Are You Surviving or Thriving?

Coach Ruben shares why we are caught in either a state of surviving or thriving; an excerpt from his interview for my book Healing Happens:

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What Coach Ruben, author of Evolving Health, is sharing in this video is that we either have the sympathetic nervous system triggered or the parasympathetic nervous system operating. The sympathetic nervous system initiates the flight, fight, or freeze reaction, or as Coach Ruben puts it, being in “survival” mode. On a mental/emotional layer, I relate that to being in a phase of processing. In the parasympathetic nervous system, we are operating in a peace and relaxation response, or a state of “thriving.” On a mental/emotional layer, I call that being in a phase of creating.

This is so important to look at because in flight, fight, or freeze mode our blood is rushing to our body so we can perform quick physical action. It is not rushing to the head where we can think logically and come up with smart resolutions. If the sympathetic nervous system is always triggered, imagine the tension building up in your body. That physically makes toxins build in your body which causes disease. But imagine being able to approach everything in life from a state of calmness where you come up with superconscious resolutions; where you are magnetic, healthy, and happy.

There are a few ways to understand how this plays out in your everyday life…

This week I went to see Malala speak in Portland. She is the youngest person to have won a Nobel Peace Prize. She grew up in a town in Pakistan going to the school her father started. When the Taliban commanded girls not to go to school, she spoke up. Because of that, they shot her. She was very close to death and woke up in England where they completed her treatment to keep her alive. She has now created a campaign to have every girl in the world going to school. With education, these girls can have a greater understanding of how this world works and more equal opportunities. That then becomes one of the steps towards world peace. This is her way, which is a great way, of helping people switch from trying to survive to thriving.

In your everyday life, what are ways in which you think you are getting caught in survival mode instead of thriving mode? What are you doing that causes stress versus relaxation? Is there a way to look at what is causing you stress differently so that you remember you have a choice as to how you respond to life? My favorite quote from Malala’s talk was that she forgave her shooters because she figured “forgiveness is the best revenge.” She mentioned how before the shooting she had some fear of death and afterwards she knew death did not want her yet.
Fear is related to being in survival mode. Love is related to thriving. You do not need to love what someone else is doing. However, you will feel better if you choose to feel love inside yourself.

Are you in a relationship, job, or home that does not meet the potential you would like? Are you grinning and bearing it? Do you see how that can cause tension in your body, mind, and heart? Or are you just being focused on the negative when there is much to celebrate that you could be noticing. If not, just taking that first step towards changing your situation will automatically move you from a state of surviving to thriving.

Are you choosing your foods out of a sense of desperation, or a desire to fulfill a hole, or are you eating with a sense of wonder and adventure? There are certain foods that humans started eating out of survival because there was no other choice. When the survival foods are eaten all the time they cause inflammation, yet we commonly eat them today. When you are stressed, do you notice you crave more food and more sugar? When you are in a relationship do you crave less chocolate and ice cream than you do when you are single?

It is actually a blessing if you notice any of these patterns in yourself. It makes it easy to see you are trying to fulfill a desire from something outside of yourself. Very simply putting your hands on your heart and saying, “I love you,” or spending a few minutes doing deep breathing or meditation will calm the desires and create more inner satisfaction. Chanting is a great method of fulfilling the heart. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the riches of this world. The issues arrive when our happiness is attached to something we cannot control.

My favorite analogy is the difference between being in a state of processing versus creation. We usually process when something happened in the past that we did not like. That does two things; it keeps us focused on the past and it keeps us focused on something that does not make us feel good.

After one of my relationships ended, I spent some time processing what had happened so I could learn from it. It was fun to discover the source of our issues and it kept me out of the present moment. Then the present moment presented some great opportunities that I wanted to take advantage of. I felt there could be more to learn from the experience of that relationship yet also did not want to hold back from those opportunities. So I prayed to God that whatever else I needed to learn would naturally be revealed to me. And many things were revealed to me! In those quiet moments when my mind was relaxed in the shower or driving, the best revelations would hit me about that past relationship. I did not need to sit around and consciously process. Instead I could be in a state of creating something new and thriving.

Another example happened when a girlfriend took an action that crossed the line of what is acceptable to me in my friendships. At that very moment I had my first meeting with my first coach and was ready to take action on a new business. I did not have an income and was starting from scratch. She apologized for her action and wanted to spend some time processing it. I had not done anything wrong and had nothing to resolve for myself. Then it also hit me that my whole friendship with her was in a state of processing, or, in other words, complaining about how the past did not go the way we wanted. I forgave her, said I had a lot of work to do, blessed her inwardly, and then did not have any more discussions with her. It was hard to cut her out, but I wanted to work and to surround myself with people in a state of creation and not causing drama so there can be something to process.

Part of the benefit of staying in a space of processing is that it is very clear what we need to work on. It can also give us an excuse to blame someone else for our failures. The mind is designed to keep us safe. Sometimes it feels as if ‘the known’ is safer than ‘the unknown.’ Being in a state of creation is a vast wide unknown space where we have no idea how everything will turn out. Yet we also feel more alive, energetic, motivated, enchanted, and joyful in that state. All you have to do to make that switch is take one step at a time. As we move more energy in a direction, that energy will build magnetism and momentum. That causes the creative energy to get larger and be more focused. As more of our space gets filled with that energy, there is less room for anything else. Malala is too focused on her mission to spend time focusing on what terrors had been done to her and her friends in the past. If you feel low energy or lack of motivation, simply try one new thing, and then another and another.

Making the choices that stimulate a thriving creative life will lead you towards greater health, livelihood, happiness, and sense of purpose. This is where even greater dreams come true than we even imagined. As one of my teachers would say, create the present moment from what you want to see in the future.

To get a free download of Coach Ruben’s explanation on How to Create a Thriving Diet, please visit


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