Surviving vs. Thriving

surviving“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.”

– Former Green Bay Packers Coach & Motivational Speaker Vince Lombardi


I’m sure you’ve heard of people, or have even known people that have thrived in difficult situation. Some of the most poignant examples are the tales from people like Aimee Mullins, who was born without fibular bones and had both legs amputated at the knee. I think most of us imagine, “I could never live like that!” Yet, Miss Mullins ran the 100 meter dash and competed in the long jump for the Paralympics. She has modeled for Alexander McQueen, acted in several movies, authored several books, and traveled the world on public speaking tours where she spoke on overcoming adversity.

How about people that you would barely expect to have a normal life, who find themselves thriving? There are stories of kids who grew up on the streets dealing drugs but are now attending law school or former burglars who went to medical school to make something of themselves. There are countless “rags-to-riches” stories of people like  JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey who beat the oppression of extreme poverty to become billionaires. Perhaps you know someone from high school who you wrote off as a failure, only come to find that, years later, he or she has achieved tremendous success.

What makes the difference between someone who survives and someone who thrives? It’s all about mental toughness and making the most of a situation, no matter how difficult it may be.

The key aspects of mental toughness include:

  • Self Belief, the unshakable notion that you can and will achieve your competition goals
  • Motivation, the insatiable desire to succeed
  • Focus, the ability to maintain complete concentration and the inability to be affected by adverse distractions
  • Composure, the acceptance of natural anxiety and ability to cope with distractions or pressure.

Recently I read some great advice from David Yukelson PhD, the Coordinator of Sports Psychology at Penn University. Here are his 7 steps to mentally “toughening up”:

  1. Start with the right attitude and state of mind. Compete confidently, without fear of failure. Approach any situation with determination and focus.
  2. Keep it positive. The key component of mental toughness is the conditioning of your mind. Expect the best, Visualize success, and Focus on what you want to occur, not what negative consequences might occur. Use positive affirmations: I Can… I will… I am going to…
  3. Create behavioral routines. Practice makes perfect. Do trial runs, go over your notes, and develop a set routine to prepare yourself for big moments.
  4. Develop composure by learning to let go. If Plan A fails, try Plan B or C. Use focal points keep your mind on the objective. Tell yourself, “I will not let my frustration interfere with my confidence or focus.”
  5. Reign in negative self-talk. Be aware of situations that make you lose focus or think negatively. Reframe your doubts and loss of confidence into an actionable directive that pushes you toward success. Instead of saying, “This client will never go for my proposal,” you must say, “Benefits, Features, Confidence: that’s how I will get this client.”
  6. See failure as a stepping stone. Focus on performing well, taking care of your mind and body, small victories, and new opportunities for growth or self-realization.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Make a difference. Step up when the going gets tough and seek peak performance when it matters most.


Jackie Christiansen

PS – Listen to Stephanie Castagnier from NBC’s The Apprentice talk about what she has survived to be where she is today. Listen Here.

an opportunity to thrive:


  1. Hi Jackie,

    First let me welcome you to my tribe on Facebook. You have a great blog here and ou have made some really valid points about staying focused on your goals. Our mindset is the most powerful thing we have in the world to which you have highlighted.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Tristram Lodge

  2. This has been a very inspirational post. I’ve read the whole thing and I must say, I do feel motivated to work on my business much harder now. Positivity has always helped me find new solutions to my problems, and will work for ANYONE.

    The results you get are directly related to your state of mind. If you think positive, you will receive good. Think negative, you will receive bad. Simple as that. It’s things like these that will make or break anyone with a goal.

    Great post!

    Adrian Padua

  3. Jackie Christiansen says:

    Thank you Tristram! I love your group and will be visiting your blog shortly! Thank you for stopping by.


  4. Jackie Christiansen says:

    Adrian, you are 100% correct! If we can focus on the positives, the negatives will begin to disappear. Thank you for your kind comment.


  5. Our mindset is the most powerful thing we have in the world, This is so true Tristram and Jackie you put together a rocking post and I am honor to be able to comment on it. I look forward to seeing and hearing more and more.

  6. Jackie Christiansen says:

    Thank you Kareem! I look forward to writing more posts!! Thanks for your support!


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