What You Need to Know to Move From Surviving to Thriving

by Alli Polin on January 31, 2017

Parents remember their child’s first day of preschool. Your baby, leaving the nest and on their way to college. Well, not exactly college but it is their first time exploring the social world away from you, their mommy or daddy, and your watchful eye.

You drive them to school and drop them off with the hope that they’ll have fun, make friends and begin to understand the world in new ways. At first, the three hours you spend apart are both the shortest (gotta run errands, right?) and the longest three hours of your life.
When my oldest was preschool age, she was a little peanut. She almost weighed a whopping 18 pounds. Most of her peers, on the other hand, were huge in comparison. The teachers used to joke that on a windy day they imagined her blowing away, off of the playground, never to be seen again.
I’ll never forget our last parent-teacher conference. I thought I’d see some artwork, hear stories about playtime or see a snapshot of her baking with the class. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My daughter’s preschool teachers told me that her friends would have days where they excluded her and explicitly told her that she was not invited to join in their play. To say I wasn’t happy would be an understatement.
To my surprise, the teachers never intervened or suggested a better mantra for preschool like, “include all of your freaking classmates – especially the ones who are your friends.” They simply shared their observation (in reality, their opinion) that she didn’t notice and just played on her own. Since she didn’t care and was unaware, they didn’t do anything.
Didn’t notice? Didn’t care?
Yes, she had some fair-weather friends but to suggest that she was socially unaware so they didn’t need to step in didn’t sit right with me.
We talked about it at home.
“Honey, are there times your friends don’t include you?”
Yes. (Of course, she knew that it was happening.)
“How does that make you feel?”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
I don’t know.
We continued talking, and it turned out she didn’t want to cry in the corner or run to the teacher. She chose to play and have fun. She felt bad but chose an unexpected path – a resilient path. Guess the preschool teachers hadn’t seen that much with all the criers in the classroom.
To this day, she is one of the most positive and resilient people I know.
Since preschool, she’s been in four different schools and moved to the other side of the world; thriving through it all.
My daughter is not a survivor, she doesn’t just get through things, she thrives. I’ll bet you are too and if you’re not, you have what it takes to make the leap from surviving to thriving.

The Difference Between Surviving and Thriving?

Surviving is life on the hamster wheel and thriving is tapping into your abilities off of the wheel with competence, confidence, and creativity.

The first rule to transform surviving to thriving: Don’t let someone else dictate your self-worth or your happiness.

Years ago, maybe a few kids in preschool told you that you couldn’t play. Perhaps now you’re excluded from a meeting at work. Those moments and those people don’t define you or determine your worth – you do. If you’ve been holding on to those moments, replaying them on a loop, or letting them make you hard or angry, stop.
You’re giving up your power.
You have the power to choose happiness, choose to believe in yourself, choose joy, resilience, courage, confidence. You have the power to choose you even when someone else doesn’t. Do it. You deserve it. 
Your challenge: Next time you see someone being excluded and you think that they don’t notice, assume they do. Now, make two choices: 1) Invite them in 2) Recognize their strength as opposed to their obliviousness.

The second rule to move from surviving to thriving: Be a bridge builder, not a door shutter.

Your challenge on the flip side: Do not be the person who slams the door. Don’t be the person who stomps on someone else’s worth or idea or opinion. Just don’t. Yes, it’s easy, expeditious even, but not helpful.
As far as I’m concerned, it can’t be said enough: We are stronger together.
When you slam the door on people who are different than you, you both miss out. People are not objects in your way, they’re human beings – like you.

The Secret to Thriving at Work and in Life

Thriving takes both an inside out and outside in view of the world. It’s about being and doing – not only one or the other. Knowing your worth, finding happiness from within and building bridges to create a stronger tomorrow – thats the heart of it.
Get centered on who you are, and other parts will come into alignment too. I promise. You’ll thrive when you embrace the fact that your life does not happen to you – you are a player with influence and choice.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Bazin January 31, 2017 at 7:07 am

Excellent post as always Alli! Love your reminders on how to thrive. Much of what you say are awesome tweets! I will be sharing a lot. Have an awesome day my friend!


Alli Polin January 31, 2017 at 8:12 am

Truly grateful for your support and connection! Thank you 🙂


Terri Klass January 31, 2017 at 9:26 am

I love the honesty in your article. Many of us could not share the truths about our children the way you do. But you do have extraordinary kids who have taught all us so much about making it in this world!

Thriving is key and during one point of my career I realized that I wasn’t cut out for a financial focus. Even though I had prepared for it, I wasn’t thriving as you describe. I was merely surviving.

Excellent post and lessons to share! Thanks Alli! Terri


Alli Polin January 31, 2017 at 6:45 pm

It must have taken a lot of courage to step away from your work in financial services. Noticing that it wasn’t lighting you up and making a change tells me a lot about you and what you value. Here’s to making the choice to thrive. Truly appreciate you, Terri.



LaRae Quy January 31, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Well said, Alli…thriving requires us to look deep inside ourselves to uncover what gives us value and meaning. It also requires that we not be so self-absorbed that we can’t see or understand what others are experiencing…


Alli Polin February 1, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Talk about well said 🙂

Thanks, LaRae


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