Several months ago, I was in a job in which I felt like I was drowning in a sea of assignments, anxiety, and animosity towards the people telling me to “try harder.” I had recently given birth to my second child, and I felt ill-equipped to simultaneously navigate the hard-charging culture of my organization and mother a newborn.
I left that job, and afterwards spent a lot of time reflecting on what I had learned and what I wished had been different. I also had several conversations with other parents facing similar challenges. My experience was certainly not unique.
All of this reflection eventually led me to a hypothesis:
If adults are thriving, they will be able to do their best work, as both professionals and parents. This will result in more effective organizations and more resilient children.
Now, I have the incredible privilege of starting a business designed to test this hypothesis. The mission of Hand in Hand Coaching & Consulting is to promote thriving at home and at work through coaching, community building, and culture change.
I’m excited to share this journey with you, and I’d like to start by exploring what it means to thrive.
Thrive is a word that has captured our imagination lately. I seem to see it everywhere--from billboards to book titles--but it defies any single, agreed-upon definition.
Thrive literally means to “grow or develop well or vigorously; prosper; flourish.” For me, this definition conjures up an image of a flower in full bloom. Considering the power of metaphor, perhaps this understanding of “thriving” is as good as any.
But there are a few other ways to think about the word that I find interesting and compelling.
First, thriving is connected to what Abraham Maslow called self-actualization. A self-actualized person is driven by the need to become the best version of themselves. This is in contrast to most people who are driven by needs that Maslow categorizes as more basic, such as safety, belonging, and esteem.
A similar way to understand thriving is through the work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan who developed Self-Determination Theory. According to self-determination theory, intrinsic (versus extrinsic) motivation results in improved performance, persistence, and creativity. Someone who is thriving, then, could be said to be intrinsically motivated. (You can learn a lot more about self-determination theory in Daniel Pink’s popular book, Drive).
Another interesting perspective on thriving I came across recently puts it at one end of a spectrum of emotional states. In his work with CEOs and other leaders, Graeme Cowan introduces a “Moodometer” and encourages people to make choices that keep them in the “green zone.” He describes his work as “creating thriving tribes.”
Finally, I think for some people the best way to describe thriving is: the feeling of being truly alive. I was recently listening to Esther Perel’s podcast, “Where Should We Begin?” and she was talking to a couple who was grappling with the husband’s recent diagnosis of Early Onset Parkinson’s. The woman in the couple told her husband that her greatest fear was that they “wouldn’t live. Just be in survival mode for so long that we’re not really living.” To which Esther added, “You’ve been good at living before. You’ve been good at feeling alive before. And now you are more focused on not feeling dead.” “Yes,” agreed the wife. “Yes.”
So, are you thriving?
Your answer matters. And not just because thriving is much more satisfying than “not feeling dead.” But because when you are thriving, it is easier to put good into the world. Whether it’s creative ideas, diligent work, profound insights, or radical compassion, we have more good to give when we are thriving than when we are stuck trying to figure out how to make it from one day to the next.
And this world needs the best we’ve got to give. More today than ever before.
So here’s to thriving. May you thrive. May you help others thrive. May our communities and world thrive. That we may leave our children a better world than the one we are living in today.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.