The Art of Thriving

What are the qualities that separate those who have the ability to withstand the worst and yet are seemingly still able to thrive, from those who catastrophise and view themselves as hapless and helpless victims?

People who are good copers are often referred to as stress-hardy. Psychologist Suzanne Kobasa has identified three attitudes that sustain such individuals during demanding times. These attitudes are called the three C`s: challenge, commitment, and control. A stress-hardy person sees change and crisis as a challenge rather than a threat. Even when they cannot control the outer situation, they realize that they always have control over their response to the things that are happening. There is a wise saying that relates to this phenomenon: “Suffering is inevitable, but misery is optional.” (Anatomy of an Illness – Norman Cousins p. 26)  

Listed below are some of the ‘Thriver’ qualities, which have been excerpted from ‘The Beethoven Factor: The New Positive Psychology of Hardiness, Healing, and Hope’ by Paul Pearsall, Hampton Roads Publishing 2003.

Thrivers are beings who can creatively construe situations that allow themselves to develop an increasingly more encompassing and adaptive explanatory style.

They tend to have very strong immune systems and even at the worst of times, they seem aware on some level of the rules by which it functions.

They have faith that no feeling will last forever. The “Have Faith, Calm Down, and Don’t Despair” rule.

They sense that suffering is essential for a truly authentic life.

They seem to know or have learned to let their emotions flow naturally rather than to cling to them. They know that it’s not being afraid, depressed, or anxious that destroys their lives; it’s allowing themselves to get stuck in these emotional states. The “Let It Go” rule.

They encounter trauma and are able to make meaning out of what happened (e.g. Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning), they are not only immunized against the next adversity, they also become better able to recover more quickly from it.

They not only find more to enjoy about life, but are much happier with much less.

They lower the threshold for being thrilled and forgive themselves for their own shortcomings and the world for its seeming random harshness, i.e. “It’s a lot easier to feel great when you don’t go around expecting life to be fantastic.”

They can live, when necessary, with lower aspirations but realistically raise their inspiration.

They are not blindly optimistic and are far from showing the often-irritating, feigned cheerfulness.

They thrive because they mentally remain engaged with their problem long enough to find meaning that helps to accommodate to whatever happens to them.

“Most people would rather stagnate in the security of the known than evolve in the creative uncertainty of the unknown.” (Linda Kohanov)

“Some would much rather complacently survive in a rigid hierarchy than thrive in the ambiguities of freedom.” (Kohanov)

They continue to be the creative composers of their own consciousness.

Some of the signs of creative composition and inner peace are:

  • Tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fear based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • Loss of interest in judging other people.
  • Loss of interest in judging self.
  • Loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • Loss of interest in conflict.
  • Loss of ability to worry (a very serious symptom)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with nature and others.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling through the eyes from the heart.
  • Increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • Increased susceptibility to Love extended by others, as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

(Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation Newsletter. Issue 63, 1986)


“He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality.”

 Anwar Sadat.

“All stress is internally generated by one’s attitudes.” Dr. David Hawkins.

“The only thing I could change was my attitude and by changing that, everything changed.”

Anthony de Mello.

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” Albert Schweitzer.

“Your life is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life.”

Kahlil Gibran

“The longer I live, the more I realise the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” Charles Swindoll

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