• Dr. Sharon Livingston

You Were Born to Thrive


Our world is filled with constant stress. Stress that results in fear and anxiety; that causes us to feel helpless and alone. Yet anxiety is often a normal, even healthy, reaction to the non-stop pressures of the modern world. It’s an alert that asks us to pay attention.


What isn’t healthy is allowing your anxieties to control your life, to stop you from having the life you desire and is your birthright. The obstacles that you encounter along the way are not your fault. They’re just problems to be solved. Contrary to what many of us have come to believe, you weren’t born to suffer, and you weren’t born to fail or to just survive …


You Were Born to Thrive.


I grew up with a tough mother. No matter what challenges she faced, or we dealt with together as a family or I had to deal with on my own as a kid, she’d always look at me and passionately proclaim, “We are SURVIVORS!” She’d would then go on to say things such as …


We make it through, no matter what difficulties are thrown at us.

We are strong.

We are determined and persistent.

We never give up.


And I believed her. It made me want to take up the fight.


When my parents were newly married, my father contracted a serious skin disease from one of his insurance clients. His legs were swollen and covered with painful lesions. He couldn’t stand or even walk to the bathroom without pain. It lasted for a couple of years. He had to give up his insurance practice. At the time, my three brothers were still little boys. Who was going to earn a living for the family? Mom had to take care of the children and Dad was bed bound.


Six months into my father’s illness, a possible solution presented itself. My father loved my mother’s cooking. There was an opportunity to open a Deli and Cooked Food store near where they lived. Dad borrowed the down payment from his mother and persuaded Mom to run the store and prepare her specialties. She had no experience, but she knew she had to step up.

She did. In record time, she learned about running a retail shop, cooking for customers, managing staff and selling. She put in 18-hour days 7 days a week.


Mom was my idol. She would tell me “heroic” stories as I helped her in the kitchen. I listened in awe; inspired to be just as strong as she was. “Always remember,” she’d say, “We are Survivors.”


In my twenties, working with a Business Coach, I was forced to challenge that truth. When he asked me how I saw myself, I asserted with pride that I was a Survivor. We were on the phone. For a second I thought we had lost the connection because he was silent.


“Brian, are you there?”


I heard him take a deep breath and in a gentle but strong voice he said. “Sharon you are so much more than a survivor. You were meant to thrive.”


I felt a little shocked but as I caught my breath, I realized I was also excited. He was challenging my belief about success.


I didn’t see it until that moment. I had incorporated my mother’s triumphs in overcoming adversity into my idea of success. Instead of being proactive in choosing a career, a mission, a purpose for myself, I was busy putting out fires, and perhaps even looking for fires to extinguish. That’s how I grew up, dealing with the crisis of the moment and the related stress and anxiety which often kept me up at night worrying. It would have been so much better if I could have put myself to sleep dreaming about a future with inspiring goals, then creating a positive plan for myself to get there.


At the beginning of my work life, the crisis was how to earn enough money to have an apartment, feed myself and get educated. That resulted in taking jobs I tripped over and fell into, rather than creating a meaningful career.


But I was proud of myself for finding work that paid the bills, for being able to manage double shifts, for being resilient and persistent, for being a problem solver.


Don’t get me wrong. Being able to survive through daily challenges and the chaos created by events in the world are key to having a good life.


My mother was a master of juggling priorities and taking on each task with commitment and an impressive will. She succeeded at everything she put her mind to. The one thing she didn’t do was fulfill her own dream.


How could she? Her daily responsibilities were overwhelming. She never complained. She just completed each task, one by one, with focus and clarity and pride of accomplishment.


Isn’t that enough?


One time, as she was ironing the 27 shirts from my dad and three brothers that landed in her laundry basket each week, she confided in me wistfully. “You know . . . What I really wanted to be was a teacher.” She loved little kids and wanted to provide what today we call “edutainment” for them -- Teaching while entertaining them. Wow, I thought. She would have been great at that. Kids loved her stories and her playfulness. I felt sad that she had not realized her personal dream. She was smart, creative, hardworking, able to connect well with people . . . she would have been an inspired teacher.


She did get recognition for her culinary capabilities, but that wasn’t her vision.


Constantly dealing with stress and the anxiety it creates prevents us from attaining the joy and satisfaction of choosing and working towards our dreams.


It’s true. The first line of defense is to Survive. Before we can reach for the stars, we have to get our hands dirty.


In my years of working with people who are battling stress and anxiety, I’ve come to learn a lot about them. Whether they know it consciously or not, they see themselves as Survivors, as victims who have made it through a crisis or more likely a constant series of crises.


On the plus side, they’ve developed the resilience and resourcefulness to overcome life’s daily trials. But along with that comes the expectation of struggle. Being a survivor becomes their identity.


Survivors believe they are on their own, with no one they can depend on. They often have trouble with intimacy or relying on another person. They also tend to have limiting beliefs about what they can accomplish beyond the survivor mode.


Fortunately, there is an alternative.


People who THRIVE do so much more than just survive. People who THRIVE pursue their dreams through a set of daily actions that can be learned and incorporated into your beliefs about yourself. Once it becomes part of your routine you will start seeing yourself differently, no longer just a survivor tossed by the currents, but a Thriver who is in control of the rudder and navigates the waters.


People who THRIVE don’t take the path of least resistance. People who THRIVE pursue a life that’s exciting and keeps them feeling motivated and positive about their skills, talents, ingenuity and efforts. People who THRIVE recognize their interests and strengths as well as the elements they need to live a life of optimal well-being.


Are you thriving or surviving? Be truthful. Are stress and worry, rather than joy, self-worth and passion, fueling your life? Then you’re probably just surviving, continuing to exist through a continuous stream of threats, dangers or hardships.


To thrive is to prosper and bloom, to feel good about who you are and what you bring to the world.


If you’re not sure whether or not you’re a Survivor, ask yourself these questions:


Do you tend to choose the path with the least resistance?


Do you blame yourself and sometimes feel hopeless?


Are you hypervigilant, radar up, on the look-out for problems and danger?


When you’re not warding off a problem, are you bored?


Do you find yourself complaining and blaming others for your circumstances?


Are you stuck in your past as the reason for your problems?


Do you see problems as thwarting you rather than as an opportunity?


Do you feel emotionally impoverished?


Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome and fear you’ll be found out?



TO THRIVE IS TO FLOURISH


To Thrive is to live a life that is full. It’s to dare to have a dream and then make it so. It’s being gloriously inspired, yet realistic, based on facts and knowledge. It’s believing in yourself. It’s knowing who you are and what you are capable of.


Why are we surviving rather than thriving?


The two main reasons I hear from my clients are fear and habit. They’re scared of facing the unknown, or they’re “comfortably uncomfortable,” stuck in a routine that’s familiar but isn’t making them happy.


So how do you move from survive mode into thrive mode?


I’ve created a step-by-step approach to help you quell anxiety as you allow yourself to discover your true self and your true goals. The THRIVE™ program is based on scientifically proven strategies to live a vibrant, happier life. The first step is to own that you want to and deserve to thrive. You’ll feel so much better and less anxious because you’re living your truth.


You can start right now by answering these questions the way someone who greatly appreciates and knows you would answer for you.


Who are you?


When you look in the mirror, what positive things do you see?


What are your strengths and talents?


What do you feel proud of in your life?


How do people who care about you see you?


If you could do anything, what might that be? What would it bring to you?


How might you forge a trail to get there.


It’s time to rise above daily stresses and find your passion.


“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Maya Angelou


The next series of articles will describe my THRIVE™ program for overcoming anxiety and living a fulfilling life. Stay tuned for step 1, and until then … Would you like some support to stop anxiety in its tracks and at the same time open the door to your true dreams? Would you like to use the tools to carve a path to realizing your goals? I help my clients reclaim their birthright to thrive. Feel free to contact me. DrSharonLivingston@gmail.com. 603-505-5000 www.SharonLivingstonPhd.com


Like Maya Angelou make thriving your mission in life!


To realizing your best dreams with excitement and confidence.