"What helps people move from surviving to thriving? How can I learn to thrive and not hold myself back from being all that I’m capable of becoming?"
Author Donna Stoneham opens The Thriver’s Edge with a sobering statistic: only 56% of Americans and 24% of adults surveyed throughout the world consider themselves to be thriving. Everyone else reported they are struggling or suffering. That’s a lot of unhappiness and under-utilized potential out there! Stoneham felt she needed to address this imbalance. So, drawing on her experience as an executive coach and educator, she developed a roadmap of sorts to help readers move beyond survival mode into a state of thriving.
Stoneham defines thriving as our capacity to unleash our power to grow, flourish and experience a sense of trust and well-being in ourselves, our work, and our lives so that we may offer our greatest talents and capabilities to the world while helping others do the same. For me, thriving is a verb – an ‘in-the-moment’ expression of positive energy generated by doing the things I love with a joyful heart. Like physical fitness, one cannot reap the benefits of thriving without a daily commitment to executing the practices that will sustain that energy and mindset.
Which Wolf are You Feeding?
"The choice to thrive or to settle is a decision we make every day."
This quote reminded me of the aboriginal story known as The Two Wolves. One evening, an elder tribesmen told his young grandson about two wolves who reside within people’s hearts. One wolf is evil. It manifests itself through anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other wolf is good. It exudes joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Every day the two wolves battle one another in a bid to dominate our hearts and minds. The grandson is fascinated by this and after a moment asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” to which the older man replies, “The one that you feed.”
This is a simple and powerful lesson that often gets buried beneath the avalanche of tasks and demands that assail us daily. Thriving is a choice. Being kind, compassionate and loving is a choice. These behaviours are actually decisions that we make, decisions we exert control over. The ability to thrive, then, already lies within each of us; we need only to choose to thrive and then align our daily actions to make it so.
What choices are you making today? Which wolf are you feeding – the survivor or the thriver?
Focus on the Horizon Not the Shoreline
"We must be willing to do the work required to draft the next chapter we are being called to create in our lives, while not allowing past conditions to dictate our beliefs about the future."
Stoneham believes people who thrive operate from a place of trust: they live in the present and have faith that things will eventually work out; they remain open to the possibilities and opportunities that arise in the moment. Survivors operate from a place of fear: they cling to the past and focus predominantly on the obstacles and limitations before them; they desperately want to control every aspect of their future. Like the story of the two wolves, it all boils down to choice. If you tend to see obstacles instead of opportunities, you will need to work at changing your perspective first and then work to ensure your actions help you capitalize on the opportunities and overcome the challenges so that you move towards the horizon and away from the shoreline.
To help you do that, Stoneham developed her THRIVER framework – seven key practices that nurture a thriving mindset:
Trust – have faith you are never traveling alone.
Humility – navigate with confident humility.
Resilience – choose the right bus.
Inner Direction – follow your compass, it won’t fail you.
Vision – walk into your vision, one step at a time.
Expansiveness – broaden your horizons.
Responsibility – be accountable for your choices.
Whether you consider yourself a thriver or a survivor, chances are you can improve how you execute at least one and perhaps all seven of these practices. Which one will you pay attention to and develop in the coming month? Which one do you find the most difficult to implement and how can you be more deliberate in practicing it?
"Moving into our greatness requires letting go of the need to try and control. It asks us to courageously cultivate the trust that when one door closes another will open."
Trust. Faith. Optimism. Belief. Hope. Conviction. Confidence. No matter which word you use, they all involve ‘letting go’ or ‘relinquishing’ control over an outcome. When sailors weigh anchor, they free the ship to leave the shore behind and trust that they will eventually see land again. It doesn’t mean they do nothing and drift aimlessly with the tide or that they expect picture perfect weather and smooth sailing. On the contrary, they deploy all the skills and technology at their disposal to guide the ship to its destination through whatever conditions they encounter. People who thrive in life, do the same.
Stoneham observes that living into our greatness isn’t an event…it’s not a straight line; it’s a spiral (I love that imagery!). There are times when we feel we are going in circles and accomplishing nothing. Each of us has encountered set-backs in our careers and in our lives which make us question what we are doing and if we should stay the course or alter our direction. It can be hard to let go of our doubt and trust – in the process, in ourselves, in others. And yet, unless we do so, we are like ships moored in the harbor – full of potential but going nowhere.
Take a moment to reflect on where in your life you are ‘settling’ instead of thriving. What beliefs, behaviours, relationships or situations do you need to let go of to enable yourself to weigh anchor and sail towards new horizons?
The insights Stoneham shares in The Thriver’s Edge have the power to nudge us out of complacency for the status quo so we can embrace a more meaningful and fulfilling way of living. Her messages reminded me that thriving is not an elusive final destination, it’s a journey. A mindset forged daily through deliberate choices and actions.
And speaking of deliberate choices and actions, each chapter in the book ends with several reflection questions and suggested practices to help readers integrate and apply the THRIVER concepts to their own life. While I read the book cover to cover, Stoneham actually recommends readers digest one chapter over several weeks to allow what you learn about yourself to seep into your soul like a warm spring rain. It is good advice and I intend to circle back and do just that.
Are you thriving or merely surviving? What small step or choice could you make today that would move you away from the safety of the shoreline and towards the horizon of possibility?