Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Business, Featured, Inspirational, Leadership, Strategy, Talent | 1 comment

6 Steps For Turning Your Business Drive to Personal Thrive

Our lives are the sum of the choices we make. - Albert Camus

Many citizen leaders are unable to pinpoint the exact moment they first decided to embrace the personal discomfort associated with taking action to right a wrong and change the world. Simone Honikman, however, remembers with great clarity the day she made that choice.

A doctor in Cape Town, South Africa, her first daughter had just turned one year old when she attended a conference on maternal mental health. It was 2002, and following decades of segregation, the country was just starting to stand on its own two feet.

Although originally compelled to attend the conference because it offered an impressive array of presenters from around the world, Simone remembers being shocked to learn of the extraordinarily high rate of postnatal depression occurring in the outskirts of her own city. Not more than a dozen miles from her home, she was heartbroken to hear that a staggering 35 percent of mothers in the impoverished suburbs of Cape Town were experiencing a paralyzing sense of hopelessness at a rate that was nearly three times higher than developed countries. “I was so struck,” she recalls, “by the paradoxes of pain and motherhood—of deprivation and affluence. I felt compelled to do something…Not doing anything would have been intolerable.”

But by her own admission, transforming the desire to accept responsibility for creating conditions for others to thrive into tangible action was daunting. After all, the need was so immense and she was unclear where she should start.

It certainly would have been understandable if Simone had chosen to leave this work to someone else perhaps better suited to such an endeavor. Say a social worker, a non-governmental agency worker, or perhaps a full-time minister. But for all the reasons she could have just walked away, she chose instead to step out in faith. Opting to act on this opportunity to build value into others’ lives.

In a matter of weeks after attending the conference she established the Postnatal Mental Health Project (PMHP), receiving early support from the midwives and administrators of the hospital in which she worked. Starting with providing free screening for women, mostly from low-income communities, she quickly expanded into counseling and psychological services for new, primarily poor, single mothers. And her innovative approach began to pay off almost immediately.

The concept of thriving gets to the heart of what it means to live life to its fullest.

Take the story of Gloria from Cape Town, for instance. Pregnant at fourteen and worried about how she would support herself at such a young age, she suffered her first severe depression. She went on to suffer through two more depressions in later pregnancies, until she finally found PMHP. The services she received helped stabilize her situation, transforming her sense of powerlessness into a positive attitude about motherhood that equipped her to better care for her children.

Then there was Babalwe, a shy, young woman with a history of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of family members. Pregnant as a teenager and suicidal, Babalwe’s depression made it difficult for her to work to support herself—until she started receiving free counseling from PMHP. Within months of visiting the clinic, and with a new-found hope in her heart, she boldly set out to create a better life for herself.

And she hasn’t looked back since.

Today, more than thirteen thousand women and scores of children in South Africa have benefitted from PMHP’s actions since its founding almost a decade ago. Their example continues to serve as a light to those trapped in the darkness of depression and mental illness. Their willingness to write a better story line for their lives can be traced back to the selfless citizen leader, Simone Honikman, who first set aside her own fear of change so she could help create conditions for others to flourish and thrive.


The concept of thriving gets to the heart of what it means to live life to its fullest. Whereas failure to thrive indicates we are depleted, unconvinced what we are doing has value, thriving means we have a growing realization of our own potential. We are stretching and moving forward—not necessarily in pay or position, but in how we choose to address the opportunities set before us to make a difference in our part of the world.

Researchers in the field of positive individual and organizational change tell us that when we are thriving we are considered to be deeply satisfied, productive, and engaged in creating the future we desire. Hence, to thrive is to routinely think more broadly about the circumstances of our lives. It reflects an active, intentional engagement in the process of personal growth that can only come when we willingly risk abandoning the status quo in search of new horizons.

Whereas failure to thrive indicates we are depleted, unconvinced what we are doing has value, thriving means we have a growing realization of our own potential.

Admittedly, I’m not a psychotherapist — I don’t even play one on TV — but I can comfortably predict that, be it in our homes, workplaces, worship spaces, or communities, we will encounter both good times and tough times. We can’t avoid them, no matter how hard we try. The successful person, however, trains him or herself to seek out opportunities to transform our innate desire to thrive into tangible reality. How? Begin by committing to:

Turn off at night

We all need time to unplug and recharge our mental, physical and spiritual batteries. Set a time every night when you quit answering the phone, checking the blackberry or surfing the web. Take time to invest meaningfully in you and in those around you.

Help others in need

Psychologists and sociologists continue to remind us that one of the most powerful ways to increase happiness and elevate satisfaction is to follow the example of Simone Honikman and lend a helping hand. Seek ways to set aside your agenda and actively serve someone in need. You’ll find it’s a win-win proposition.

Rethink happiness

So many people today in our materialistic society believe happiness is a product of what we get, grab or gather for ourselves. The fact is, nothing could be farther from the truth. True happiness comes from knowing our lives have value; that we are doing something that matters; and that as all those touched by PMHP’s selfless actions demonstrate, that we are doing our part to make tomorrow a little better than we found it today.

The successful person, however, trains him or herself to seek out opportunities to transform our innate desire to thrive into tangible reality.

Invest in pursuing your passions

Passion is the fuel that propels us in the direction of our dreams. It’s the propellant that compels us to see challenges as the price of achieving our potential. As my friend Angela Maiers frequently reminds me, “passion is not only a differentiator; it is a difference maker.” Passion makes the impossible possible. It’s the secret sauce of the world’s most effective change agents.

Vote more with your heart than your head

In a world obsessed with building fortunes, achieving titles and acquiring trophies, it is easy to become confused about what really matters. Remember, the only person who should define what a life well lived looks like is you. Trust your mind to inform you and allow your heart to guide you. Stay true to the real you.

Embrace opportunity

The word opportunity derives from the Greek word topos, the same term from which we get the English noun topography. It means territory or ground. Hence, embracing opportunity speaks to our willingness to take new ground. It’s choosing to see possibility where others only see obstacles.

One of my senior Air Force mentors is fond of saying, “The best leaders don’t push for revolution, but instead seek to promote evolution.”  In other words, they are always looking for ways to transform present circumstances, no matter how daunting, into an opportunity to stretch, grow, and ultimately, thrive.

Ready to get started?

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The ExchangeGain Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!


Image credit - jorgenmac / 123RF Stock Photo

Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter

John E. Michel

John is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. The senior-curator for, he is an accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster who has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts. His award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. In addition to serving our nation as an active duty General Officer in the United States Air Force, John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible. He is blessed to be married to the most patient person on the planet and together, they have two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website,

468 ad
  • William A Manning

    great advice.