A Coaching Power Tool Created by Kathryn Yeung
(Leadership Coach, CANADA)
If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities. Barbara Bush
To truly feel like we are thriving we need to move beyond simply surviving – to grow versus to remain in the status quo. It means to move outside of our comfort zone in terms of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions; to change our perspective to one of how to expand ourselves and prosper instead of simply “going through the motions” in one’s day-to-day living.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It may even sound simple or easy; however, many of us have encountered times in our lives when we have felt stuck or notice we haven’t “moved” for a while. We feel like we haven’t grown and developed, we may do things in the same way, we have lost focus on a dream or don’t have any desire to achieve something beyond where we are today. Sometimes this realization happens when we hear about what someone else is doing, planning or has achieved. Often, we remember something from our past when we had a dream but didn’t pursue it because it was too challenging or we had simply forgotten about it over time.
It is often easier to tell ourselves:
“Those dreams and desires are for other people,”
“I am not worth the effort,”
“I would have no idea how to even start so I’ll quit now,” or
“If I made the changes required to achieve that goal it would change my life too much, affecting the people around me in a potentially profound way. “
To have a feeling of thriving and personal growth seems unachievable or fleeting. Therefore the pursuit of something beyond where we are today is overwhelming, intimidating, seemingly unsustainable or even unachievable.
Another way to look at this is through our choices. It is often said everything we do comes down to personal choice: what we decide to do or not do. By not taking action to do something or perhaps to not say something we are still making a choice. So if everything comes down to our own choice then the question is: “what is hindering our ability to move forward, to learn and to grow”? Let’s explore that further.
What does it mean to thrive?
The Oxford dictionary defines survive as a verb, to “Continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.” This could mean that if one felt like they were living in a state “survival” one might feel a sense of discomfort, feeling overwhelmed, not in control or dissatisfaction.
On the other end of the spectrum is a sense of thriving. The Oxford dictionary defines thrive as a verb,
- Grow or develop well or vigorously (generally used for humans, animals or plants)
- To prosper or flourish.
Personal growth and development is the foundation for feeling like you are truly thriving. It is a transformational process for improving your physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, and/or financial state.
To thrive you need to (or be encouraged to) grow, take risks and be vulnerable.
This process of thriving is often triggered by an important life event that inspires you to enhance, change your circumstances, and empower yourself to discover where your full potential lies. The result is a more satisfying and meaningful existence, which is evident in your relationships, place of work, self-image and self-confidence, as well as your general outlook on life.
People want to grow and develop themselves because they are unsatisfied with their life and the direction in which it is heading. To change course and create the desired life, undergoing the personal growth and development process is essential. This process is not always an easy journey to begin. With change comes emotional reactions which can sometimes impact not only the individual but others around them. Often it requires strong support, structure, determination, courage and the “knowing” that something else is worth the effort or impact.
Once this process is underway the results are endless. You will find meaning and purpose in yourself that was absent before. Life goals will become clearer and more possible. You will use your full potential to benefit yourself and others. New skills and talents will be discovered. Old relationships will be strengthened and new ones will be easily formed; all of which will give you a boost in your self-image and self-confidence.
How do we move beyond surviving to thriving?
In order to understand how to shift a perspective you need to understand what the current and desired states look like. In this regard let’s explore what surviving vs. thriving looks, feels and sounds like in order to understand the shift that needs to occur.
Table 1 – What survive vs. thrive looks, feels, and sounds like
Shifting into a mindset of thriving means you need to build your self-awareness, learn, and understand your strengths – sometimes in the face of adversity. Luckily, these are personality traits that can be achieved through coaching and practice. Another key trait or competency in being successful at shifting to a perspective of thriving is courage. It takes courage to build your self-awareness, to plan to do and learn something different, and to actually take action, often outside of your comfort zone.
In Arianna Huffington’s book called “Thrive” she describes some interesting foundational steps to support your ability to thrive. Here is a summary of some of those great tips for yourself or as a coach to support your clients.
- Get 30 minutes more sleep – to be more effective, productive and creative
- Move your body – this is a powerful component to well-being
- Personal quiet time and self-kindness – listen to yourself, turn off the distractions e.g. devices for a period of time each day, focus on your breath, think (or look) at an image that ignites joy, forgive yourself
- The power of gratitude and being grateful
- Develop a practice of providing small gestures of kindness – this affects your mind, emotions and body in a positive way
- Make a personal connection with someone that you might normally take for granted
- Use a skill or talent to help someone else
Try a little self-coaching. There are some interesting questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are stuck in survival mode:
- In what areas of your life are you feeling resistance or feeling like you are not flourishing?
- What are you avoiding and putting off?
- Are there things you feel you have to do?
- What makes you feel happy, passionate or engaged? How can you start to do more of these things?
- What is it you would like to achieve? How can you give yourself permission and start to take action towards that goal? What support needs to be in place to support you on this journey?
When you find yourself feeling like you “have to” or “should” do something, ask yourself:
- What would happen if I don’t do it?
- Am I alright with the consequences?
- What are the benefits of my taking action?
- What could I do differently that would make me thrive?
Every person is unique and because of this no one strategy for personal growth and development can be created or applied with consistency. Each pathway towards thriving is a personalized journey which is where coaching becomes such a powerful and effective tool. It is up to the coach working with the client to support them to figure out which pathway works best and where it leads. Despite there not being a “one size fits all” approach to thriving, there are some key questions that can guide a coach to helping her/his client move towards the desired growth path.
What is your client’s current state? Where are they today?
Help them to evaluate their strengths, values and barriers as well as good and bad habits.
What is your client’s desired state? What are their goals?
Ask questions to examine what it is they hope to achieve, e.g. why is this important to them, what do they have to gain, how can they use their current resources to achieve this growth, what will happen if they don’t thrive, how will they feel when they achieve their goal(s)?
How can you help them get there? What do they need?
Determine what knowledge and experiences need to happen in order for them to get closer to their desired goals. Help them to find resources that are useful towards achieving this desired state. A good example could be exercises or books that inspire growth and development of social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual traits.
What is a realistic timeline?
Ask them to make a list of activities and events they hope to experience or accomplish within a set amount of time. Use the list as checkpoints that lead them to achieve their goal.
In order to develop and flourish you may feel like you have moved outside of your comfort zone. However, in reality it is only when we take a risk, get creative, do or learn something new, that we feel we can truly thrive. So how will you move outside of your comfort zone? How will you shift from surviving to thriving?
- What are some of the areas in your life where you feel you are simply surviving, maintaining the status quo?
- How is survival mode holding you back from what you want to achieve?
- What would it look like for you to feel you were thriving?
- What are some examples from your life when you experienced a sense of truly thriving?
- How did thriving help you respond to adversity?
- What are some other ways you can help your clients break out of a feeling of simply “survival” to truly thriving in their life?
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
The pachamama.org group, Personal Growth and Development – A Transformational Journey
Thought Patterns for a Successful Career, Pacific Institute
5 ways to thrive when life feels chaotic and uncertain, Katherine McHugh
Thrive, Arianna Huffington, 2014