Are you thriving? Here is a checklist

Are you barely making it?

Posted Jun 19, 2011

In my last post I advocated that we move beyond resiliency as a goal to thriving as a goal. Why settle for less? But what does thriving look like?

I feel like I am thriving in my life right now (it has not always been the case). So here is my own personal take on what contributes to thriving. Virtually all are proven practices that facilitate mental and physical health.


  • Being playful with others
  • Getting good sleep (in the dark to prevent cancer)
  • Being physically active
  • Attending to the beauty of the natural world
  • Eating well and enjoying healthy food
  • Expressing creativity (for me: cooking, writing, playing music, singing, writing poems)
  • Caring for others and getting caring when you need it
  • Enjoying uplifting experiences that take you beyond yourself (e.g., music, religious or spiritual practices)


  • Confiding in at least one close friend (most days)
  • Not succumbing to temptations too frequently (like dessert!) and learning not to feel tempted
  • Maintaining practices that foster positive self-development-learning to prefer what is good and healthy
  • Finding a mentor for areas where you want to improve
  • Knowing how to let go and put annoying things in perspective
  • Find ways to gradually increase in efficacy and competence for the things you want to accomplish (take small steps; chip away)


  • Having at least one close loving relationship (after learning to appreciate closeness)
  • Having a group of people on whom you could rely if needed
  • Having at least one confidant who can help you over rough patches
  • Taking risks to connect to and help others
  • Mentoring others with whatever knowledge, skills and wisdom you have
  • Doing kind things for others whenever you can
  • Making amends with those you have wronged or who have wronged you


  • Feeling like you are making a valuable contribution to the community
  • Feeling like others care for you (practice compassionate meditation that starts with compassion towards yourself)
  • Being in touch with your heart feelings
  • Using healthful ways to calm yourself down from anxieties, fears, and angers
  • Not desiring too much
  • Doing things that foster prosocial feelings in yourself instead of angry or contemptuous feelings


  • Waking with a positive purpose that reaches beyond yourself
  • Meaningful vocation (work) or avocation (activity outside work)
  • Feeling connected to the community
  • Feeling in relationship to other lives in the natural world

These activities and strivings work for me as an adult. (Children need an adult helping them learn how to do these kinds of things.)

You might have additions based on what helps you thrive. Or perhaps you thrive on some days and not on others. What is the difference?

On the days I don't thrive, sometimes it is because I am taking in too much the sad state of the world. In that case, I need to get back to focusing on what I can do to make things better, one moment at a time. But usually when I have a non-thriving day it is because I am beating myself up for not achieving some goal I thought I should have achieved or worried about an outcome I can't control. These obsessive downers bring to mind the serenity prayer, which is also about learning to thrive:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

the courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

We can all change ourselves by choosing to increase our thriving. That may be the first step to changing the world.