Thriving over the Long Haul
Photo by: Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Even during times of change and uncertainty, thriving is possible. A thriving mindset can direct and motivate even amidst instability. To thrive is to grow in authenticity, with and for others, and for a greater purpose. Thriving involves being adaptive and having a good fit with one’s environment in order to live out of one’s strengths and grow in one’s passions while contributing beyond the self.
Recognizing the need to be adaptive, knowing how to be flexible, and optimizing one’s environment—whether at home, work, our communities, or online—could not be timelier. I’m going to unpack the idea of thriving, and share tips and pointers on how to thrive based on psychological science and various spiritual traditions. Here’s an overview of the basics.
Thriving involves growth and change. During volatile and tenuous times, we need to hold onto the importance of growth, but also recognize that it may not occur at the same pace or in the same manner we are used to. Although thriving in young people evokes images of vigorous growth, think about maintaining vitality through “good enough” growth. During turbulent times we might need to realign our expectations for ourselves and those around us. We can encourage growth or mastery in small and realistic ways. This might occur by learning something new for school or work, cooking something new (or cooking something at all!), developing a new group of friends, or practicing a new hobby or skill. While some become more purposeful during times of difficulty, most of us need to slow things down a bit as we assess new directions.
As an illustration, think of how much easier riding a bike is when you have momentum going forward. You might need to slow down when you go over potholes. Human beings are similar—a sense of movement or progress is satisfying. No one likes to feel stagnant. Finding momentum can be challenging during times that are constantly changing and unpredictable, but we want to avoid those potholes!
Pick something that’s realistic and attainable, something that’s enjoyable, possibly something new, and ideally something that makes a contribution to those around you. This will provide great stimulus for your brain on multiple levels: a sense of accomplishment, joy, delight, and satisfaction of being able to make someone else’s life better.
While thriving involves growth, not all growth is good. Thus, to thrive is to grow towards one’s purpose. By purpose, I am referring to your goals, roles, and “souls.” When we thrive, we are developing the character and acquiring the competencies needed to pursue our most life-giving goals for leading and serving in this world. In addition to pursuing our larger purpose or calling, we also have a lot of interim, short-term goals to accomplish. Moreover, we thrive when we become our most genuine selves, allowing us to live in the most authentic relationships and find fulfillment and joy in our roles as friends and family members. Lastly, purpose involves our “soul,” or our general sense of well-being, which involves our attention, focus, and living with integrity into our ethical and spiritual ideals. We need to be connected to our deepest values and sources of meaning and hope. Our purposes are very much informed by our beliefs and values.
Try to identify the larger purposes of your life, and how you can work toward these in this season of life. Revisit and refine your purposes on a quarterly basis. Create space1 to pursue meaningful goals.
Thriving also involves adaptive growth. It is so important to be flexible and agile in order to keep our lives moving and maintain wellbeing and relationships. As much as some people like surprises, too much change and disruption can be disorienting. Humans are inclined to like some structure and rhythm, so be intentional about imposing rhythm and structure in your days and weeks and include healthy practices.
- Keep important rituals and traditions.
- Create effective routine check-in times at home. I admit, as much as I’d like to have a big touchy-feely moment with all 5 members of my family, we do better checking-in as dyads or triads.
- Identify what you and the members of your household need to maintain wellbeing, social connection, and immediate, purposeful goals.
- Make an adaptable plan so all members of your family can get what they need individually, with others, and/or as a whole. Don’t leave anyone out of the thrive plan—parents included!
Recovering and resilience are also key components of thriving. Disruptions can affect us emotionally, socially, and physically at home, school, work, and our in our civic life. Please acknowledge that processing and adapting to constant change, especially when challenging, takes a toll on our psychological well-being, relationships, concentration, and energy; therefore, impacting our domestic, professional, or educational endeavors. Consequently, we need time and tools to recover from stress, repair our relationships, and restore our sense of direction and purpose. When you feel like your energy is directed more to surviving than thriving, attend first to basic security needs like connection and a safe sense of self. Thriving involves resilience, as well intentional endeavors of exploration, creativity, generosity, and purposeful pursuits.
Spirituality can provide a framework2 that facilitates healthy coping3 and be a resource for energizing, positive emotions.4 Take a moment to explore your beliefs and values. This will help you make sense of your current situation, and influence your emotional well-being and healing.
Difficulties provide opportunities to reconsider one’s sense of meaning and purpose. Wherever you are – just surviving, or thriving in pursuit purpose—today, give yourself grace for the space you are in. When you feel overwhelmed, regulate and calm your nervous system by pausing, taking several deep, extended breaths (try placing your hand on your belly), saying a meaningful prayer, or gazing into the eyes of a loved one for an extended moment. Take some time to think about these aspects of thriving—how you can be mindful about pursuing your own growth, flexibility, and purpose and, at the same time, be aware of the need to cope and address the basics of life?
Keep your purpose (about your goals, roles, and souls) in mind. Be intentional about how you pursue your current and future aims, your relationships, and your well-being. Be purposeful and flexible about how and when you get there, while never losing sight of the direction you’re headed.
1. Learn how mindfulness can help parents create space from within: https://thethrivecenter.org/mindful-parenting-creating-space-from-within/.
2. Learn more about the three dimensions of spirituality: https://thethrivecenter.org/resource/3-religious-and-spiritual-assets-to-youth-thriving/.
3. Check out Dr. Stephanie Trudeau’s post on meaning-making and beliefs: https://thethrivecenter.org/on-the-road-to-healing/.
4. Check out Dr. Susan Mangan’s post on boosting positive emotions: https://thethrivecenter.org/boosting-positive-emotions-at-home/.