We analyzed the wellbeing of more than a million employees. Here’s how managers can tell if people are suffering, struggling, or thriving – and what to do about it.

Happy office workers
People with thriving career well-being are happier and more driven to meet their goals.

Reporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing will soon become a requirement for all organizations. How many employees in your company are suffering, struggling, or thriving?

Even prior to COVID-19, work and life had become blended. Remote working and flextime were on the rise. And then with many employees ordered to work from home to flatten the coronavirus curve, work and life became completely blended for most employees. Even with a vaccine and economic recovery, work and life will never be separated like they were in the past.

If you want to know the wellbeing of your employees, this two-part question, called the Best Possible Life Scale, is the best question item Gallup analytics has ever found to measure Gallup Net Thriving because it encompasses all aspects of an individual’s wellbeing.

Wellbeing at Work

Packed into any person’s responses to these two simple questions is almost everything in their life – from basic needs such as food and shelter to personal safety to a good job, social status, money, and health.

To effectively meet the new demand of managing the whole person, your organization will need to know how your employees answer the Best Possible Life Scale questions. Just like stock price is an indicator of current and future earnings, Gallup Net Thriving assesses the current and future resiliency of your workforce.

Analyze your employees’ current happiness level

Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you:

  1. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (0-10)
  2. On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (0-10)

Let’s call the two parts of the Best Possible Life Scale “best life present” and “best life future.” They are both important because one reveals your current state, which influences your decisions right now, and the other reveals your hope for the future. Even people in a negative state can keep going if they have hope that things will get better.

Gallup tracked wellbeing in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the percentage of people who rated their lives highly on best life present dropped at a historic rate – while best life future improved slightly. People believed there was a way out.

We then analyzed how best life present and best life future predict happiness and health as well as negative outcomes such as stress, depression, and burnout. Information from best life present and best life future gives us, in combination, indicators of whether individuals are suffering, struggling, or thriving – an index of the resiliency of a culture.

We determined the thriving, struggling, and suffering categories based on analytics from over a million respondents across 160 countries.

Thriving: These respondents have positive views of their present life situation (7 or higher rating on best life present) and have positive views of the next five years (8 or higher rating on best life future). They report significantly fewer health problems and less worry, stress, sadness, depression, and anger. They report more hope, happiness, energy, interest, and respect.

Across countries, the percentage of thriving employees ranges from 8% to 87%.

Struggling: These respondents struggle in their present life situation and have uncertain or negative views about their future. They report more daily stress and worry about money than thriving respondents do.

Across countries, the percentage of struggling employees ranges from 12% to 77%.

Suffering: These respondents report that their lives are miserable (4 and below rating on best life present) and have negative views of the next five years (4 and below on best
life future). They are more likely to report that they lack the basics of food and shelter and more likely to have physical pain and a lot of stress, worry, sadness, and anger. They have less access to health insurance and care and more than double the disease burden compared with thriving respondents.

Across countries, the percentage of suffering employees ranges from 0% to 35%.

Help employees move from struggling to thriving

The first step is engaging your employees because engaged workers are more likely to involve themselves in your organizations’ wellbeing initiatives. Managers who engage their employees establish trust – making them open to wellbeing efforts that affect the whole person and issues related to suffering, struggling, and thriving.

Work should be a stabilizing force in people’s lives. This is particularly true in psychologically brutal times like those the world experienced in 2020. And employers play a central role in shaping the whole person. You can achieve net thriving without taking extreme measures or fundamentally changing who you are.

Improving wellbeing requires changing habits. So how do you make it easier for people to do things that are best for them in the long-term? The key is to identify your employees’ unique strengths and aim them toward high well-being.

Managers should have conversations with their employees about wellbeing, but only when you have built a foundation of trust. Well-being conversations without that personal connection can be a minefield. This is why starting well-being discussions with an employee’s strengths is so effective. These discussions:

  • focus on the individual’s positive contributions
  • don’t include awkward criticism that puts them on the defense
  • identify what makes them unique
  • establish a common language for strengths-based development that contributes to net thriving

When you can identify the specific strengths of an employee, you will know what that employee finds interesting, engaging, important, and valuable. This empowers you to have meaningful conversations and match wellbeing activities with that individual’s interests. Combining strengths and wellbeing at work is potentially the most transformational treatment yet in the urgent pursuit of resiliency, mental health and ultimately, net thriving.

People with high career well-being wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day. Whether they are working at home or in an office, classroom, or cubicle they have the opportunity to use their strengths each day and to make progress. Those with thriving career well-being have a purpose to their life and a plan to reach their goals. In most cases, they have a leader or manager who makes them enthusiastic about the future and friends who share their passion.

Adapted from “Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams” by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, Ph.D. Copyright 2021 Gallup, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Gallup Press. All rights reserved.

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5 research-backed practices to help you grow through times of struggle, according to an ex-Navy SEAL

Brent Gleeson
Brent Gleeson.

In the early days of my entrepreneurial adventures, I felt a lot like Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest: adrift in uncharted waters; running low on supplies; safe return on investment doubtful; occasionally gnawing on raw seal meat. I’ll admit, it was very challenging and stressful. But it was also extremely fulfilling, because it was mine to own. It was suffering I chose once again. Startups have a similar failure rate as SEAL training, but I didn’t care. Because I’d already pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone beyond what I could have ever imagined, I knew that this path could be successful as well. Not without obstacles, anxiety, and failure, but ultimately successful.

So, it’s not just about being more thoughtful in choosing what you are willing to suffer for, but also how to engage in proper suffering. Almost every self-help book seems to be about how to be happy, how to be empowered and engage in positive self-talk, how to be in a fabulous relationship, how to build wealth . . . in other words, how to be anything other than the inevitable suffering human beings most of us are at some


point in our lives. But we all experience suffering, so why fight it? Better to embrace it, understand it, and learn to walk the path in harmony. Better to understand the steps we take to arrive at suffering and learn how to navigate these trying periods in our lives in a more healthy manner.

The Embrace the Suck model has five suffering practices that are backed by research to help you grow through times of struggle.

  1. Find safe relationships to process suffering. Suffering is meant to be dealt with in a relationship. We all need people to walk alongside us on the journey of suffering. We know from research and experience that social support plays a huge role in helping people cope with trials and eventually grow from them. You need people who provide a safe place for you to express your true feelings about your pain. Even though it’s difficult when you’re going through a hard time, you need to do your part in reaching out and being vulnerable. A deeper appreciation of vulnerability is one of the positive changes people tend to experience when they grow through suffering.
  2. Face and express your emotions. Once you find people to walk with you on this journey, you need to approach and express your emotions, rather than suppress and run from them. It’s commonly known that sharing your emotions related to suffering leads to positive outcomes. Conversely, research indicates that suppressing emotions leads to negative outcomes, like increased rates of anxiety and depression. You need emotionally safe relationships in order to do this. You have to trust that your vulnerable emotions will be handled with care and compassion. When you express your true emotions in the context of safe relationships, it sets in motion a series of positive processes. You connect more deeply to others, which is healing in itself. In addition, you begin to discover the meaning of your suffering in the context of your life story.
  3. Process the emotions of suffering all the way through. Once you start talking about and feeling the pain of your suffering, stay with the feelings until you get to the end of the emotional arc. This principle comes from what is sometimes called a functional theory of emotion, which suggests that emotions are fundamentally adaptive. Emotions are your automatic evaluation of the events in your life. They provide information that is crucial, and they orient you to what is important for your wellbeing. For example, sadness is adaptive because it helps you grieve a loss. Emotions have a natural arc, or progression, in terms of their intensity and clarity. As you begin to feel the impact of your trial, you may start off ruminating about the situation. It’s important that you don’t stop at this phase. You need to embrace your emotions more fully to experience their adaptive benefits. As you engage in this process with people you trust and continue the arc of the feeling, the meaning becomes clearer, and there is a sense of relief as you experience the full measure of your own emotional truth.
  4. Reflect on and reorder your priorities. Trials have a way of making you rethink your priorities in life. This can help you grow. But you must actively reflect on what is truly important to you and then be intentional about changing your routines, habits, and rhythms in ways that align with your revised priorities. That might mean spending more time with your spouse and kids and cherishing each present moment with them. It could mean accepting and even embracing your limitations. Maybe it’s leaving the next item on your to-do list undone when the time has come to do something else, and trusting that you will complete the work in order of priority. Or possibly it means finding your identity through relationships rather than accomplishments.
  5. Use your experiences of suffering to help others. Many people find an immense sense of meaning in helping others who’ve gone through similar trials. Even if others didn’t experience the same challenges as you, using your pain as the fuel for empathy and compassion for others is a way of redeeming your suffering. It helps you create meaning out of it. Many veterans suffering from PTSD find peace in serving fellow veterans. Research shows that volunteerism is one of the most powerful ways we can engage in our own healing. In the same way, this is a core reason grieving parents of fallen soldiers start foundations in their name. And frankly, that’s why I serve as a board member for the SEAL Family Foundation as well as mentor young men into and through the SEAL training program. So, get off your ass and go find a cause greater than yourself. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.

Great, so what now?

Whether the pain and emotional obstacles we experience are chosen or dealt to us, practicing purposeful suffering undoubtedly leads to a better life. It’s no different for elite athletes, successful entrepreneurs, or anyone who has chosen to expand their comfort zone in pursuit of something they are passionate about. It’s a willingness we all have if we just tap into it. If you just embrace the suck and the good problems that will undoubtedly follow, you’ll eventually find greatness – whatever your definition of that is. Challenge yourself to identify both the suffering you have chosen, the suffering you haven’t, and the meaning in it all. Consider how you can derive positive benefits from your most arduous and painful times. What perspective could be gained and applied to transforming your mind?

Excerpted from Embrace the Suck: The Navy Seal Way to an Extraordinary Life by Brent Gleeson. Copyright © 2020. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Brent Gleeson was a member of SEAL Team 5, some of the first SEALs deployed to Iraq in early 2003. He completed combat deployments in Iraq, Africa, and other theaters of war. He is the author of TakingPoint and has starred in several reality shows including Mark Burnett’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes.’

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Amazon’s small-team structure means new projects get greenlit quickly and it’s one of the secrets to the company’s success. Here’s how it works.

Jeff Bezos Amazon
Amazon has sometimes been called the “company of 100 CEOs,” because there are so many possible pathways to greenlighting a project.

The following is a book excerpt.

Amazon is famously organized into small “two-pizza” (8 -10 person) teams. This directly adds flexibility and agility. Small teams can move quickly.

Amazon’s two-pizza teams are agile, developed flexible inter-team structures, offer clarity or purpose, and are fast to innovate. They are also highly autonomous: the Prime Now team was able to launch its pilot on the iPhone first even though Amazon is generally an Android company. When the workload for a team becomes too big, Amazon may decide to break it into multiple smaller teams to keep their agility.

But teams mostly form because an employee sees an opportunity – a big one like Prime Now or one of the countless smaller ones. That employee is free to seek support and sponsorship inside or outside his own current team.

How that happens at Amazon seems quite different from most companies, which have clearly defined chains of command. For an idea to be implemented, it must move up the chain of command to the point where management is senior enough to act. If a decision involves financial resources or legal issues, those accountants and lawyers will need to be consulted. And all the way along, there are endless opportunities for vetoes. Often, one veto kills the project.

Behemoth Cover
Behemoth: Amazon Rising.

In contrast, Amazon offers “multiple paths to yes,” as Bezos puts it.

Individuals can go outside their team or even their division to find a team interested in an idea. Teams can find any number of senior managers to sponsor and support a project.

Amazon has sometimes been called the “company of 100 CEOs,” because there are so many possible pathways to greenlighting a project. It’s not that Amazon makes innovation easy. It’s never easy. But Amazon’s structure is designed to get to yes.

Think of these proto-teams – ideas without even a team yet – as the seeds for 1,000 flowers that many eventually bloom. Amazon is diligent about fertilizing the soil and watering them with resources, in the sure knowledge that many – perhaps most – will fail.

These proto-teams – often even a single employee – are watered with enough resources to initially test whether there is something worth pursuing; that may be time off task to work on the idea, some hours or days from other team members, possibly other resources.

This period is pre-pilot. As described above, innovators start by working backwards to develop a clear vision of what the project is for, who it will serve, and why specifically customers will benefit. As it comes into focus, and more evidence is added that the project is worth pursuing, it may attract more resources from inside and outside the original team. That might include part-time help from other areas like logistics or human resources or advertising.

At this stage, the project is adding resources with dotted lines from existing structures. An HR person may be helping to acquire talent, but they remain within their existing HR team. Further information resources are easily available because of Amazon’s previous decision to manage information flows via API; emerging teams can access information without needing permission.

Robin Gaster Headshot
Robin Gaster.

At some point, the project/team gets the greenlight to move into pilot production. That will require significantly more resources, and the creation of a more focused team. Neil Ackerman explains that when he was starting to build a team for his Small and Light Fulfillment project, he searched for the team members he would need through the internal Amazon directory, and reached out to them for “many many meetings for coffee” over weeks of effort. Of the seven people he eventually asked to join the new team, three accepted, and he hired four from outside.

As the project becomes more successful, its place in the overall Amazon hierarchy becomes more settled.

It is no longer a pilot on an experiment; it’s now a service within existing services. So Ackerman’s Small and Light project became embedded as a successful tool for addressing the needs of the Marketplace. Over time, it attracted further use from Amazon Retail, and it’s now a permanent service within the Amazon logistics network, reporting up through that chain of command, and funded through the standard OP1 mechanism. As projects solidify, teams become fully independent entities within the Amazon ecosystem. They have their own marketing, sales, engineering, and finance functions, so each product has its own profit-and-loss statement, and thus each has both autonomy and accountability.

So what’s different here, and what differences does it make?

The main difference is that Amazon’s internal environment is set up to encourage the constant formation of teams, and provides the critical early resources that let them flourish quickly. Management expects and even demands innovation, and the structure is set up to provide enough fertilizer at the earliest stages, sufficient support during the prototyping and testing phase, and enough clear pathways to final adoption. There are far fewer vetoes, and more widely distributed resources and pathways. And that matters. As Benedict Evans observes,

The structural advantage of them [teams], in Amazon at least (and in theory, at least) is that you can multiply them. You can add new product lines without adding new internal structure or direct reports, and you can add them without meetings and projects and process in the logistics and ecommerce platforms. You don’t (in theory) need to fly to Seattle and schedule a bunch of meetings to get people to implement support for launching makeup in Italy, or persuade anyone to add things to their roadmap. This means not so much that products on Amazon are commodities (this is obvious) but that product categories on Amazon are commodities. -Benedict Evans

Of course, this picture is somewhat idealized. Small teams also compete for resources and projects, so from another perspective Amazon has created a Darwinian environment in which teams compete vigorously (sometimes viciously) on behalf of their projects and initiatives. Not everything gets funded, so there are naturally winners and losers. This hyper-competitive environment is another way Amazon pushes teams to innovate.

One final note. Small teams are only possible because Amazon has, since its earliest days, required that all teams share information electronically not only with other Amazon teams, but with outsiders as well. This key requirement makes it possible for hundreds of teams to connect – otherwise they would drown in information overhead, the sheer time and resource cost of communicating by manual methods like email and messaging.

Excerpt from Behemoth – Amazon Rising: Power and Seduction in the Age of Amazon reprinted with permission by Dr. Robin Gaster.

Dr. Robin Gaster is the CEO of Incumetrics and a visiting scholar at George Washington University Institute for Public Policy. He is the author of Behemoth – Amazon Rising: Power and Seduction in the Age of Amazon.

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The case for a no-strings-attached monthly payment to help families get back on their feet after the pandemic, according to an economic security expert

Jobless claims
Guaranteed income helps stabilize people during difficult times such as during a pandemic.

Guaranteed income is a robust response to so many contradictions.

We see the benefits of divorcing work from worth playing out in Stockton, California. Mayor Michael Tubbs, the first Black mayor elected to office at the ripe age of 26, is running a guaranteed income pilot. He makes the case that poverty comes from a lack of cash, not a lack of character.

We knew providing a stable income was important pre-pandemic, but post-pandemic it is a lifeline for Stockton families. Guaranteed income helps these families weather the crisis with more resilience than their neighbors.

I can’t help but imagine how this approach could have helped millions more if it had been part of our economic approach across the country. What would it mean to have this kind of an economic floor?

Named the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), the program gives 125 families in Stockton an income floor of $500 a month for 18 months. The income is unconditional. This means there are no strings attached and no work requirements.

Stockton is a city in the process of reinventing itself, with no shortage of challenges. It was the largest city to go bankrupt after the last financial crisis. It’s a city that is representative of America, with a majority of the population being people of color. One in four Stocktonians live in poverty; the median income is around $44,000.

book 553x677
The New Possible anthology.

The families participating in the guaranteed income pilot provide compelling data for how cash transfers allow families to remain resilient in the face of a pandemic. In these families, we see how no-strings-attached cash provides a way forward in economic uncertainty.

That resilience is the promise of the SEED project in particular, and the promise of guaranteed income more broadly.

To see the impact on people’s lives, let’s look at one recipient’s story.

For Tomas, the outbreak happened as he was getting his security clearance for a job at the airport. As with many companies, the pandemic caused a hiring freeze and halted the application process at the airport.

Suddenly finding himself out of work and without any jobless benefits, the guaranteed income became Tomas’ sole financial fallback.

Tomas can’t live on $500 or even $1,000 a month, but the guaranteed income is not meant to be an income on its own. It supports resilience. It works to stabilize the erratic ups and downs and to help people through difficult times in times of widespread destabilization. This is something we should all have, and our current political and economic moment makes it a possibility. We can make this kind of economic care and resilience part of our reality in the wake of COVID-19.

We are often asked, “What do people spend the money on?” The answer: People spend the money on food, general supplies, and utilities. But wanting to know exactly where the money goes misses the point. A more interesting question is: “What does the money do?” The evidence shows that meaningful psychological and emotional gains are embedded in providing people with the resources to take care of their basic needs.

Researchers Dr. Amy Castro Baker and Dr. Stacia West, who are independently evaluating the Stockton program, understand this point. Beyond tracking the basics of where the money goes, they are evaluating questions of wellbeing, including stress levels, hope, and feelings of belonging. The two researchers define hope in the way that they ask the question: “Do you want to wake up in the morning?” Hope is about goals, pathways, and agency. As Dr. Castro Baker puts it, “Keep in mind – the opposite of hope is despair. Understanding how economic security is linked to hope is key. Many would argue that change and justice are simply not possible without hope.”

They also ask interviewees, “Do you feel seen? Do you feel seen as a human being by institutions with power over your life?” If you don’t feel like you matter as a human, your capacity for hope is limited. Hope is one of the most significant predictors of whether or not you will engage with positive and healthy interventions when capitalism has already spit you out, or when it has communicated to you that you do not serve a purpose.

According to Dr. Castro Baker, “Hope is about saying: To what degree can a justice-based intervention such as a guaranteed income serve as a financial vaccine in a prolonged stressful environment with an unknown end?”

Early trends indicate that, with just $500 cash a month, people can move the needle on both hope and belonging.

Natalie Foster
Natalie Foster.

Better Ideas Aren’t Necessarily New Ideas

It has been heartening to see guaranteed income percolate into Stockton society as a possible response to the pandemic and the treacherous economic insecurity experienced by so many Americans. Giving people cash works. I

t’s not a new idea; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke and wrote extensively on the power of a guaranteed income. He was pushed in his thinking by activists such as Johnnie Tillmon, who played a critical role in the National Welfare Rights Organization.

Nearly 50 years ago Johnnie Tillmon, a welfare rights advocate, wrote, “The truth is, a job doesn’t necessarily mean an adequate income. There are some ten million jobs that now pay less than the minimum wage, and if you’re a woman, you’ve got the best chance of getting one.” Tillmon’s words are still true today.

As a result of the pandemic, more and more Americans experience low wages, income insecurity, degrading interactions with benefits offices, and lack of protections. While these have been the consistent experience of many Black Americans, the blacklight is exposing others to this harsh reality as well. The extraordinary economic disruption is now moving beyond the segregated zip codes, where it has lingered untended for far too long.

While the impacts of the coronavirus mean that more people now experience economic inequality, people of color have been advocating for economic justice for decades. We now have an opportunity and a responsibility to advance new rules with old roots in a meaningful way right now.

Even in a short amount of time, we’ve made tremendous strides. When I cofounded the Economic Security Project, guaranteed income struck people as a far-fetched idea and even a pipe dream. But that just isn’t the case anymore.

The uncomfortable truth is that there will be future pandemics – whether they are the result of climate change, job automation, or something entirely unforeseen. We will find ourselves here again. But let’s make sure that, when that day comes, the economic realities of American families are in a very different place. Right now, we can begin to offer the economic resilience required to weather these changes and the turmoil they bring.

As a nation, there is still much reckoning to be done. But we can’t be an anti-racist, just society until we have safe and stable families and communities. And for this we need cash. Let’s first provide a guaranteed income to stabilize every family. Then we can get to the hard work of healing this nation together.

This excerpt is adapted from The New Possible: Visions of Our World Beyond Crisis, published by Cascade Books, an imprint Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Natalie Foster is the president and cofounder of the Economic Security Project, a network dedicated to advancing a guaranteed income in America and reining in the unprecedented concentration of corporate power.

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How burnout left Arianna Huffington with a broken cheekbone, forcing her to change her unhealthy work habits

Arianna Huffington Headshot
Huffington realized her phone addition had contributed to her burnout, and this was one of the first unhealthy habits she changed.

  • Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global. Marina Khidekel is the company’s head of content development.
  • The following is an excerpt from Arianna’s foreword in their new book, Your Time to Thrive (March 23).
  • In it, they discuss how changing damaging habits in small steps daily can promote wellness.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We are, as the saying goes, creatures of habit. According to a study from Duke University, around 45% of our everyday actions are made up of habits. Our habits, then, are a fundamental reflection of who we are. “Habit is but a long practice,” Aristotle wrote, which “becomes men’s nature in the end.”

So our lifestyle is, in essence, the sum total of our habits. Change your habits and you change your life. But as most of us have learned, unlearning bad habits and learning new ones are not so easy. Even the most generous estimates show that half of us fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions.

That’s because most of us start off too big. We decide to launch into a whole new lifestyle all at once. Or we think we’re just going to get there by the sheer exercise of willpower. But that ignores the science of how willpower works.

In their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” Roy F. Baumeister, a leading expert in the subject, and coauthor John Tierney show that willpower isn’t a fixed, genetic trait – it’s a muscle, and one that can be strengthened.

And the best way to use our willpower to adopt healthier habits is by starting small. It’s a common element of every successful behavior change program. “Make it easy” is how James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” puts it: “The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits.”


For BJ Fogg, director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, it’s about making the minimum viable effort – going as small as you can. “To create a new habit, you must first simplify the behavior,” he said. “Make it tiny, even ridiculous. A good tiny behavior is easy to do – and fast.”

The benefit of even one small win goes beyond just the new healthy behavior you’ve created – it actually builds that willpower muscle to create even more wins and good habits.

“The more you succeed, the more capable you get at succeeding in the future,” Fogg said. “So you don’t start with the hardest behaviors first, you start with the ones you want to do and you can do and you persist.”

In one of my favorite passages of Fogg’s book “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything,” he shows how our tiny habits can spark a positive impact beyond just ourselves:

Habits may be the smallest units of transformation, but they’re also the most fundamental. They are the first concentric circles of change that will spiral out. Think about it. One person starts one habit that builds to two habits that builds to three habits that changes an identity that inspires a loved one who influences their peer group and changes their mindset, which spreads like wildfire and disrupts a culture of helplessness, empowering everyone and slowly changing the world. By starting small with yourself and your family, you set off a chain reaction that creates an explosion of change.

In my conversations with Fogg and Clear, I have been inspired by how they have pushed our understanding forward and helped establish the scientific foundation for the power of taking small steps. “Your Time to Thrive” builds on this foundation of behavior change, sharing a practical system for exactly how to implement Microsteps into each facet of our life. When it comes to leading a healthier, more fulfilling life, most of us know what we should do. And yet, all too often, we fail to act on this knowledge. We need a little help moving from knowing what to do to actually doing it. That’s what our system is here for.

More action, more meaning

When we take Microsteps, we are not only moving forward, we’re going inward. By creating rituals in our day, we allow ourselves to get into the metaphorical eye of the hurricane – that centered place of strength, wisdom, and peace that we all have inside ourselves. We all veer away from that place again and again – that’s the nature of life. And it’s a place that we are too distracted to access when we are living life breathlessly and always “on.” But from that place we can tap into the inner reserves of resilience and wisdom that make behavior change possible.

You can see it in this Microstep, which happens to be one of my favorites:

Pick a time at night when you turn off your devices – and gently escort them out of your bedroom. Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep – our to-do lists, our inboxes, multiple projects, and problems. Disconnecting from the digital world will help you sleep better, deeply recharge, and reconnect to your wisdom and creativity.

It’s one of my favorites because, for me, it is impossible to separate this Microstep from a very specific moment in my life – a moment when behavior change wasn’t just something I aspired to, but something I desperately needed.

On April 6, 2007, I woke up in a pool of my own blood. I was two years into building the Huffington Post. A divorced mother of two teenage daughters, I had just returned from a week of taking my eldest daughter on a tour of prospective colleges. And since she had insisted that I not use my Blackberry during the day (the Blackberry, if you’re not familiar, was a communication device used in ancient times), I would stay up each night working.

And so, the morning after we returned home, I woke up burned out and exhausted – and then I collapsed. The result was a broken cheekbone, several stitches over my eye, and the beginning of a long journey.

In the days that followed, I found myself in a lot of doctors’ waiting rooms, which, it turns out, are great places to think about life. And that’s what I did. I asked myself a lot of questions, like “Is this what success really looks like? Is this the life I want to lead?”

The answer was no. And the diagnosis I got from all the doctors was that I had a severe case of burnout. So I decided to make a lot of changes to my life. I started meditating again, which I had learned to do as a child. I changed the way I worked so I could be more productive, more focused, more energetic, and less tired and stressed. I started sleeping more. I knew my sleep deprivation was directly connected to my addiction to my phone – it was an addiction – and to my flawed definition of success.

I got deep into the growing body of science on the connection between wellbeing and performance, and how we can actually be more productive when we prioritize our wellbeing and take time to unplug and recharge. And – eureka! – a Microstep was born.

My 70h birthday, in July 2020, was a powerful reminder to me that we don’t need to wait to begin living our best life. At the time I was sheltering in place with my daughters and sister at our family home in LA, and while cleaning out the garage I came across dozens of old journals and notebooks filled with pages and pages of my thoughts and goals and worries and dreams from my twenties on!

And as I read back through half a century of notes, I was struck by four things. First, by how early I knew what really mattered in life. Second, how badly I was at acting on that knowledge. Third, how draining and depleting all my worries and fears were. And fourth, how little those worries and fears turned out to matter.

As I paged through my old notebooks, I wanted to shout advice at myself across the years – telling the younger me not to worry or doubt so much, or to just go ahead and take that risk. And that is one of my biggest hopes for this book: that instead of looking at those fearless and wise elders among us and thinking, “I want to be that way when I’m old,” we can use Microsteps to tap into what is wisest, boldest, and most authentic within us and live each day from that place right now, however young or old we may be.

Excerpted from Your Time To Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Wellbeing, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps by Marina Khidekel and the Editors of Thrive Global. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, the founder of The Huffington Post, and the author of 15 books. In 2016, she launched Thrive Global, a leading behavior change tech company with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.

Marina Khidekel is Thrive Global’s head of content development, bringing Thrive’s corporate and consumer audiences compelling multimedia storytelling and actionable, science-backed advice to help lower stress and improve wellbeing.

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A cofounder who sold his company for nearly $20 million on how to make investors feel like their input matters so they take a chance on you

woman presenting
Ask for feedback and demonstrate how this feedback has been incorporated into the development process.

Years ago, I came across a designer named Michelle who was incredibly in demand within her company. People would fight to have her on their team. I later discovered that while people liked Michelle’s creativity, they loved her process even more.

After sharing a set of design options, Michelle always gathered input from the room. Then, in a follow-up meeting, she would go down the checklist of feedback, item by item, and show how she had incorporated their thoughts into the newest design. Or, if she had decided not to use the feedback, she would share her reasons why. People didn’t always agree with Michelle, but they always felt heard. Their input mattered, and they felt like insiders in her process.

Recently, June Cohen said something that really made Michelle’s story click. Cohen, the former head of media for TED and current CEO of WaitWhat, explained that in order to chart a truly epic career, “You need to make everyone you enlist a hero, not just in your story, but in their own.” In the “Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy enlists the help of the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion – by making them the hero of their own stories. Cohen says, “If the Scarecrow didn’t have a chance of getting a brain, if the Tin Man couldn’t get a heart – they wouldn’t have braved those attacks from flying monkeys!”


To feel like heroes, we need to know that what we said and what we did made an impact. Penelope Burk is a renowned fundraising researcher who showed the difference it makes when we truly feel that way. More than twenty years ago, Burk noticed that nonprofit leaders were spending the majority of their time and resources recruiting new donors instead of keeping the ones they already had. As a result, nearly 70% of an average charity’s backers would never give again, and nonprofit leaders would constantly be rebuilding their donor bases from scratch.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Burk told me. So she decided to study what would happen if a charity spent real time and effort cultivating existing donor relationships. In her experiment, Burk isolated a set of people who had given to a national health charity.

If you were a part of this test group, you received a personal phone call from a member of the board of directors. During this call, you were not asked for more money. This was a critical point – the call wasn’t being used to sell you again, but rather to express sincere gratitude. You received a heartfelt thank you for your support, and you learned how your contribution was making a difference. After those phone calls were placed, Burk waited to see which donors stuck around.

What she found was astounding. Two years later, 70% of the people who had received the phone call from a board member were still giving to the organization, compared to just 18% of those who hadn’t. To top it off, donors who remained were now giving 42% more than they had at the start.

When Burk shared those results with me, I asked her how one simple phone call could make such a huge difference. She answered my question, in part, by reading a thank-you letter she happened to have sitting on her desk. It was written from one community organizer to another, and the first paragraph began: “We know it’s often your role to do the work of making donors and volunteers feel like heroes . . . and they no doubt are.”

Helping people understand their impact isn’t a business concept, it’s a human concept. We all want to feel as though what we said and what we did mattered. If you’re a backer, that can be as simple as knowing your input was heard   and utilized – whether that’s for a mission, a strategy, or a product.

I got my first glimpse of this in politics. In high school, I knocked on doors for a local politician named John Dingell, and I still remember the annoyed looks on people’s faces when I’d ring their doorbell on a Sunday afternoon. By the tail end of the campaign, people’s irritation grew because their homes had been visited multiple times by campaign workers who had handed them the same piece of literature. “If you give me one more of these pamphlets, I’m voting for the other guy,” said one suburban dad.

A decade later, when I was canvassing for another candidate, smartphones had changed everything. Before knocking on a door, I could pull up an app and know the issues that mattered most to that voter because we had taken notes the last time we visited the home. I would say something like “From the last time we chatted, I know you care deeply about K-through-12 education. Can I give you an update on some of the progress we’re making on that front?” As a result, there were fewer door slams and more quality conversations. Voters felt like they were being listened to – that what they said mattered.

We don’t typically win people over in one conversation, but through a series of interactions that builds trust and confidence. Even if the last conversation went poorly, you can use the next one to show them how they influenced your work. This type of follow-up is so powerful that it can often change a backer’s response from no to yes.

Brian Wood is an innovation strategist at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which is part of the US Department of Defense. He explained to me, in layman’s terms, an internal project he created called Conduit, which used artificial intelligence to help the agency make better decisions more efficiently. But when he pitched decision makers at the Pentagon, they rejected the idea, expressing a laundry list of concerns.

Instead of getting defensive, Wood listened carefully to the feedback. He took detailed notes and created a checklist of things he’d need to address before he returned. Then, weeks later, he scheduled a follow-up meeting.

Suneel Gupta.1.JPG
Suneel Gupta.

Just as Michelle the designer had done at a high-tech company, Wood walked Pentagon officials through a modified version of his prototype, showing them exactly how their feedback had been incorporated. When Wood finished his demo, he saw a room full of surprised faces. When he asked if everything was okay, one of the officers cleared his throat and said, “Everything’s fine. It’s just . . . no one ever comes back.”

Unlike Wood, I never thought to go back to the investors who said no to Rise. That is, until I met an old friend from law school for coffee. Andy patiently listened to me complain about how everyone was passing on my idea. When I was finished, he leaned back in his chair a bit and looked off into the distance for a moment. Then he asked a one-word question: “Why?”

“Why what?” I asked.

“Why did they pass?” he said.

“Because they didn’t like the idea,” I said, feeling a slight irritation.

“Yes, but why? Why didn’t they like the idea?” he pressed.

At that moment, it occurred to me that I hadn’t really asked investors who passed why they had passed. Typically, I had received a short email saying something like “Sorry. It’s just not the right fit for us.” But I hadn’t followed up and probed further into why.

Later that day, I took Andy’s advice and reached out to all the investors who had passed on Rise and asked them what it would have taken for them to say yes. A few of them responded with their version of “Nothing. Just not the right fit for us.” But others responded with substantive notes, offering feedback such as “We would have liked to have seen more numbers around retention” or “We’d like to see the engineering team built out a little more so we know you can build a strong consumer product.”

Without asking the question, I never would have received the feedback. And now that I had a clear direction, I knew how to adjust our road map to focus on customer retention and engage a recruiter to help us find engineering talent. About a month later, I emailed those same investors and asked if they’d be willing to take a quick follow-up meeting. I began each of those meetings by restating the concerns they shared and, as soon as that happened, I could feel the room relax. They knew in that moment that I wasn’t going to waste their time regurgitating the exact same pitch. 

Then, like Brian Wood inside the Pentagon and Michelle inside her design room, I showed how I had modified our approach using their input and the results we had so far. The new pitch didn’t always work, but two venture capitalists who had previously told me no became early investors in Rise.

Excerpted from BACKABLE by Suneel Gupta. Copyright © 2021 by Suneel Gupta. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.

Suneel Gupta is the cofounder of Rise and teaches Innovation on faculty at Harvard University. Using the 7 steps inside this book, Suneel went from being the face of failure for the New York Times to being the “New Face of Innovation” for the New York Stock Exchange. His ideas have been backed by firms like Greylock and Google Ventures, and he has invested in startups including Airbnb, Calm, and SpaceX.

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It’s not a Black woman’s job to be less threatening in the workplace. This is how to boldly occupy space.

Joyce Johnson _ Monica Gary
Joyce Johnson.

The red lipstick is a signature of mine, but you might be surprised to know that it is not a color I prefer. If you knew me from years back, you would have seen me in paler, more neutral colors. I wanted to be noticed for my intelligence, not my luscious lips.

It was Lucille Ball who inspired me, when she was reported as painting her lips a

No Back Doors For Me book cover
No Back Doors For Me.

bright red color to be less threatening to men even though she was in a position superior to theirs.

There it was! Another way to be less threatening. I went right out and bought several shades of red.

Who would’ve thought there would be such influence in a pair of red lips – something that I had always considered inappropriate for a work setting. It almost seems simple-minded that people can be swayed by the color of a person’s lips. But then again, is it not equally incredible that I am compelled to make these considerations to boost my gender and racial acceptability in the business world?

These adjustments are only part of the little big things that added to my back door experiences.

Read more: How Jeff Bezos’ leadership style propelled him to become the richest man in the world, and what you can learn from it

So, my question is, “How can anyone feel so threatened by me?” I am a mere 5′ 7.”  Yet I am told that my personal presence and conversational articulation have caused others to fear me; yet I am often complimented for displaying an executive presence.

The perception lies in the insecurities of the beholder. I can only conclude that there are antiquated preconceptions still in existence whereby an African American woman speaking with any type of self-confidence, knowledge, and authority can somehow be mistaken as having defensive and passive-aggressive behavior by my white peers and leaders. However, their constant micro-aggressions, insults, and sarcastic tones were acceptable when I was asked to train on emotional intelligence. Yes, I am laughing out loud!

I want African American women to know that the onus is most definitely not on you. It is not your hair, your tone, your weight, height, or what lipstick color you wear. It is not a problem you should bear. The problem is in the eye of the beholder.

Read more: PwC’s chief inclusion officer shares how the company developed a new toolkit to promote allyship in the workplace

Just yesterday, I helped a young woman of color put together a plan to navigate her next career move. After we were done, I said to her (and I would iterate the same to you), once you check off all these boxes, and they tell you that it is enough, and you still don’t get the promotion, then make a decision to find a place where you will be celebrated versus tolerated!

You owe it to yourself and to everyone around you to celebrate who you are, to be confident in your abilities, and to receive the rewards of your hard work. I know that there are companies out there that will offer you this, and if not, create your own, because you are just that damn good!

Excerpted from “No Back Doors For Me” by Joyce Johnson. Published by Self Publish -N- 30 Days. Copyright ©  Joyce Johnson, 2021.

Founder and CEO of Why Sales Network, business coach, and author, Joyce Johnson has over 20 years of experience as a “Corporatepreneur.” She’s the author of several books and hosts a podcast called “Let’s Talk About It #collegelife.”

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A former monk shares a simple mind trick to help you combat negative thoughts and feel calmer in times of stress

Cory Muscara
Cory Muscara.

  • Cory Muscara is a mindfulness teacher, a frequent guest of the “Ten Percent Happier Podcast” with Dan Harris, a professor, and an ordained Buddhist monk.
  • The following is an excerpt from his book, “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”
  • In it, he describes a workshop where he encouraged hundreds of Fortune 100 executives to sit silently and listen to a bell ring three times. This exercise is meant to help people focus on the present moment.
  • Muscara argues that it’s important to be intentional about our thoughts and where we direct our attention, as this can help us combat worries, fears, and negative thinking.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Within the first 10 minutes of any workshop, I do an exercise to help people connect with the power of focus. I ring a bell and ask the audience to pay attention to the sound, which has a long, deep resonance.

Recently, I was running a workshop for a big Fortune 100 company. There were over 200 executives in the room, all suffering withdrawal from being off of their phones for the last three minutes, and I was going to put them through my meditation exercise whether they wanted to do it or not.

The instructions were simple: I’ll ring the bells three times. If you’d like to close your eyes, you may. All you need to do is bring your full attention to the sound of the bell until it dissolves back into silence.

Everyone looked around at each other like I had just asked them to get naked and hold hands.

“Don’t worry, it will be easy,” I assured them. “And it will only take about a minute.”

They adjusted their posture, as if reviewing the catalog in their mind for how you’re supposed to sit when you do weird hippie stuff like this. Some closed their eyes; some kept them open.

I rang the bells once, and the sound ran for about 15 seconds.

The room got quieter.

I rang the bells again, and everyone continued to listen for the sound to soften into silence.

More people now had their eyes closed. I could feel something shifting.

I rang the bells a third time, letting the sound run its 15 seconds and watched as the group settled into it.

After the last bell faded into silence, you could hear a pin drop. The room was still. And it appeared that everyone had their eyes closed.

In a gentle tone of voice, I invited them to open their eyes again.

They stayed quiet.

“So … how was that?” I asked.

“I liked the quiet,” one woman said. “I think that’s a new experience for all of us … at least at work. I didn’t want it to end.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “So, you get a taste for just how much we’re consumed by the noise of our lives.”

“What else did people notice?” I asked.

A man raised his hand. “In the silence between the bells, I noticed a lot of other sounds in the room, especially the ticking of the clock. I was surprised I was able to hear that.”

“Very cool,” I said. “So, even though we raised awareness around one thing, in this case the bells, it enhanced our awareness of other, more subtle things.”

Anything else?

There was a pause.

Eventually, one last woman chimed in. “I just feel so calm. I’m usually caught in my thoughts and worries, and when I was listening to the bells, most of that fell away.”

The whole room seemed to nod in agreement.

I’ve done this exercise more than 500 times, and there are usually common themes in people’s responses, but the one response that always comes up is an increased sense of calm.

It could be that the bells are very pleasant to listen to, or that the room is quiet, or that they’re not immersed in emails – but it seems that when we make the intention to pay deeper attention to one thing (in this case, the bells), we’re less prone to falling into the dominating stream of thoughts and stimuli that typically consume our attention and create extra agitation.

“Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”

You know those thoughts, right? The judgments, the worries, the rumination, the thoughts about the future and the past. Not only do they create agitation and stress, these pesky little critters become the filter through which we experience our life.

Some skeptics might think that I’m suggesting we clear our minds of thoughts, never think about the future or the past, and just focus on what is happening right now, all the time, in every moment.

Eh, not quite. If that were the case – or if it was even possible – I’m not sure how we would get anything done. We should spend time thinking about the future – planning our goals and scheduling out our day – and time reflecting on our past – what we need to improve and what went well that we want to remember. Both of those domains, the future and the past, heavily inform how we live our life in the present moment.

However, in my own life, I’ve noticed that my mind can go into the future and the past without me asking it to. And it’s not always helpful. It often leads to extra stress, extra worry, and extra judgment about things that have very little to do with the reality of what is happening right now.

So, this is not about clearing thoughts from our mind; rather, it’s about developing an awareness of what is going on in our minds – Where does our attention go, moment to moment? What does our mind reflect on when we’re not aware of it? – and then being more intentional about where and how we direct our attention.

A thought can be a powerful and positive force in our lives, leading to creativity, planning, and problem solving; a thought can also be meaningless neurotic chatter. We want the ability to leverage the former and not be swept away by the latter.

But, Cory, I don’t want to constantly monitor myself. I want to be free and spontaneous!

The kind of freedom I’m talking about is not being trapped in the unconscious pattern of reactivity. It’s about seeing what our usual impulse is in the moment and then being able to choose to follow it or respond differently.

I believe this sentiment is best captured in this quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth, freedom, and happiness.”

The ability to respond in that space between something happening and our response to it is where we find freedom. It’s where we can show ourselves a little more compassion when we’re beating ourselves up. It’s where we can decide to be a little less impulsive when we’re about to say (or text) something we shouldn’t. And when it comes right down to it, it’s where we start to make meaningful changes in our life.

Excerpted from the book “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World” by Cory Muscara. Copyright (c) Cory Muscara by Da Capo Lifelong Books. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

This article was first published by Business Insider in December 2019.

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