I was talking with a client about what it means to thrive. How do you know when you're doing great in life? You don't need to meet all the criteria below to thrive as a human, but here are some measurements to consider.
Thriving starts with wellness, the three main pillars of which are physical, mental, and emotional.
The concept of thriving is associated with a plant growing fast and strong. Are you planted in good soil? Do you have the nutrients required for wellness? Do you have access to healthful food, nourishing relationships, and protected living space?
A thriving plant will flourish. How does a thriving human flourish? Do they look great, are they vibrant, do they exude energetic joy?
To thrive can also mean to be successful. Whose standards are you using to judge your success? Feel free to step outside the industrial-capitalist definition. You can succeed at a task, one day at a time, or you might consider your accomplishments to date, as a whole. Choose your own measure of success. Are you proud as you look back on your life, or hopeful as you look ahead to your future? Are you happy with how you approached life today?
And with the success you enjoy, are you making the lives of others better? Do you share your mental, emotional, creative, and financial wealth with others to create experiences of joyful connection? Do you direct your resources in a way that helps others thrive as well?
By all means, do not compare yourself to celebrities, billionaires, or friends' social media fictions. Those images do not depict the ultimate version of success. Capitalism is a game that can be won, and ultimately there may be one person left controlling all the resources. Let's frame them as a mighty oak surrounded by countless smaller ecosystems thriving away and enjoying the process of being alive, oblivious to the constant strain of the tree trying to stay so large. Life is not a game to be won, but a process to be savored.
Thriving also refers to growing, developing, and building resilience. Do you know more than you did a year ago? Do you have new skills, insights, or dreams?
I think of thriving as extending into your full personhood, knowing who you are, and experiencing your life in a way that feels meaningful and satisfying to you. There are no comparisons—it is irrelevant how other peoples' personhood shows up in the world or feels to them. Your own thriving personhood is unique, authentic, and delicious.
If you consider yourself neurodivergent and don't feel like you're thriving in your current state, be sure to externalize the source of the problem. Can you consider a set of circumstances in which you would be likely to thrive? Perhaps living along in the woods with all your needs for comfort and survival met? Or existing within a socially supportive, non-competitive society where people are free to pursue their passions and interests as a way of supporting themselves and others? Autism and ADHD can present as obstacles to thriving because of the demands and expectations of competitive, capitalistic, achievement-oriented societies that have developed a clear understanding of what it means to be "normal" aka neurotypical, and hold everyone equally to those standards.
Fuck that. You're not the problem, the system is the problem.