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The Search for Personal Fulfillment – What does thriving look like?

Mark Jewell

The Search for Personal Fulfillment - What Does Thriving Look Like?
One of the best parts of my job is getting to see people make the decision to stop surviving life and start thriving. It's the journey that so many take from just getting by to achieving true personal fulfillment. I was recently working with a client when this lightbulb moment arrived and couldn’t wait to share it!

Katie recently decided to start working out with a personal trainer. She’d noticed her clothes weren’t fitting the way she wanted them to and figured a personal trainer could help her get in a little better shape. In their first session, the trainer had Katie get on the scale and, low-and-behold, she’d gained 15 very unwanted pounds since the last time she’d weighed herself.

In that moment, Katie had two choices:

  1. Complain about her weight gain and feel sorry for herself. She could say that she doesn’t have time to work out. She could say she’s a picky eater and doesn’t like healthy food. She could say she hates to run. She could say that this weight must just be the new normal. This would have been the survivor’s approach to dealing with the number on the scale.
  2. Decide then and there that something had to change. She could talk to her trainer about how to make healthier meal choices. She could make time every night to get into the gym. She could make time every morning to go on a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood. She could say, “I need a new normal, and it has to be different from what’s gotten me here.” That is the thriver’s approach to dealing with the number on the scale.

Now, I’m sure by now you’ve realized that – because I’m sharing this story – Katie chose to take the second path. In the eight weeks since she started working out with a trainer, she’s lost weight, gained strength and is feeling better than she has in a long time as far as her health goes. That alone could be seen as a success.

But, wait – that’s not all!

Since Katie started to tell me about how she’s approaching her fitness differently, she’s made other significant changes in her life:

  • She started meditating, spending time each morning in reflection
  • She quit her job (which she’d been surviving in for years) and took advantage of a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move to a new company where her skills could be put to use to make a real difference in other people's’ lives
  • She makes an effort each morning to write a note of gratitude to someone in her life, for something they’ve done or just for being awesome
  • She’s spending time consciously thinking about how to be better in her relationships, including her marriage

Choosing to stop surviving and start thriving has a ripple effect. Like Katie, you may only choose to stop surviving in one area, but then it turns out to be a pebble in a pond – thriving once puts you in a better position to thrive over and over again in all aspects of life.


The Survivor's Guide to Thriving Pyramid

SG2T Pyramid
I like to visualize this movement from surviving to thriving in what I call the “Survivor’s Guide to Thriving Pyramid”. The pyramid has 7 stages. The first three stages are where most people hang out, but it's the top four stages where life changes happen.

(Want to learn more about this pyramid? Click the button below to get started!)

Sign up for the FREE  Survivor's Guide to Thriving  video series!

Bottom Rungs – The Tough Stuff


This is the base of the pyramid, where the majority of people live. It’s doing what it takes to get by. It’s settling for good enough.

Katie – Wasn’t really paying attention to her health; was just getting by.


This is the stage where you start to recognize that there’s something more out there. That you can do more and be better.

Katie – Started noticing her clothes didn’t fit and that something had changed.


It’s inevitable that this phase will come. You’ve recognized that there’s a better way, but you still haven’t made the decision to make a change. Therefore, you suffer.

Katie – Himmed and hawed about whether or not to stay as she was health-wise or make a change.

The Top Rungs – Shift to Thriving

Now, I should say that it’s not uncommon for people to stay in the first three stages for awhile. They suffer because they know what’s out there, but can’t bring themselves to make a change because it’s risky or scary or no one supports them or whatever. But eventually, people have to make a choice to go back into surviving or move on to the next phase, which is…

Driving Effort

This stage is all about doing the work to end the suffering. It might be having a tough conversation. It might be stopping doing something you’ve always done, because it’s no good for you. It might be trying something you’re scared of. In short, this phase is all about doing what’s hard in order to get to greatness. (Side note: this is the stage most people will refuse to do, which is why they stay in the first three levels.)

Katie – Got a trainer. Changed her diet. Got into the gym regularly.


When you make a choice to thrive and you do the work to stop suffering, your body has natural ways of rewarding you. When you do something amazing or accomplish something new, you get a little hit of the good stuff (endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin) and you get excited, jazzed, pumped! This feeling – which we call awakening – is what keeps you wanting more of the same.

Katie – Lost weight. Felt stronger. Felt healthier. Felt great!!


Awakening begets more driving effort which begets more awakening which begets more driving effort. This ongoing momentum is what it means to thrive.

Katie – Kept up her fitness routine and set new goals to see how much she could accomplish.


When you reach transcendence, you’re doing the work to maintain a thriving life: you appreciate where you’ve been, you celebrate where you are, and you figure out what it takes to accelerate yourself toward the next level of success.

Katie – Looked for other areas of life where she could stop surviving and start thriving in order to become a better person overall, not just in the fitness arena but in all aspects of herself.

Which half of the pyramid will you choose?

This is the path that all of us will go through in our lives. Some of us will choose to stay on the bottom half in a cycle of survival, discovery and suffering. The top echelon of us, though, will shift into the top half – we’ll do the work, feel great about it and continue that cycle as we work toward transcendence. The question is:

This is a ton of information, but it’s the foundation of the Survivor's Guide to Thriving model. If you want to go more in-depth into each of these steps and get more tips and tricks for moving up the ladder, I encourage you to sign up for our free 7-part video series on the Survivor's’ Guide to Thriving!

Back To You

Hopefully you found something valuable in this post! We’d love to hear from you in the comments section – In what areas of your life have you experienced a shift from survival to thriving? What did that feel like?

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