What are the five key characteristics of a thriving person, asks Philippa Saunders, and can you learn them?

Think about someone you know; the bubbly confident person who will always liven things up at a party. The one that puts a smile on even when they things aren’t too good. The one who is always talking about the things they want to do in life, and that gets round to doing them. Have someone in mind? Good. We all usually know at least one person like this.

Great British Life: Philippa Saunders is a Thrive coach, based in KnutsfordPhilippa Saunders is a Thrive coach, based in Knutsford (Image: c. Philippa Saunders)

This might be news to you, but that person wasn’t born like that. Their confidence wasn’t handed to them on a plate. They have learned the skills and tools they need to thrive. As a result, they are mentally positioned to make the absolute best of their lives and the situations they find themselves in.

What does it actually mean to be thriving? I’ve broken it down into five main areas.

1. In control of their mental and physical health

This is a hugely important characteristic, because this is a person who feels powerful over their mind and body. They take care of themselves physically, whether that’s going to the gym, taking time to be outside, or simply ensuring they give their bodies time to properly recover if they’re a little worse for wear!

Actively pursuing a healthy lifestyle also means they take full personal responsibility for the things that affect that, such as smoking, drinking, food habits etc. They have the skills to resist social pressures to over-do those things, and know they can make (and stick to) important life changes if they put their mind to it, like diets, quitting an unhelpful habit, or getting more active.

They work on their mental wellbeing too, balancing work and free time, ensuring they take breaks and allow rest time, see friends and do things that they enjoy. They don’t feel guilty for taking time for themselves. They take time to be positive, buoyant and grateful for what they have, and don’t feel the need to spend endless time reflecting on sad or difficult past events. Because of that, they rarely – if ever – experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, extreme stress or other related problems. They have the mental skills to manage their thinking really well every single day.

NB: This is not about having perfect physical health. It’s about being in control of it, not letting health problems dictate your life and what you can achieve, and taking steps to improve your physical wellbeing where you can.

Great British Life: Being comfortable with yourself is a sign that you're thriving. Photo: Getty ImagesBeing comfortable with yourself is a sign that you're thriving. Photo: Getty Images

2. Comfortable with themselves

Self-confident, self-reliant, with high, stable self-esteem – a key part of any thriving person. They don’t need reassurances from others to be comfortable within themselves. They don’t base their sense of self on all the material things they have in their life and they aren’t easily wobbled by confrontation, criticism or social commentaries. They don’t need to ask everybody’s opinion (or permission), because they have got the skills to be in charge of their own self-opinion. That doesn’t mean they don’t care what others think at all, but they have the ability to maintain perspective about other people’s opinions, and to make independent, confident decisions and life choices. As a result, they are more able to resist social pressures and expectations in their day-to-day life without experiencing high levels of anxiety or worry; from what they wear to how they look, what they do and who they socialise with. 

3. A positive, pro-active contributor – at work, in their personal relationships, and beyond

We all know somebody who feels powerless at work, in their marriage, even as a parent. A thriving person has learned how to feel empowered in those areas, and because of that they actively contribute to (and work to improve) all the external relationships in their lives. They put the proactive work in to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship with their partner, and don’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t work out. At work, they take responsibility for their conduct and performance, learning from mistakes and pushing themselves to think out of the box and build new skills to elevate their performance. They know that they get out what they put in to their relationships, be it friendships and social circles, family time, or even within their local community, so they take the responsibility for doing just that.

Great British Life: Take a positive, proactive stance to thrive in lifeTake a positive, proactive stance to thrive in life

4. Manages challenging situations well

You might think by this point that we’re talking about super-human beings, with the perfect life, no bumps in the road, challenging situations or wobbles to navigate… Definitely not so! Thriving people are particularly adept at tolerating bad days or bad times, knowing that they have the skills to cope and get through it, and to even come out the other side stronger than before. They know that it’s not about what happens to them, or what they gain/lose in life that determines how they feel, but how they choose to react to life’s hurdles. Because of that they are more prepared to handle challenging times well. 

A key part of this is being able to maintain perspective, to remain calm and not blow things out of proportion, and to face unknown or unexpected situations with confidence and a determination to succeed.

5. Makes the most of life, with a can-do, positive attitude

With the above skills and attitudes, what else would you expect than someone who is absolutely fired up for life?! The kind of person that embraces challenges, makes the most of their life (from the every day to the extraordinary), who is excited and passionate to do and try new things. No dwelling on the past, no worrying or brooding about the future, just living in the present moment, and being grateful for everything that comes their way.

It’s easy to look at this list and think, “Crikey this is no mean feat, how on earth does somebody get to be thriving like this?!” Well, unless your parents have already taught you to be and respond like this, then the answer is very easy – you simply learn how. Yes, it’s true – you can learn how to thrive. On average, it only takes around six weeks to learn how to do just that, and change your life.

Philippa Saunders is a licensed Thrive Coach based in Knutsford. You can find her on Instagram @thrive.with.philippa and Facebook @thrivewithphilippa