I know no one who is immune to our always-on world. Most people feel like they’re barely keeping up, or worse, anguishing under the burden of its complexity. As a leader, friend, wife, and citizen who cares about the welfare of our world, I take our suffering seriously.
When we suffer, we risk our vitality to illness and disease and our joy to disengagement at work and at home. We endanger our most precious inner resources—our hope, resilience, compassion, and our deepest wellbeing. We diminish our capacity to tap into our greater potentials for accomplishing objectives that are worthwhile.
YET, WHAT IF …?
… our current challenges are an invitation to ask deeper questions about what it means to be human?
… our signs of stress are wise advisors to help us work smarter, think wider, and continually uplift and renew in mind, body, and spirit?
… our everyday demands are reminders to embrace wonder and joy, rather than abandon these qualities in ourselves and the world around us?
… our collective imbalances are exactly what’s required to help us evolve new mindsets, values, energy systems, and capabilities to thrive as leaders and whole human beings?
When our hearts, minds, and creativity welcome these questions, I believe a crack of awareness opens in which we can learn to live and work more purposefully, empowered, and connected. We can become less driven by the whims outside us, and more directed by a happiness from within. A fresh energy and spaciousness can enter our being so that we move forward with greater wisdom, rather than reactivity and stress.
This kind of thriving is a choice, however, one that we make every moment.
SO, HOW DO WE CHOOSE TO THRIVE?
A great question! My answer is first: DO NOTHING. Just sit with the possibility of making thriving a priority in your life and leadership. Does that possibility captivate you? Does it create a buzz of energy from your head to your toes? Does it entice you enough to act on?
If this DO NOTHING builds a fire within you to DO SOMETHING, then here are 5 practices to experiment with:
- Visualize yourself thriving. Olympians, musicians, and actors all know the power of visualizing success. How and what you think directly affects the structure of your brain and your performance. Harvard researchers compared people who were to play piano scales with another group who practiced the scales merely by thinking about them. Both groups showed considerable brain changes after only 5 days. How might this apply to you? Pick a goal—something you believe will contribute to your thriving. Spend 5 minutes each day over the next two weeks visualizing yourself completing that goal brilliantly. This repetition is key, so stick with it. At the end of two weeks, reflect on the effects your visualization had on your wellbeing.
- Connect with your real happiness. What fosters real happiness and thriving within you? Write down a MY REAL HAPPY Then, for the next month, invite that list of relationships and experiences into your life every day. Research finds hedonic happiness—the short-term happy that grows out of pleasure-seeking and self-gratification—is linked with inflammation that underlies cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and other diseases. By contrast, eudaimonic happiness—that enduring happy that stems from a deeper meaning in life and doing good for others—helps facilitate less inflammation and better physical and emotional health.
- Nurture your support system. When it comes to thriving, healthy relationships make all the difference. List 5 people—friends, family members, colleagues—you can rely on in good times and bad. Don’t wait until hardship brings you together. Reach out to each of these people proactively and regularly. Also, consider participating in civic organizations, spiritual communities, professional networks, and other groups that uplift you. Research shows close, fulfilling relationships strengthen the physiological pathways in your brain and body for calm, energy, and emotional resilience.
- Create micro goals. Do something each day—even a small achievement—to demonstrate thriving is your priority. A guiding question could be, “What one small thing can I accomplish today to show up as my best, most fulfilled and energized self?” This isn’t a time to set yourself up for failure or judge yourself harshly if you get off track. Miniaturize the goals—a walking meeting, a kind act, a healthier meal, a 5-minute meditation—any small act that helps you up-level your consciousness and energy will do.
- Assess yourself on the thriving scale. Before heading into that next meeting or connecting with your child, mindfully pause to assess your state of being. On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is “I am suffering.” and 10 is “I am thriving!”), what number reflects your state right now? If your rating is lower than you’d like, consider a positive shift you could make to bump up your number—reconnecting with your “why” or engaging in a nourishing breath may be just what you need. Thriving is not only a choice, it is a way of being, and it can amplify or bring down thriving in others.
WILLINGLY STEP FORWARD TO THRIVE
Our age of complexity and chaos is urging us to individually and collectively act on a wisdom we already know yet have too easily ignored: delaying our thriving to a time when the world finally feels manageable is not a strategy for success. It is a fantasy.
Thought leader Margaret Wheatley sums it up best in her book Who Do We Choose To Be?, “I can’t imagine a more important task than to consciously choose who we want to be as a leader for this time. We must understand the time we’re in, focus our energy on what’s possible, and willingly step forward to serve the human spirit.”
How will you willingly step forward to thrive?
Wisdom Works is launching a new leadership assessment, Be Well Lead Well® Pulse, to help leaders examine and up-level their thriving and resilience. If you’re interested in learning more about this assessment, our Be Well Lead Well® leadership programs, or our collection of practices for thriving as leader and human being, then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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