Are You Thriving, or Merely Successful?


It’s a question I’ve asked my clients over the years and their responses are always interesting.  They vary from “What’s the difference?” to “What’s thriving?”.  And I must admit for some years I too had not distinguished between them.  But as time went on and I coached more people I began to see a pattern.  People would talk about wanting to be more successful, however when asked to tell me more about what success looked like to them, they usually focussed in on the narrow world of work and career and/or finances.  Other areas of the life, such as family, significant other, or health, rarely were mentioned unless I asked specific questions about that area of the future life.  And interestingly enough, people who looked to be very successful often expressed a deep seated unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their life.

As a result I began to distinguish between just reaching for success and going after a thriving lifestyle.  Because to me there is a significant difference.  A successful life all too often is narrowly defined by professional status or one’s financial resources.  On the other hand a thriving life is one where the person flourishes in each and every area of their life.  A person who is thriving has a much more holistic approach to their life and know how to create the synergy that makes their life more than just the sum of it’s individual parts.

They actively focus on not only their career and finances, but also their family and friends, their health and physical fitness, ensuring time for fun and recreation, their  Spiritual life, and their own personal development.  These latter areas tend to not be on too many people’s radar screen, and when asked about what the future holds for them in these areas, many are at a loss for words.  Unfortunately if you have never thought about something it is unlike it will just happen, which probably explains why I come across so many people who don’t even know what thriving mens, let alone experience it..

There’s a great deal written about the stress people are living with and the pressure to succeed, however a good part of the stress may come from the very fact people are focussing on too narrow a definition of success and are ignoring the other areas of the life, areas that are important to an overall healthy lifestyle.  Unfortunately it often takes a major traumatic life event to make people realize that they have been ignoring a significant part of their life and to get them to look at these other areas, events like a job loss, the break-up of their family, a major health crisis or a death in the family.

It’s really far better to address these areas before a traumatic event turns your life upside down, which is why one of the first things I usually ask all clients to do is evaluate how satisfied they are in each of the seven areas mentioned above.  However you don’t have to have a coach to walk you through this process if you really are motivated to thrive, you just need to take a more holistic approach.  So if you want to move beyond merely being successful to having a full, thriving life, follow these six steps:

1. Looking at each of the seven areas, rate your satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning ‘it sucks’ and 10 being you are ‘totally happy’ with that area of your life.

2. Starting with your lowest score, or the one which you feel has the greatest leverage, identify why you are dissatisfied or unhappy.

3. Now identify what it would take to reduce your dissatisfaction and raise your score at least ‘2? points.

4. Based on what you discovered was needed in #3, develop a plan to implement the necessary changes required to bring about the improved score.

5. Take action.  And keep on taking action until you’re satisfied with the number you get.

6. Pick a new area and repeat the process starting at with the next lowest scoring area.

One precautionary warning – don’t jump in and try to make changes in more than one area at once.  Change is difficult, especially when it deals with a lifetime of habits and your “modus operandi”.  You are far more likely to succeed if you take your time and work on only one area at a time.  Once you’re satisfied with your progress in that area, you can move on to another area.

Good luck – and believe me when I say, if you switch your focus from merely being successful to thriving, you’ll be glad you did.


© 2012-2015 Karen Switzer-Howse.  All Rights Reserved