four Behaviors of Surviving / Thriving

1. Self-Preservation vs. Self-Growth: Shocked vs Healing – Withdrawn vs Engaged – Helpless vs Empowered
2. Victim vs. Warrior: Blaming vs Accountable – Hopeless vs Determined – Emotional vs Logical
3. Parasite vs. Player: Passive vs Assertive – Energy-absorbing vs Energy-producing – Reactive vs Proactive
4. Actor vs. Director: Can’t be done vs Can be done – Present-focused vs Future-focused – Unclear identity vs Clear identity

The Difference between Surviving and Thriving Summary
Look at the list above. All four characteristic are listed. Your adventure starts by looking at each one and discovering where you are in life. What changes need to be made to get you to the next level? As you reflect on the differences between the four behaviors, consider which category you would say most often describes you and your reaction to crises or challenges. In the Survive or Thrive book we will take a look at how these different behaviors play out—each chapter will discuss a different pair of contrasting behaviors. What you read in the next chapter will teach you some surprising differences between self-preservation and self-growth and why self-preservation mode doesn’t protect us as much as it robs us of our right to heal.
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Stepp Stevens Sydnor
B2B Sales Trainer/Coach | Sales Transformation Specialist | Author | Speaker