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What does it mean to thrive right now? Here’s how people are doing it. | Elizabeth Wellington

Philly creatives and entrepreneurs share their rituals and secrets.

What does it mean to thrive?
What does it mean to thrive?Read moreCynthia Greer

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.

Jordyn Amoroso, 31, CEO of Clove, a Philadelphia-based medical shoe company

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.

Heather Hersh, 51, psychologist, well-being consultant, and founder and CEO of Thrive Well-Being

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:

Darrell Alston, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based sneaker company Bungee Brand Oblecení
Thriving means: “Every single day I wake up and go to my office and I feel like I’m about to cry, I know I’m thriving. I have very vivid memories of the fact that I was in jail. I had no idea what the future was going to be. I remember praying to God late at night asking Him, ‘What path was He going to give me?” So when I walk into my office and see my business and see how the gift that I have for design is now sustaining me, I know I’m thriving.”
How I get there: “I get up every day at 4:30 a.m., I pray, I work out, and then I eat well. That’s my ritual. That’s what I do.”
Jordyn Amoroso, 31, CBO of Clove, a Philadelphia-based medical shoe company.
Thriving means: “I’m in a flow state,” said Amoroso, adding that she’s particularly influenced by the Pixar movie Soul. “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.”
How I get there: “Walking my dog every day. Remembering that it’s OK not to want to or need to chase the next thing.”
Vashti Dubois, 60, founder and executive director of The Colored Girls Museum
Thriving means: “Having a deep appreciation and understanding that I’m still here. Every day I wake up and I have this body and I have this time to myself, not being frenetic, being centered and settled even when I don’t know what is happening.”
How I get there: “Listening to my gut. Following my intuition.”
Lori Gerber, 42, cosmetic dermatologist and owner and founder of virtual dermatology practice, Dr. Lori.
Thriving means: “Thriving isn’t being governed by a 9-to-5. I’m a mom of a 19-year-old and an 11-year-old, and I really realized how important time with my family was. I still wanted to get up in the morning and do something, but I didn’t want to be in the office governed by a schedule and miss the important things that were going on at home. I wanted to make my choices with my schedule. [I’m] working on that.”
How I get there: “Getting up before everyone in my household gets up and having my quiet time. Also setting personal goals: like fulfilling a virtual running goal. It’s important I have something to strive for.
Heather Hersh, 51, psychologist, well-being consultant, and founder and CEO of Thrive Well-Being.
Thriving means: “Recognizing what you need and what will help you move forward in your life now. That will be different today than it is a year or five years from now. It’s an increased awareness that circumstances we are living under — like systemic racism — impacts ourselves and others. Thriving is communal. It’s global.”
How I get there: “Lunches in the park with my husband. It’s something we started during the pandemic and it’s really important in how we communicate.”
Rachael Hunter, 51, owner of Mandala Yoga Collective
Thriving means: “Being kind to yourself. When I came to Philadelphia I was working in pharmaceuticals. When I [stopped to become a yoga teacher] I wasn’t thriving, in the financial sense. But it was an opportunity to do what I love. We are so goal-oriented, we forget what it means to be kind to ourselves.”
How I get there: “Trusting my foundation in life and on the mat.”
Drea Richard, 48, owner of Andre Richard Salon
Thriving means: “Doing activism in a way that I didn’t see coming. [Since the pandemic,] I’ve been working with a local branch of the Equality Federation. We are actively trying to get the Equality Act — that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination — a federal law. Through the whole pandemic, I was in survival mode. I realized that even if my life wasn’t perfect, I needed to do more.”
How I get there: “Getting back to the basics. Going to bed early so I get the right amount of sleep. That’s the only way I have the energy to be productive.”
Carla Ruscio, 26, owner of Carla’s Pizzeria
Thriving means: “Growing into the person that I want to be. I worked as a corporate recruiter, but I always saw myself as a businesswoman. I wanted to do more and do my own thing. So during the pandemic, I quit my job and opened a pizza shop. I’ve been working 7 days a week and 18 hours a day, but for the first time in my life, I really feel like I’m thriving.”
How I get there: “I write in my journal three or four times a week to keep myself and my mind steady. I write down goals. I try to achieve them.”
Jake Wade, 49, director of sales at Fearless Restaurants
Thriving means: “Thriving is success and success is winning. And winning means having an amazing life: being the best husband, being the best father, being present with my family. And beating the obstacles. The pandemic was an obstacle. But we made it through. Wow. We lived through it.”
How I get there: “Suffering as much as I can. How do I do that? I mean I do these crazy workouts. I race my bike. I train hard. I think learning how to suffer makes things a lot easier. Training is my form of self-care. It gives me clarity.”
Expert sources:
  1. Amena Coronado, PhD, assistant professor of philosophy Community College of Philadelphia

  2. Renee Moorefield, PhD, CEO of WisdomWorks