What word best describes your life today, surviving or thriving? Surviving means continuing to live or exist, maintaining and keeping the balls in the air. Thriving means flourishing, growing, and developing, being successful on your terms.
By the way, that was a trick question because I already knew the answer. Life is incredibly challenging now, and as a result, most of us have been in survival mode, not thriving mode.
Here is a shocking statistic from a recent survey I did for my nonprofit: 76% of the people surveyed said they did not have time for what was important to them. We zombie from one task to another, and being busy doesn’t mean you’re living a life you are excited about. We may be checking the boxes off. Nevertheless, we are not making time for what makes us happy.
I used to be one of those hard-working “you can have it all” women: Big salary, lots of authority, worldwide travel. It looked great from the outside. Honestly, I was exhausted from working all the time, my marriage was failing, and I had no time to pursue my passions or things that gave me joy. My stress levels were through the roof.
I was busy but wasn’t happy.
Fast forward to today. I am the happiest I have ever been. I authored a book; people pay me to speak, and I am the founder of an international nonprofit organization called SheCAN which gives me a great sense of pride and joy! I made this leap from surviving to thriving by learning my thriving sweet spot. I know what fuels me and manage my priorities to make it happen. The good news is you can make this paradigm shift, as well, in two steps.
Step One: Unlocking your Values
Knowing what drives and motivates you helps pave the way for a more satisfying life. These are your thriving sweet spots or what I call your values: standards for behavior on what’s important in life. When your personal and professional lifestyles match your values, life is usually good – you’re happy and content. In direct contrast, when your personal values feel wrong, it leads to a state of survival and unhappiness.
Unlocking your values is a key step in living a life that fuels and excites you. Ironically most people do not know the vital few things that energize them. Previously my life was eat, work, sleep, repeat. Busy, not happy. My big “aha” moment came one night after a long day at work; when I was so exhausted, I fed my cat pistachio nuts while I downed a handful of cat food. I call this moment the “Pistachio Incident.” It made me realize I did not know what fuels and excites me. Not a friggin’ clue. I decided that needed to change — fast. So, I composed that vital list of 3-4 things that would put that wow factor back into my life. And I came up with nothing — a cup of coffee and a walk around the block, still, nothing. I was so frustrated. The voices in my head keep saying, “How can you live a well-lived life if you don’t know what excites you?”
After two days of trying to articulate “My Value-Most list,” I decided to look back on my life – to identify when I felt good, confident, and alive…the result of living my values. I came up with an approach that was much easier than looking at a blank page.
1. I identified the times when I was the happiest, most proud, and satisfied.
2. Determined my top values that helped you achieve them.
While it took some time, I was able to develop “My Value Most List”:
● Conquering Challenge for Growth. I love learning and doing tough things. The harder, the better. For example, I ran my first marathon at age 50. I never ran before and trained for only three months in a snowy Buffalo winter. It was hard. I felt like quitting many times. But, when I crossed that finish line, it was one of my lifetime happiest memories.
● Humor, Laughter, and Indulging My Inner Child. Who doesn’t love a good belly laugh? It ignites your endorphins that make you feel good. Anything Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, or even funny animal videos crack me up and make me feel amazing.
● Physical Fitness. Getting my blood going always makes me feel alive. Pushing myself to be at my physical best and reverse aging is a big priority for me.
● Helping People. Doing good for others warms my heart. I try to perform a random act of kindness every day. Some days, it’s the highlight of my day.
As you move through life, your values will change. For example, when we start our careers, we tend to measure success by money or status, but work-life balance becomes more important after we have families. Keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise.
Step two: Making your values actionable
Knowing your values and making them actionable are different things. To make your values actionable and consistently live them, you need the right tools (new habits). Before I go to bed, I grade myself, report card style, on how well I lived my values during the day. This exercise takes 3-5 minutes. After an honest evaluation, I recalibrate the next day, based on how I did. It keeps me honest about spending time on what is important to me.
Being busy doesn’t mean you’re living a life you are excited about. To do so, you need to unlock and live your values. The core things that make you feel alive. Go through the process to document and articulate your vital 3-4 values and then make them actionable. In doing so you will successfully start to process of going from surviving to thriving.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peggy Sullivan is a women’s leadership speaker, mindset expert, and founder of the nonprofit organization, SheCAN!. She is also the author of the book, “Happiness is Your Responsibility”. Peggy is a strong advocate utilizing the power of happiness to achieve personal success, professional growth and increased health and wellness. She has won numerous awards and honors, including the 2019 Woman in Leadership Award from New York State. Peggy has also been featured in Forbes Women, FOX, and BloomTV, and has presented and consulted worldwide for organizations such as Bank of America, Blue Cross BlueShield, Ingram Micro, and WomanUp Conferences. You can connect with Peggy on LinkedIn and Instagram, and purchase “Happiness is Your Responsibility” here.