Doing well in life, it seems, is not as difficult as we tend to assume when life throws a few tough challenges at us. A new study has found that what it takes to thrive, rather than merely survive, could be as simple as feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.
Until now and despite plenty of theories, there has been no agreement on what makes a person thrive or on how people can try and ensure they do.
To come up with a definitive catch-all, the researchers pulled together research on what makes people thrive, from studies of babies and teenagers, to studies of artists, sportspeople, employees and the elderly.
“Thriving is a word most people would be glad to hear themselves described as, but which science hasn’t really managed to consistently classify and describe until now,” said Daniel Brown, a sport and exercise scientist at the University of Portsmouth in Britain.
“It appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something,” he added.
“In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something,” Brown added.
The study, published in the journal European Psychologist, outlines a ‘shopping list’ of requirements for thriving in life.
According to the list one has to be optimistic, spiritual or religious, motivated, proactive, someone who enjoys learning and is flexible, adaptable, socially competent, believes in self/has self-esteem.
Moreover, one should also have the opportunity and employer/family/other support. The other requirements in the list include challenges and difficulties are at manageable level, environment is calm, is given a high degree of autonomy and is trusted as competent.
To thrive does not need all the components, but a combination of some from each of the two lists may help, the researchers said.
Thriving has been examined at various stages of human life and has at times been described as vitality, learning, mental toughness, focus, or combinations of these and other qualities.
It has also been examined in various contexts, including in the military, in health and in child development.
“Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a quest in science to better understand human fulfilment and thriving, there’s been a shift towards wanting to understand how humans can function as highly as possible,” Brown said.
“Part of the reason for a lack of consensus is the research so far has been narrowly focused. Some have studied what makes babies thrive, others have examined what makes some employees thrive and others not, and so on. By setting out a clear definition, I hope this helps set a course for future research,” Brown added.