10 Powerful Ways to Thrive
(Rather Than Survive)

Having experienced cancer three times in my life, I am often referred to as a cancer survivor. While I know that those who call me a survivor mean well, the term itself has never really resonated.

Don’t get me wrong. I am immensely grateful to have experienced cancer multiple times and come out of it stronger and with a new perspective of the world. It is just that surviving does not feel like life as I (and I expect most of us) want to live it.

I met a fellow breast cancer survivor a few years ago named Rene. Rene said she did not consider herself a survivor; she considered herself a thriver after cancer. Now that resonated! Wouldn’t we all rather thrive? For me, just saying the word brings to mind a fullness of life and growth and prosperity.

In March of this year I was delighted to see that Arianna Huffington released a new book called Thrive, The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.

In 2007, Arianna found herself lying in a pool of blood in her home office after she collapsed from exhaustion and hit her head on the desk on the way down. She was at the height of success; The Huffington Post was growing at an incredible pace and she was chosen by Time as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. She found herself working 18-hour days, 7 days a week trying to build her business. The fall caused her to take a step back and really look at how she was living her life.

If she looked at her life from our traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, she was certainly very successful. But she was not living a successful life and she knew she couldn’t go on that way. It was a classic wake up call. She set about to create a more fulfilling life and this book reflects the insights she gleaned in this process. The book was conceived as she prepared a commencement speech in 2013 for the graduating class of Smith College. She urged these women graduates to not just go out and climb the ladder of success, but to redefine it. The moving response to the speech made her realize the widespread longing among many to redefine success and what it means to lead “the good life.”

She states “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.”

I have been enjoying every word of it and wanted to share some of my favorite quotes and pieces of advice from the book with you today:

On Well-being:

  • Sleep! Seven to eight hours per night. We all know that stress undermines our health, but the sleep deprivation that so many of us experience as we strive for advancement at work is “profoundly -- and negatively -- affecting our creativity, our productivity, and our decision making.”
  • Meditate! It’s not just for enlightenment anymore (although I’m all for enlightenment!) Meditation is one of the best and most accessible ways to become a healthier and happier you.
  • Walk! “It makes us healthier, it enhances cognitive performance, from creativity to planning and scheduling, and it helps us reconnect with our environment, ourselves and those around us.”
  • Unplug! Set boundaries and periodically take a vacation from your devices.

On Wisdom:

  • Embrace your inner wisdom! Look to Athena, goddess of wisdom: “Women don’t need to leave behind the deeper parts of themselves in order to thrive in a male-dominated world. In fact, women - and men, too - need to reclaim these instinctual strengths if they are to tap into their inner wisdom and redefine success.”
  • See life as a classroom! Look at everything that happens as a learning experience that was exactly what you needed at the time.
  • Trust your intuition! “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.” - Steve Jobs

On Wonder:

  • Be present! Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of Alone Together, writes about the cost of constantly documenting our lives through photography. These interruptions, she writes “make it hard to settle into serious conversations with ourselves and with other people because emotionally, we keep ourselves available to be taken away from everything.”  By documenting our experiences so obsessively, we never truly have them.
  • Don’t Miss the Moment! Three simple practices to live more in the moment – the only place where we can experience wonder:
    • Focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds whenever you feel tense, rushed or distracted. This allows you to become fully present.
    • Pick an image that ignites joy in you. It can be of your child, a pet, the ocean, a painting you love – some thing that inspires a sense of wonder. Any time you feel contracted, go to it to help you expand.
    • Forgive yourself for any judgments you are holding against yourself and then forgive your judgments of others. Then look at your life and the day ahead with newness and wonder.

On Giving:

  • Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit and pay attention to how this affects your mind, your emotions and your body.
  • Make a personal connection with people you might normally tend to pass by and take for granted: the checkout clerk, the cleaning crew at your office or hotel, the barista in the coffee shop. See how this helps you feel more alive and connected to the moment.
  • Use a skill or talent you have, cooking, accounting, decorating, etc., to help someone who could benefit from it. It will jump start your transition from a go-getter to a go-giver and reconnect you to the world and to the natural abundance of your own life.

I want to hear from you. What do you think is the secret to thriving instead of surviving? Leave your answer in the comment box below.