In the summer of 2107, I was a part of the greatest experience I have ever had in sports. I was an assistant coach and trainer with my eldest son’s lacrosse team at the Ontario championship tournament. We were one of the lowest seeds in the 16 team ‘B’ division, which was a higher calibre than the ‘C’ that we had been used to.
The team really gelled during that tournament and we advanced through our pool play and the quarterfinals and wound up facing the runaway favourites to win the tournament from Burlington. The only reason Burlington was not playing in the ‘A’ championships was a glitch in the ranking system. They were clearly in a class by themselves.
While we were clearly outpowered, our boys did what they could very well, our goalie was ridiculously great, and we got some timely scoring from a couple of our talented majors.
We were well into the third period and we were ahead 4-3. They came at us with everything they had in those final minutes and we just held on for dear life. Trying to score was completely out of our minds, we were just trying to survive in our defensive zone.
After what seemed like an eternity, the final buzzer sounded, and we had done the unthinkable. Our bench was silent, their bench was silent, the entire crowd was silent in disbelief about what they had just witnessed.
We went on the win the first ‘B’ championship for a Cornwall lacrosse team in 50 years.
Going into SURVIVAL mode for a few minutes served us very well in this case. We were clearly overwhelmed and outmatched. Had we tried to match their skill and talent in that third period it would have led to slaughter.
SURVIVAL mode can be a valuable tool for a short period of time…..when our survival is at stake. As a long-term strategy, it is a nightmare.
Everybody in that arena knew that had the game gone another few minutes they would have tied it up and likely won shortly thereafter. We were in no position in those last minutes to expand on our lead or even express the talent we did possess. All of our focus and energy went into one thing only – surviving elimination.
This is a lesson that can be applied to life in general. Hopefully for most of us, we spend extraordinarily little time with our survival actually at stake. We experience this when we have serious physical trauma or a major disease, our job or business is at stake, or perhaps a close relationship is on the brink of collapse.
The value of SURVIVAL mode is that it buys us some time until we can gather ourselves and take action. Unlike lacrosse games, an arbitrary buzzer doesn’t go off to signal the end of the game in real life. At some point we must figure out the threat in front of us.
The C-19 situation has clearly created lots of SURVIVAL mode in people. In some it is literally a matter of physical survival. In others it is about financial survival, academic survival, and unfortunately mental and emotional survival.
The initial response in March for most was to lock everything down – just like our lacrosse defense locked down. Stay home, close your business, stop working. Survival. We were initially told 2 weeks and almost everyone agreed that this was a reasonable trade off.
Here we are over 10 months later and many in our population are still locked in survival mode. Some by their own choice and others as a result of restrictions placed upon them.
Regardless as to whether we agree or disagree with what has transpired, it is clear that there have been massive deleterious impacts of this prolonged survival mode. Physical illness, mental illness, loss of education, financial hardships, destroyed relationships and lost opportunities.
This once in a lifetime situation illustrates what happens when we remain in SURVIVAL mode for extended periods of time. When we are focused in SURVIVE, it is impossible to THRIVE. If we are stuck in SURVIVAL we cannot grow, learn, expand, or create – all the things that make life joyful and full of meaning.
People just trying not to die, will not do things to create abundant health (have you noticed the C-19 authorities recommending a healthy lifestyle to combat the virus?). A business doing everything it can to keep its’ doors open will not build long term success strategies. A person on the verge of mental/emotional collapse is not focused on building mental health, just not succumbing to a lack of it.
The key to success in any area of life is to be able to enter survival when appropriate, take the lessons from within it, and then use the pain, fear, and dread to move into thrival.
When we are able to do this, we can actually use our mortal fear of a virus to create a greater level of health than we had before. We can take the pain of the loss of money or a job or a business to take actions that will make us wealthy. We can develop strategies for increasing our joy and happiness BECAUSE of our mental health crisis.
The key is adaptability.
One of my focuses at Nexus throughout the last 10 months has been to help people’s nervous systems to be as adaptable and flexible as possible. To help people to become ‘unstuck’ from the SURVIVAL state of a nervous system locked in fight or flight. To give their physiology a glimpse of rest, relaxation, and ease so that instead of just getting by, they can start to THRIVE.
Ten months into this thing, ask yourself, ‘where am I THRIVING and where am I just SURVIVING?’
‘How can I use this crisis as a catalyst to THRIVAL, both now and in the future?’