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Daniel E.

You Need These 7 Things to Thrive, Research Says​

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

Do you feel like you’re thriving-really thriving-or are you just going through the motions every day? Do you bounce back quickly from adversity and problems, and feel strong physically and psychologically? If you don’t feel like you’re truly thriving yet, the latest research can help you get there.

In a recent study, researchers reviewed what was known about how human beings thrive. They examined personal factors and environmental factors. Here are the main seven personal factors, or enablers of thriving, that they discovered. These are parts of yourself that you can attend to and improve upon, so you can move from surviving to fully thriving.

7 Things You Need To Thrive​

1. Positive perspective: “I see the good in the future.” Research shows that having hopeful future expectations, an optimistic attitude, and positive views of your future are linked with greater thriving. This approach helps you cope with stress and adversity by sticking with activities or tasks rather than quitting or avoiding.

Character strengths: The central strength here is hope, which means to look positively toward the future, to set your goals, and to feel confident you can reach them. Researchers also link this to being honest about one’s values. Honesty might be considered a secondary character strength here, meaning you have integrity with your values, practice what you preach, and are authentic along the journey forward.

2. Religiosity and spirituality: “I am connected with the universe in a meaningful way.” For some people, religious coping, faith, a relationship with a higher power, and having a spiritual community are connected with thriving. Other research has shown the importance of practicing one’s religion/spirituality, as opposed to merely having a religion.

Character strengths: The strength of spirituality is broadly viewed as having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, which may or may not include formal religion. Personal practices such as meditation and prayer, spending time in nature, and reflecting on the universe are sources of spiritual sustenance for many. When this is connected with other people in community, other strengths emerge such as gratitude, and the gateway to thriving may widen further.

3. Proactive personality: “I try to challenge myself.” Proactive people seek out opportunities to be challenged. This is an internal desire you feel when you want to pursue something and to challenge yourself. One example found in research is teachers who engage in purposeful career decision-making; they are more likely to thrive.

Character strengths: Facing challenges and obstacles is the work of the bravery and perseverance strengths. In addition, I have observed that when I am proactive in pursuing a new work project, I tap into my zest strength while maintaining levels of self-regulation strength to take on the right task and not take on too much. No doubt when you are being proactive you are using more than one character strength in that effort.

4. Motivation: “I am motivated to grow.” Research shows people are motivated by their naturally occurring strengths, talents, and interests. These serve as sparks for fueling interest, growth, and learning. Thriving in the workplace is connected with work that is meaningful.

Character strengths: Curiosity and love of learning are central to our pursuit of knowledge, ideas, and the development of new skills. Individuals can turn to their highest strengths–signature strengths–as a central source of personal motivation to take action in relationships, work, or play.

5. Knowledge and learning: “I learn, therefore I know.”
Research shows the desire and commitment to learning is important to thriving not just for certain people but across groups of people.

Character strengths: Here researchers suggest a number of strengths that have been found to support thriving under hardship in academic and vocational domains. These include creativity, perspective, appreciation of excellence, and especially love of learning.

6. Psychological resilience: “I overcome, rise up, and benefit from my struggles.” When stress and adversity arise, those who thrive are able to be flexible and adaptable and even benefit from the problem. The idea here is to move beyond surviving to thriving. Extra workloads, colleague difficulties, new demands–these become sources not to overcome and “ride out” but to benefit from.

Character strengths: What helps you become more resilient? In researching this area I’ve found links between all 24 character strengths and resilience. The strength with the most immediate resonance would be perseverance–the capacity to keep going, to overcome obstacles. Other important strengths include hope, gratitude, forgiveness, spirituality, curiosity, and kindness.

7. Social competence: “It matters that I connect with others.” An important enabler of thriving is to access others, connect with them, and benefit from their social support. The building of social competence matters here, such as skills of peaceful conflict resolution, awareness and appreciation of other cultures, and interpersonal skills.

Character strengths: The strength of social intelligence helps us assess situations and people, and respond appropriately. It serves us in sensing what is going on within both ourselves and others and to share those feelings in the spirit of cooperation or connection. Also important here is the strength of love which involves bonding with others, being warm and genuine with them, and giving/receiving that caring support. The justice-oriented character strengths of leadership, fairness, and teamwork are important for building social competence.


Brown, D. J., Arnold, R., Fletcher, D., & Standage, M. (2017). Human thriving A conceptual debate and literature review. European Psychologist, 22(3), 167–179. DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000294

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Daniel E.
From the above-mentioned research article:

Definitions of thriving
O’Leary and Ickovics (1995, p. 122, 135)“The effective mobilization of individual and social resources in response to risk or threat [or challenge]”
Epel et al. (1998, p. 303)“Any physiological changes brought about as a result of facing stressors that leave one with greater physiological resilience than she or he had before facing adversity”
Ickovics and Park (1998, p. 237)“The effective mobilization of individual and social resources in response to risk or threat, leading to positive mental or physical outcomes and/or positive social outcomes”
Park (1998, p. 269)“A higher level of functioning in some life domain following a stressful encounter”
Walker and Grobe (1999, p. 152)“The dynamic relationships among nutrition, weight, and psychosocial functioning across the life span, with positive and negative consequences for health”
Lerner et al. (2003, p. 176)“A developmental concept that denotes a healthy change process linking youth with an adulthood status enabling society to be populated by healthy individuals oriented to integratively serve self and civil society”
Spreitzer et al. (2005, p. 538)“The psychological state in which individuals experience both a sense of vitality and a sense of learning”
Benson and Scales (2009, p. 90)“(1) Represents a dynamic and bi-directional interplay of a young person intrinsically animated and energized by discovering his/her specialness, and the developmental contexts (people, places) that know, affirm, celebrate, encourage, and guide its expression;
(2) Involves ‘stability of movement’ or the ‘balance’ of movement toward something (Bill Damon, personal conversation, May 11, 2006), that is, thriving is a process of experiencing a balance between continuity and discontinuity of development over time that is optimal for a given individual’s fused relations with her or his contexts (per discussion of developmental continuity and discontinuity in Lerner, 2002); and
(3) Reflects both where a young person is currently in their journey to idealized personhood, and whether they are on the kind of path to get there that could rightly be called one of exemplary adaptive development regulations”
Bundick et al. (2010, p. 891)“A dynamic and purposeful process of process of individual ↔ context interaction over time, through which the person and his/her environment are mutually enhanced”
Harris et al. (2012, p. 51)“A positive response to a challenge (Carver, 1998) where gain occurs, rather than the minimisation of loss (O’Leary & Ickovics, 1995)”
Mahoney et al. (2014, p. 186)“Growth through daily lived experiences (Benson & Scales, 2009; Porath, Spreitzer, Gibson, & Garnett, 2012)”
Sarkar and Fletcher (2014, p. 47)“A sustained high level of functioning and performance that is not necessarily dependent on the occurrence of a potentially traumatic event (cf. Carver, 1998)”
Su et al. (2014, p. 256)“The state of positive functioning at its fullest range – mentally, physically, and socially”
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