Many of us, either by intention or perceived necessity, have adopted a certain strategy for living in this world.
We wake up and ask ourselves the question, “how do I get through today?” We go to work and try to determine what exactly we have to do to be okay, often walking on eggshells. We take this same mindset into our relationships. We aim for just short of falling apart and are thankful to get it.
Our terminology for this is “just getting by” and it is even more pervasive than the usage of this phrase.
Just getting by was the primary way of life for most of humanity, even before the COVID19 pandemic began. Although it certainly exacerbated the situation. In some ways, it helped us become more aware. As tragedy often does, it warns us of the fragility and uncertainty of life.
Many have responded to this with increased fear. It is a monument to how prevalent the “getting by” worldview is that, when it is shaken, we double down rather than look for a better way.
Our brains are capable of a very subtle trick. When we are mired in the pattern of “just getting by”, it swallows everything around us and remakes it in that image.
For example, the idea of doing something more, of pursuing excellence in some way, as a means to rise above our “just getting by” is often merely a clever repackaging. We send ourselves into daily, superficial attempts at greatness as a padded buffer for getting by. We tell ourselves we are doing more. What we are often doing is lowering the standard for what “more” really is. More of the same? That is just increased apathy, if there is such a thing.
We often equate pursuing excellence with making money or earning the validation of others. These are just methods of getting by. They are not truly anything other than the very thing we are trying to rise above.
If we are to pursue excellence, then, it must be accompanied by truth. It must be real. Not superficially adequate to reality, but in alignment with the very nature of truth itself.
Surviving to Thriving
What we are talking about here is moving from a life focused on surviving, prolonging death and defeat, to one of thriving, breathing and acting with a true transcendent purpose.
How do we do such a thing? The answer is at once simple but not easy. We do it by effort. Intention.
The reason we give up so easily on a life of purpose is not because we do not want it but because it is hard. It is a lot of work. Pursuing the truth is a difficult task. It is going to cost you something, namely, what you used to think was the truth. Effort is going to make you sweat. It is going to hurt.
And we think about a thriving life as one devoid of pain. That is your just-getting-by talking. Sit in a lounge chair sipping a cold drink for the rest of your life and see how long it takes you to get bored. An hour. A day. A week. What about a year? A year of doing nothing but sipping your cold drink in the sun. You’d be close to insane. It may not sound like it because you are so mired in whatever circumstances are causing you pain today, but that dream is a most devastating kind of pain – a complacency, a giving up, a forfeiture of life.
Ironically, the purpose we seek is available in the pain. Because learning hurts, risk hurts. When your muscles grow, they strain. Why should your soul be any different?
The key is to restructure what we endure, how we endure it, and for what purpose we endure?
This process begins by taking the time to intentionally discover your values and a vision. What is the truth, the ultimate truth, for which you are striving? How can you reframe your obstacles as an opportunity to propel you toward that vision rather than an eternal evil that needs to be avoided?
These are not easy questions. Seeking answers will hurt. Finding them will not be a magic elixir to avoid difficult circumstances. But this is the key to thriving, to truly living rather than just prolonging death.
For many of us, COVID was a necessary time to stabilize, to survive. To get by. But we must be careful it does not become a pattern we accustom ourselves to. It is time to move to the next level. It is time to begin (or continue) the difficult work of thriving.