“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to THRIVE; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.”  Maya Angelou, writer, civil rights activist, academic.

In a world that seems to be always throwing curveballs, from our own daily challenges to frightening global events, Maya Angelou’s mission inspires us to make sure we’re taking control of our lives. Six illuminating questions arise from the very essence of the word she uses – THRIVE. They range from our individual narratives, through to the big changes in our careers and lifestyles as a result of ai and automation. They can act as a framework to help us think about personal progress, happiness, and success. So, how do we Thrive?

Truthful. Are we honest with ourselves and others? We have all shaped ourselves to different situations – it can be useful, safe, helps us fit in. But if we do not get to know who we are, our values, what we want, and think about how we behave, are we able to develop the satisfying future we could have?

It is the Truth that I’m after. The truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” said the stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Maruc Aurelius

Humanity/Human. As more & more tasks are done by non-humans – a trend that’s growing at a breathtaking pace – how do we leverage being a human? New uses of AI and tech require us to think deeply about our human value, capabilities, creativity, and unique attributes. What might be the values of the best human you can be?

Relationships.  What are we putting into the relationship we’d like to develop, keep, or improve? Good relationships are the standout factor in the most comprehensive longitudinal study for reported happiness – and long life*. For thriving. The Harvard study has been running for 84 years and has fascinating insights into maintaining strong relationships now, in our era of social media. It’s Director, Dr Rober Waldinger says “Good relationships wither away from neglect. There doesn’t have to be a problem of any kind, but if you don’t keep them up, they fall out of your life” – and he says keeping them up doesn’t need to require a big effort, even a regular, tiny action – a text, a coffee, a walk maintains them.

Intentional. What choices are we making to take steps to the future we could have? What choices are we ducking? “Choice not Chance determines your Destiny” – a saying attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, puts the onus firmly on us. Intention can be truly liberating. It can help us thrive by seeing that we have agency and are not just supporting cast members in other people’s stories.

Variety. Are we open to new ideas, people, experiences, and pursuits as we change? What got us here is unlikely to be what stretches and interests us next – or arguably what is useful or needed in navigating the uncertainties that lie ahead. Our ability to learn and adapt, our “fluid intelligence” *, is now widely understood. How do we put it to use to thrive?

Energy. Do we notice what drains us, and what buzzes us? Learning how our body works, and what affects our energy levels, helps us make choices – food, activities, when we are most able to tackle tasks. When in the day, or year, are we most alive, and who with? (We might think we are an introvert or extrovert – but as we behave differently in different situations, it is worth checking if our self-definition is always the case.) How can understanding our energy and what affects it give us clues to how we thrive?

A few years ago I went to hear a talk by the author, Elizabeth Strout, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel about a woman called Olive Kitteridge. She’d found herself feeling a strong need to write a sequel, even though Olive was in her 70’s and “old, big and sagging” in Olive’s own words. Strout couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d be doing next.  So, she wrote “Olive again”. Because, she said “we all continue to grow, or we continue to diminish – we never stay the same”.

It is our decision whether we grow or diminish. In a world that feels constantly changing, uncertain and difficulty to navigate, we can start to check-in on ourselves – with some help from the six question areas that emerge from the word THRIVE.

*Marcus Aurelius, Meditations the Book V1 XX


* Fluid intelligence, or fluid reasoning, is a core feature of human cognition. It refers to the ability to solve novel, abstract problems that do not depend on task-specific knowledge (Blair, 2006; Carroll, 1993; Deary, 2012; Horn and Cattell, 1966).

This blog was written by Leadership Coach Karen O’Connor. Karen brings insight into navigating change and empowering teams, from 30 years of experience as a Senior Leader in the fast-changing media content and news industry. Her style is direct – with careful listening, empathy, and challenge.