Recently I ran into a girlfriend who I hadn’t seen in more than a year. I asked her how she was. Her answer: “Girl, I am thriving.”
She looked fantastic. Yet as we fist-bumped, I wondered: What did she really mean?
For most of my life, to thrive meant you were living well: married; living in a big house on a manicured cul-de-sac; working at a powerful job.
But, in the last decade, the word has shifted from the material to the spiritual. The wellness world began using thrive to represent soul searching, alongside mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude.
As we emerge from 15 months of pandemic survival mode, what it means to thrive is so much more complicated than sipping piña coladas in first class. And it’s more than doing a headstand in yoga. Thriving is about enjoying the daily journey to personal joy, something that feels so much richer than it did pre-pandemic. It might be a difficult trek, but it’s a rewarding one.
“Collectively more people are asking: What does it mean to live well?” said Renee Moorefield, CEO of WisdomWorks, a Colorado-based company that helps companies and their employees thrive. “We’ve come to understand thriving is a state of being that differs from person to person and situation to situation.”
I’m in a flow state. I’m thriving when time passes by and it doesn’t feel like I’m working. I’m excited to wake up every day and I’m contributing to something larger than myself.
Thriving vs. surviving
It took a pandemic to prove to many of us that we have just been surviving. This goes beyond being in a job we love, or finding enough time for ourselves. This past year has exposed in sharper relief the cultural forces that hold us back.
For Black people who live with systemic racism everyday, do we really, truly get to thrive? Can Asians thrive when Asian hate is rampant? Can LGBTQ people thrive when they are still fighting for fundamental rights?
Thriving is the freedom to make choices that allow us to pursue our dreams, says Amena Coronado, an assistant professor of philosophy at Community College of Philadelphia. And, she adds, structural racism means that it is not as accessible to everyone equally.
“The result of structural racism is that everyone doesn’t have the right to thrive,” Coronado said.
But, Coronado adds, you can be dealing with inequity and still thrive. “Realizing that you have that right, that right to develop as a human being on your terms, not on anyone else’s. That is the first step toward thriving.”
So what is it that you really want to do? Deep down in your heart you know. Choose an activity that makes your heart sing. Give it a try. Keep at it. Before you know it, you’ll be thriving.
It’s an increased awareness that circumstances we are living under — like systemic racism — impacts ourselves and others. Thriving is communal. It’s global.
What does thriving now look like?
We asked Philly creatives and entrepreneurs about what thriving means to them, and how they cultivate it. Here’s what they said: