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I’ve given a lot of thought to the notion of thriving vs. living. Each means to, for lack of a better word, live. But adding -ing to the end of each makes them an action, which means we actively work to make sure that those functions are at full speed ahead.


Even though these two words can seem very similar, they are in fact extremely different by definition. You see, thriving means to prosper; to be fortunate or successful; to grow or develop vigorously, and living means having life; being alive; not dead.

One of the biggest difference between the two definitions is contained in the first three parts.

If you are thriving you are:

  1. prospering
  2. fortunate or successful
  3. growing or developing vigorously in some way.

Whereas if you are living you are:

  1. having life
  2. being alive
  3. not dead

The difference here is catastrophic! But, it is interesting. The two words, the two states of being, are not mutually exclusive. You can be alive and not thriving, but you can’t thrive if you aren’t alive. If you are reading this, you are alive, you have one criteria covered. You’re golden, don’t worry.

The problem here is that too many of us are so caught up in living that we forget to thrive. We are so caught up in the day to day that we forget to take a step back and look at the big picture. We are so caught up in waking up at the same time, driving that car on the same commute you hate so much to go to the same job you’ve had forever, put in your 8 hours, drive home, eat dinner, watch some TV and do the same thing the next day and the day after that.

We are so caught up in living that we forget to take a moment to stop and think, “If this was my last day alive, would I be living my dream?”

We forget that there is so much more to being alive than actually living! There is so much more to life than the traditional success story. Your success story doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. You don’t have to follow in the same footsteps as your parents or your ancestors or anyone else in the world, for that matter.

If that’s what you want, then go for it, make it yours. But don’t do it unless it’s you. Don’t go through the motion of the normal life unless it is you thriving. Don’t give up your dreams to actualize the dreams of society, your friends, or your parents. Don’t do something unless it is something that you want to do.

Don’t give up on the dream that makes your heart pound. Don’t give up on the one thing that you can’t stop thinking about: the thing that your heart longs for, the thing that you feel so empty without. Don’t actualize someone else’s potential. Actualize yourself.

This may seem completely millennial and if it does, then good! The thing about millennials is that we don’t go the traditional route. We don’t do what our parents did or what our grandparents did because we have the option not to. Our parents and grandparents may not have had the option to follow their dreams because of societal pressures or because the economy didn’t permit exploration into the unknown. We can do these things because our parents and grandparents did what they did, so be grateful. They sacrificed so we could live a better life, and at some point we will have to sacrifice so our children can live a better life.

You will receive backlash no matter what you do. If you decide to pursue the 9-5 job or decide to be a stay at home mom, you will be chastised by people who think that you are just “giving in” to the world and traditional gender norms. If you pursue a career in music, writing, working for a nonprofit, etc, or if you decide to be a stay at home dad, you are going to receive backlash from people who think that you won’t make anything of yourself or think your venture is too risky.

No matter what you choose to do in this life, know that you will be questioned and challenged in every way possible. You will be pushed to the edge, driven to the extreme and forced to confront fears and challenges you never thought you would have to meet head on. You will always be confronted by others who think that they have a better plan for you. But, the thing is, you know what the best plan is for yourself.

Now, it is always wise to listen to the advice of the people you hold dearest and trust the most, but there will always be someone who wants to give you their two cents.

Listen to those you trust, chase after your dreams, take action and choose to THRIVE. Actualize your dream and don’t look back. It is better to look back and remember than to look back and regret that you never took that leap.

Published by Mackenzie Winterowd