Become Better

Not long ago I had to drive 3 hours in torrential rain. When I finally made it home, I was completed wiped. Such intense concentration coupled with heightened anxiety took its toll. Being in survival mode is the most exhausting thing in the world.

I think in life we’re either doing one of two things, we’re either surviving or we’re becoming.

Surviving is fear-based. It’s that human instinct to stay alive. Its master is the amygdala and it lives in fight, flight or freeze. Its mantras are “us against them,” “it’s not fair,” “why me,” and “I shouldn’t have to.” It robs us of joy, hope, self-efficacy, confidence, energy, and impact.

Becoming forces us to braille our way forward. To always be thinking and feeling and learning and growing. Questioning. Adjusting. The possibility of our best-self lighting the way but always out of reach. Becoming is rooted in responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves and the person we can be and responsibility for the impact we have on others and the world around us. While it requires constant motion, it is regenerating. Becoming fuels our soul.

Do you wish to survive or become?

There are times in life when we are forced to fight for our very survival. When the obstacles against us are so overwhelming that we have no choice. But I think perhaps the greatest challenge we face is in fighting for what we can become. In the midst of life’s challenges and heartache, how do we emerge from the storm with hope for a better tomorrow?

We become better.

©OnStage Leadership


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. Kimberly, great article, and we do become better when we trust our instinct and know that we can survive because we want to live. In my years of working the streets as copy and having had more than I care to admit “close calls”, my insticnt to survive was always there to say, I will make it home

    • That’s so true, Cynthia! If we bring mindfulness and intention to survival, it can indeed fuel our becoming. What a wonderful insight!

  2. I see the choices are to survive or thrive. When my sister was murdered 30 years ago by her husband who has not been arrested, I was totally in survival mode for almost a year. I recognized at 14 months, I had to switch into thriving mode. Thriving for me is about wanting and willing to move forward even when I did not have all the answers. I still was scared, but I needed to address that feeling at certain times, and other times were about creating a new normal future.

    This event was the most horrific and devastating in my life. I had to create a new life and did not know how. I was forced to address any of my issues, shadows, fears, etc. or I would not have survived. This was my schoolhouse in which I learned most of the social, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence skills, tools, and techniques that I use working with companies and executives. I learned them in the most painful way possible, but I really learned them and along the way found much compassion for myself and others.

    • What an incredibly brave person you are. To choose thriving in the face of such horrific circumstances is incredibly courageous. I have no doubt that your compassion has been a gift to all who know you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. We are here for a reason and that reason is not to run like crazy ants, each where the wind goes. Each of us is on this planet to make their own contribution and try to make the reality in which they live better than they found it. We all have immense gifts to offer and we can make the existence of those around us extraordinary and at the same time grow as individuals, finally, complete and responsible. Life is a wonderful miracle and sharing it with others makes it even more amazing and full of deep meaning. Being aware of the other and offering them some of our time makes us feel better and improves our lives and those of the recipient; it can be an excellent example that some other person may follow; brings you closer to another person in a unique way and maybe even for a lifetime; helps make the world a better place.
    Helping those in difficulty, greeting, thanking, sharing and participating in the experiences of others are very important moments of great growth for everyone.

  4. So…I read your fine piece in the context of just making a decision NOT to attend a conference – one to which I was looking forward to attending because of the immense talent and warmth in the room – you, of course, are part of that intimate group. My decision was somewhat of a “survival” action because I wanted to minimize my risk of exposure to the C-virus — “the storm.” But at the same time I “became” my own health advocate. No one was going to make the decision for me, and ruminating about attending or canceling was getting me no where except tied up and agitated. I’m not happy that I won’t see some dear friends, but I’m relieved in making the decision. Who knows if it’s the “right” one. As you so correctly noted: “Becoming forces us to braille our way forward.”

    • Jeff, decisions like that are very personal and there is great power in standing in your own truth about what is right for you. Selfishly, I’m of course disappointed, but I also think it takes courage to listen to your heart and make a choice. Hugs, friend!

    • When you decide, you get closure. You move to what’s next. Bravo for being your own health advocate. It’s right to make a decision. So it’s right!!! You chose based on information in hand and your own feelings. You are the one who gets to decide for you. And it’s the you of the moment of that decision.

  5. Becoming vs Surviving. Love the comparison and juxtaposition! Similar to your example of stressful driving, when I’m surviving I can feel it in the tightness of my shoulders and arms and in the tight knot in my stomach. When I’m becoming I feel the stretching of my heart as it fills with meaning and the butterflies in my stomach as it wonders at the possibilities. Thanks for sharing this insight.

    • “…the stretching of my heart as it fills with meaning and the butterflies in my stomach as it wonders at the possibilities.” Such a better way to experience ourselves! Thank you, Joe!

  6. I wonder if there is a third option and that is just “be.” I see it as a more meditative or contemplative state. As though we are allowing and observing; nearly being our purest “I.”
    I agree that becoming is a much better state than surviving but I wonder how much we should simply “be.”
    Thanks for making me think Kimberly.

    • For me they’re one in the same – for I cannot become my truest version of myself if I don’t allow myself to “be,” but I can totally see how that may not be the case for everyone. Thanks for making ME think, John!

  7. LOVE The Post..I choose becoming. I strive to be a better person every day, I like to stop and think about what I have said or done and then try and do better..The thought of just survive is not what I am interested in that to me is a defeatist attitude. If we are drowning in the ocean do we want to just survive or become a better floater or swimmer.If we have a disease ( I had Pancreatic Cancer now clean 10 years. ( notice idid not say survivor). I could have thrown in the towel but I fought to get well .Survive NO Be better YES

  8. Hey, sis, you really packed this short piece with plenty of punch. I think you had me at, “Being in survival mode is the most exhausting thing in the world.” Indeed it is!

    Then you bookend it with this, “perhaps the greatest challenge we face is in fighting for what we can become.”

    I am wondering about something. I wholeheartedly agree that “Becoming fuels our soul” and that becoming is regenerating. For me, I’ve found that there are moments when I need to resist constant motion and embrace periods of stillness where I find that becoming happens apart from my DOING — rather it erupts from my BEING.

    Becoming better certainly beats becoming bitter.

    • I totally agree, Kevin. For me, “becoming,” is often not about do-do-do, but stopping, reflecting and telling myself the truth.

    • Yes, stillness helps. Then your moments of action can be brief yet effective — while healing, growing and becoming your best self.

  9. Oh Kimberly. This is such a beautifully put piece. I’m a better person for having read it. I’ve lived with the fear of driving and the fear of living. And thriving and becoming is much more enjoyable. I’m glad to be on this side. I know I’ll be surviving again at some point, its an inevitability of being human. But knowing what I know about becoming makes it less intimidating. Thank you for putting this into words. Happy Monday!!

    • Thank you so very much, JoAnna. It is so true that, reaching the other side makes it possible to see ourselves out of the darkness the next time. Light begets light, doesn’t it?

    • I’m sure that has made a tremendous difference in your life and to those whose lives you’ve touched, Larry. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Thank you so much, Kimberly, for the reminder that an essential choice remains of surviving or becoming. Choosing to evolve oneself from the inside out, to connect deeply with that witness consciousness-the part of us that watches our anxiety but does not become the anxiety continues to be healing and transformative. Sitting quietly with the seat of the soul allows love, compassion, and gentleness to flourish. Holding you in love as you grieve the loss of your dad, as you honor his life by living yours so fully and exceptionally.

  11. I have never wanted to “just” survive, Kimberly! It always seemed so defeatist, although based on a specific reason for it to be a positive outcome, I can see it’s not always negative. But for me, the few times I was in a version of survival mode, my short-term thoughts were … get to a point where I could see how to not only survive, but thrive.

    I’ve always hoped to continue to evolve, to learn, to grow. I guess that’s also the same thing as to become … right?

    • I think one of the key things for me, in shifting from surviving to thriving, is surrounding myself with others who view the world as you do, Susan. Sometimes we lose our way with ourselves and it’s really crucial for me to be reminded of the light. So grateful!

  12. Becoming, in the midst of a season of pain and loss, you throw us a rainbow, light for a time when darkness might come our way. When sometimes surviving means making it through the day, you show us that each day holds promise in the process of becoming who we were meant to be. Huge hugs, Kimberly, and thank you for continuing to shine in the midst of your time of sadness. That we could all be a source of strength and reassurance for you, yet you extend your hand to us… far beyond becoming, you are what so many of us need. Thank you, and peace and comfort during this time.

    • I would love to tell you that I wrote this in the midst of everything, dear Tom, but my writing just isn’t there yet. I wrote this awhile ago, dusted it off and sent it to Dennis to publish when he felt the time was right. How he knew that this was the perfect piece for me to revisit today, is beyond me. I think this was providence at it’s best. The piece. The conversations and connection that result. You. It’s all exactly what I needed. It’s like I’m being enveloped in a big loving hug from the universe!

    • And you wrote it for such a time as this. Knowing that every life will have a season like this, you cast that flotation device into the future, for someday. And… may it be that the hug never ends.