Updated: Mar 16
One of the most extensive and most-cited studies on employee engagement reported that only 20% of employees are actively engaged at work globally. See Gallup.
The topic of this article is not employee engagement or what needs to be considered from an organisational perspective. Though clearly, this is part of the puzzle to create the environment that encourages thriving. Creating a culture of learning and vitality. Engaging in high-quality conversations. Clarity on expectations. Access to resources. And the list goes on. Psychological Capital and Positive Organizational Behaviour are evidence-based approaches we can use to measure and explore thriving from an organisational perspective.
The topic is you. What can we do as individuals, to create a state of thriving at work and in life?
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THRIVING?
Thriving is well known within the science of Positive Psychology. We can also use the word flourishing and realising one's full potential. Thriving is the opposite of languishing, and the absence of mental illness does not mean we are thriving. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Thriving is optimal human functioning. When we genuinely feel vibrant, alive with a high sense of wellbeing.
Once basic needs are met, thriving is unique to you. There is not a single formula that will fit everyone. As you change and evolve. So will the meaning of the word. What thriving means to you.
So let me start with this.
THRIVING STARTS WITH YOU
What If I Fall? Oh but My Darling, What If You Fly? – Erin Hanson
Conventional wisdom tells us that if we want to plan a wonderful trip. We need first to decide where we are going. Thriving is the same. It starts with understanding what the meaning you associate with thriving is. Something related to your values, preferences, goals and priorities. What matters most for you to thrive.
Once we have clarity on what thriving means, it is easier to access if there is alignment between the optimal and daily reality.
Congruence between who you are, behaviours, and what you do, actions. And through the lenses of work. To have the opportunity to apply and develop your strengths. Your gifts. Your passions. Experiencing both FLOW and meaning.
Be honest with yourself and others about what you value and believe to be true. Dare to show up fully. If we never try, we never discover what we are capable of.
PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION
If you ask me. There is no such thing as ‘perfection’. In real life, at least. And if this is the bar we set for ourselves. We will experience continuous disappointment and dissatisfaction. Negative emotions will outweigh the positive ones.
That is why I suggest a practical approach. Once we know what thriving means for us, we can intentionally create and maintain a balance that feels just right for us. Like: Growth, progress, and developing our capabilities are critical ingredients in the recipe for thriving. In my experience, this is the case.
This does not mean stretching oneself 24-7, which would lead to exhaustion and energy depletion. With the other extreme of stagnation. Feeling stuck and that we are not progressing. Therefore, we need to find the balance. In this case, the balance between comfort (boredom, some would say) and growth (challenging and expanding ourselves).
THRIVING AS A MUSCLE
Thriving requires ongoing effort. As with training muscles in our body. Once we stop exercising, our muscles lose strength. Thriving requires self-awareness and consistent action. Checking in with ourselves. Notice significant imbalances and take action to shift towards a greater equilibrium.
Also, to train our inner muscles of tolerance. Our ability to thoughtfully choose our responses. Thriving is not ignoring life's difficulties or chasing rainbows, hedonic happiness. Practising thriving sharpens our ability to successfully navigate our realities – so that when external circumstances pose a challenge, we are not thrown entirely out of balance.
Progress comes through action. Taking full responsibility and recognising it is your job to take care of yourself. Your wellbeing. Your dreams.
To shape the skills that support thriving takes practice. Dare to feel. Lean into our fears and aspirations. It is a personal choice. It takes courage, and it can only arise from within. The willingness to grow must be there.
Consider these questions:
What comes to mind when you think about what thriving means to you?
What are your core values?
What gives you energy?
What drains your energy?
Where are you feeling out of balance?
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest possible score of thriving, where would you position yourself?
Assuming you rated yourself at a 6. What would it take to get from 6 to 7?
Why is that important to you? What would be the value of this?
What one thing can you do immediately to begin to make this shift?
How will you keep yourself accountable?
The process may seem simple. And in some ways, it is. Yet it is far from being easy. Common sense is not common practice. And, of course, there are many things in our external realities we can not control. Thriving requires continuous effort, curiosity, reflection and courage to take the steps that move you towards greater flourishing. Creating a positive ripple effect well beyond the people we interact with daily.