With the New Year comes new introspection, and one question has been weighing heavily on my mind. Inspired by Arianna Huffington, I’ve been asking myself “Will I merely survive 2019, or will this be the year when I begin to fully thrive?”
Let’s be clear: I want to thrive, not survive. A subtle difference in pronunciation. A world of difference in meaning. The fundamental distinction: mindset.
Surviving is about continuing to exist. We go through life, but without intention. We move from place to place without knowing where we’re going or how we got there. Life, business—it all just happens.
We are so busy pursuing our goals of being successful, rich, and powerful that in many cases we neglect our own health and well-being. We may not think twice about skipping a family dinner or our child’s sports day if it benefits our work. We are so focussed on being connected through technology that we end up disconnected from the things that truly matter—our friends, our family, our relationships.
Surviving is a reactive state that often allows us to blame circumstances or external factors for our failure to get what we want. Worse still, it takes an enormous toll on our psyche, resulting in chronic stress, burn out, and even illness.
Thriving, on the other hand, is about being open to the wonderful possibilities of life and taking active steps to grow, flourish, and live with purpose and meaning. It’s about being proactive, positive, and energetic. It’s about pursuing your goals in a way that nourishes you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Walking the talk: How do we help ourselves thrive?
Realistically, you know the difference between thriving and surviving, and so do I. But the hard part is putting it into action. So how can we combat complacency in 2019?
Enter design thinking.
It’s a concept you’ve likely heard of in the context of work or innovation. But how does it apply to your personal life? I tested it out first-hand. The process requires just four simple steps:
(1) Empathise with yourself
(2) Identify key pain points
(3) Develop innovative solutions
(4) Iterate until you arrive at a new perspective or path.
Design thinking can be a fresh and fun way to rethink your priorities and redesign your life. It can help you envision the future you really want, getting your 2019 off on the right foot.
The journey into design thinking
First things first, you need a framework for change. I suggest starting with Arianna’s four Thrive pillars—well-being, wonder, wisdom, and giving—to provide yourself with a solid foundation.
Next, it’s time to empathise with yourself. Maintain a log of your daily activities or write a journal that captures your feelings, moods, highs, and lows for at least a month.
The next step—identifying pain points—is the most critical. Comb through your entries and categorise any recurring themes by pillar. Are you consistently lacking activities related to well-being?
Maybe you’re doing a great job gaining wisdom, but aren’t giving that knowledge back to those around you. The goal: determine what you’re doing well and what you need to change. Then list micro-steps for each pillar to help you take action.
When I did this exercise, I landed on four key priorities.
In the area of well-being, I found that while I was eating (relatively) healthy foods and getting enough exercise, I was short changing my brain and body of sleep. It’s one thing to get by on five to six hours of rest, but it’s not enough to really thrive. As a result, I decided to increase my sleep to the recommended average of seven to eight hours per night. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it led me to take active steps to prioritise my health. I began reading studies to understand what impacts sleep duration and quality. I researched sleep aids and learned about optimal conditions for deep sleep.
While it may not go perfectly at first, I’m making wellness a priority, allowing myself flexibility to course correct as my body finds its optimal amount of rest.
Next on the list: Wisdom. This is about being in touch with your instincts, drawing on authentic responses to situations, and knowing the power of your intuition. It requires focused thinking and freedom from distraction—a difficult task when our phones and electronic devices are attached to our bodies like pacemakers.
I realised that my mobile addiction, my hunger for connection, and my desire to consume information were actually draining my brain cells—even faster than I was draining my phone battery. I needed to find a solution. I decided to try meditation, committing to just 10 minutes per day to find a clearer head space. Will it work? Only time will tell, but I can continue to iterate and adapt over the months to come.
Well-being. Wisdom. Two down. Two more to go.
Wonder is one of the most beautiful qualities a human can possess. We have it in spades as children, but as we grow up we lose much of the wonder that captured our imaginations when we were young. Wonder is about looking at the sunrise and being grateful to be alive. It’s about giving your partner a hug in the morning, or literally stopping to smell the roses on your way to work. It’s about noticing the little things in life that bring tremendous joy to your spirit.
As I scanned through my journal and noted my activities each day, I realised that I had almost no time for wonder in my life. I needed to make a dramatic change. After much ideation, I elected a micro-step to help me find wonder: setting aside time three days a week to take a long walk outdoors. In fact, this could help me accomplish multiple objectives at once. I could be closer to nature, physically exert myself, and do so without any distractions by leaving my phone at home.
The last pillar I focussed on was giving. Although I have two young daughters, I felt that I was not giving enough of my time to others. I needed to impact not just my immediate family, but my broader community as well.
It was easy to blame my busy career for this shortcoming, but regardless of the cause, I needed to find a solution. I found the answer in mentoring young women who were passionate about having a career in the creative field. I doubled-down on my commitment to mentor, becoming active on two platforms that I have access to through my job.
With all four pillars accounted for, the stage is set for 2019. It’s up to me to iterate and continue testing strategies that help me thrive in the new year. The key will be discipline and course correction when something is too difficult. There’s no shame in changing my micro-steps to help me stay on track, as long as I don’t fall back into my old routine. The key is to recognise what’s working and what’s not, maintaining persistence and tenacity in the face of any setbacks. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, I hope you have a few ideas for your own journey to thrive in the new year.