Are you Surviving or Thriving?


Thriving can only occur when you have a relatively full tank and sometimes, says Jane McCarroll, that can feel aspirational all by itself. She offers ideas on how to fill your own personal tank and thrive.

Surviving or thriving? Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Basically, I think it is the lens we apply to it.

Thriving is a great word. I loved hearing Plunket nurses say it about my babies and I aspire to live a life where I am thriving too. But, the reality is we eat change for breakfast and with robots sharing our lunchroom. How do we lead well in a world so frantic that we have to get through the noise and rise above it at the same time? 

After a change in my personal circumstances a few years ago, I found myself having to change course professionally, and personally, virtually without notice. With two young children in tow I had to draw on my own strength to rebuild a future for us and navigate in a time that felt like it was 800 percent about survival. And then guess what happened? Not immediately, but eventually, I began to thrive.

Thriving can only occur when you have a relatively full tank. Sometimes that can feel aspirational all by itself. 

There was a long time where my tank was pretty empty. It takes huge energy to navigate sudden change, and it also took time for the survival response to be overtaken by a thriving response. I think it is our mind-set that is our greatest ally in making this happen.

How do you fill the tank when there are constant demands on you from all sides? For my life to progress and succeed after my change I needed to think about what kind of foundation I needed at home.

I had to build flow into my busy life and find myself opportunities to fill the tank when I still needed some time with the oxygen mask too.

I don’t know about you, but after a busy day at work, I am not in the best mindset to come home and cook dinner when I am also sorting out my two children – their day, their homework, lost shoes, notes from school and mouldy lunch boxes.

I believe in keeping it real and have learnt that constantly trying to do too much leads to exhaustion and that is just a race to the bottom. I don’t want that. Life doesn’t always go according to plan and it is what you do next which sometimes counts the most.

When I reflect on this I think about two things. 

My life has more flow now because I have built a strong foundation at home. My life has more flow now because I found opportunities to fill the tank. Here’s what I did (and am doing) to build my foundation at home.

• Bulk food prep: I bought a big freezer for the garage and I now cook once a month. Shedloads. It felt like I didn’t have enough hours in the day, and getting home at dinner time to cook dinner with hungry children was melting my brain. I have three crockpots and one Saturday a month I do quadruple mixtures of family favourites (think less fancy, more five ways with mince). I bung them in the freezer and pull them out again as needed. The kids help. This has made dinner time so much nicer. Originally a time-saving measure, this has also been a cost-saving measure as well. Cooking in bulk saves money because it stops the ‘pop into the supermarket for two things and spend $80’ issue. It also makes for easy work lunches and reduces dishes. A gift that keeps giving I say. I couldn’t be without my freezer now and am quite close to naming it.

• After-school care: I rang the local school, met with a lovely teacher and asked if any final year high school students would be interested in looking after my children after school. I have met the loveliest humans from Birkenhead College. We have some incredibly kind and responsible girls babysitting for us. This has been great as it is a gentler process for the kids to come to their own home after school. Now I only have to get myself home. I come home to more relaxed kids and dinner is a cinch now.

• Flexibility at work: I have the opportunity to do some work from home in my role, and I appreciate the flexibility of being able to do that. This is integral to building flow within my work, and given there is no work life balance anymore (it is just life) – how I build flow into my work impacts my life at home as well.

• Help with housework: Once a week for two hours an angel comes to my house and keeps everything ticking along. This has given me windows in the weekend to focus on more quiet and less action to help me refill the tank at the end of each week. Coming home to a clean and tidy house is the business.

• has been integral to managing my future. I have both eyes open about my financial situation and future and while I have had to recalibrate, I feel I am on track and living a life that is true to me. When the bank offered me a credit card to support a woman in my situation, in case of emergencies, I said “No thank you”. And I said “Show me a credit card statement full of emergencies.” I am pretty proud of that. 


Filling the tank

So, how might one fill the tank with a busy full-time job and two children? Good question. It is tempting to run all the time as there is always something that can be done. But this isn’t the answer and leads to exhaustion.

Here is where I have found opportunities to fill the tank – this is very much a work in progress, but then, isn’t everything? 

• Early morning walks. I love them. I used to do them all the time with a friend, but without cover for the kids, this felt like a pipe dream until they were older. To commit to my wellness, I needed to find a way to incorporate exercise into my daily life. I now have mornings (that are laid out the night before) that have us walking out the door just after 7am – I walk the kids to the bus stop, then keep walking for 45 minutes. It is good for my mind, body and soul.The trifecta right there I reckon. I go to work full of the endorphins from my walk and it makes me do better work. I also have walking meetings at work – now that winter is behind us, we have spring in the air and in a spring in our step. Nice one.

  • I love my family and friends and having time with them fills me with love and appreciation. I am very lucky
  • I meditate regularly. The Headspace app is amazing
  • I am saving for a tropical island holiday for me and my kids next year
  • I am on the lookout for more. I think a healthy mindset and a deep sense of appreciation fosters opportunities to thrive

I have created flow in a demanding life. I have a job I love and friends and family I am proud to know. My life is authentic to me. 

Hello thriving. We’re best buddies again.

Written by Jane McCarroll, the Strategic Partnership Lead for the Skills Group including IMNZ.


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