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What Matters Most: How to Thrive in Every Aspect of Your Life

Published on May 28, 2024
Guest Author
Rachel Druckenmiller
Founder of UNMUTED
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What matters most when it comes to being well? As someone with a passion for health and wellbeing since I was a teenager, that’s a question I’ve thought about for over 20 years. As someone who worked in the corporate wellbeing industry as the Director of Wellbeing at the same company for 13 years, I learned a lot about the “shoulds” that all of us are familiar with. We already know we should be eating as much whole, nourishing food as possible, moving our bodies regularly, and getting enough sleep. We know we should manage our stress, get outside, and connect to experiences that help us be more present and mindful. I knew all of that when I burned out and was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus, an acute form of mono, in my early 30s, which made me realize I had more to learn.

But what about the other aspects of our health and wellbeing that we might overlook? What else contributes to helping us be well and thrive personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and socially?

The PERMA Framework for Wellbeing

Early in my career, I was introduced to the work of Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is credited with founding positive psychology, an approach that favors focusing on possibilities over problems. One of the key frameworks around wellbeing that he introduced that I integrated into my work is the PERMA framework, a multidimensional approach to wellbeing that focuses on these five elements:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

When we connect to those aspects of who we are, we are more likely to thrive at work and in life. Let’s take a closer look at these elements:

  • Positive EmotionsPositive emotions can be hard to come by in the midst of change and adversity, but they’re what help sustain us through those difficult times. At the 2024 Vista Law Firm Leadership Summit, I shared that I was hit by a pickup truck and fractured my back in May of 2020, and I talked about the process of grieving that all of us go through when we experience such a blindsiding moment. But something I didn’t share about what helped me leading up to that event was a practice I’d started doing at the start of the pandemic and the lockdowns that helped me connect to positive emotions. Each day, at the end of the day, I numbered a piece of paper (usually a page in my journal) from 1-10, and next to each number, I wrote something that had been a bright spot from that day. A bright spot might be a moment of joy, happiness, laughter, connection, gratitude, or hope – something that made my day a little better and a little brighter. Some days, I would get to the third number and be racking my brain to figure out how to come up with seven more, but each day, I committed to writing something on each line, no matter how seemingly insignificant it was. Maybe I sat outside on a beautiful spring day and heard birds chirping or the breeze blowing. Maybe someone left a thoughtful, affirming comment responding to a LinkedIn post I shared. Maybe I caught up with a close friend, even for just 10 minutes. Maybe my favorite song popped up on Spotify when I was getting ready in the morning. Maybe I went outside and took a walk with my husband or a friend. Maybe I booked a keynote with a new client. By the time the accident happened, I had been doing that bright spots tracking process for over 45 days, which meant I had listed over 400 bright spots. I was starting the hard work of rewiring my brain to look for and take in the good at a time when it was much easier to only notice the bad. Because of our brain’s built-in negativity bias, we have to be proactive in rewiring it by doing things like taking note of what’s good. Here’s a practice for you to try:Reflect: What positive emotions do you want to experience more of in your life? Joy? Hope? Contentment? Peace? Gratitude? Love? Enthusiasm? Playfulness? Pride? Compassion? Curiosity? Recalibrate: What is something you can do right now to feel the way you want to feel?We have more control over our positive emotions than we realize, and being intentional about connecting to those emotions and activating them is one of the keys to thriving and being well, especially when it comes to our mental health.
  • Engagement + MeaningThese two terms are often connected to each other, though meaning can be (and often is) found in something unrelated to our work. As I reflected on my time at the Vista Law Firm Leadership Summit, I thought it would be helpful to connect them. When we’re engaged in what we’re doing, we feel present, purposeful, and in the zone. We’re clear on who we’re helping and why it matters, which is also connected to a sense of meaning, something all of us want to derive from our work. At the summit, I asked the room to reflect on why their work in plaintiff law is meaningful, purposeful, or important. I was inspired by what I heard and noticed a few common themes in the responses about what contributes most to that experience of engagement and purpose:
    1. Being a trusted advisor and guide to clients, helping them through their most difficult times and positively impacting their lives
    2. Empowering, advocating for, and helping people who are vulnerable and in crisis rebuild their lives and feel heard and supported
    3. Developing the potential within the people on your team and watching them grow
    4. Finding innovative solutions to complex problems that have a tangible, measurable outcome
    These commonalities inspired a practice we can do to explore engagement and meaning:Reflect: What is it about your work that is meaningful, purposeful, or important? Who are you helping, and why does it matter? Recalibrate: When you meet with a team member, whether one-on-one or in a group, invite them to share stories of impact that remind them why the work they do matters.
  • RelationshipsConnection is at the core of everything we do. When we intentionally take time to invest in relationships by listening to people, affirming their strengths, supporting them when they’re struggling, and recognizing and appreciating their contributions, we show them that they matter.At the end of the day, that’s how all of us want to feel. According to Stephen Covey:“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”That single statement tells us everything we need to know about how to show up in relationships with the people around us, whether they’re an internal colleague, an external client, a vendor partner, or a loved one.To further deepen our relationships, try this practice:Reflect: What if you started each day asking yourself the question and living into the response: How can I be a contribution today? Recalibrate: What step can you take today to show someone in your sphere of influence that they matter?
  • AccomplishmentWe all want to feel a sense of pride within ourselves and about our work. Connecting to healthy pride is something that gives us confidence and makes us feel competent, like we are doing something that matters. All of us need to feel like who we are and what we do is relevant, that we are making progress, and that we are moving toward our goals rather than staying stagnant.At the leadership summit, I asked everyone to share something about themselves that they’re proud of or appreciate as they reflected on a time they navigated an unexpected challenge. The shared responses centered around strengths like courage, the willingness to act, self-trust, being vulnerable and asking for help, resilience, optimism, relational connection, self-advocacy, adaptability, calmness, composure, perseverance, and prioritization. Several responses were particularly moving:
    • “I was able to beat cancer and can say I’m almost 10 years cancer-free. It wasn’t easy but I was able to navigate and can now support others from the other side.”
    • “I’m proud that I stood up for myself when the easier thing to do would have been to concede.”
    • “I’m proud of myself for recognizing that in a moment or time of personal crisis, I needed to step away to get back to being myself before I could be what I needed to be for my team.”
    • “Learning to have grace on myself after making a difficult decision that would alter my life in a significant way. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and heal from trauma.”
    • “Recognizing that asking for help is brave.”
    • “I’ve never given up even when those around me thought I should.”
    That’s what accomplishment sounds like. It’s not always a measurable metric, but a sense of accomplishment is something we can connect to when we want to keep ourselves motivated to keep going and to keep showing up when it’s hard. It’s important to take time to pause and acknowledge what we’ve accomplished rather than brush it aside to move on to the next task.To honor your accomplishments, try this practice:Reflect: What about yourself are you proud of or appreciate? Write it down and acknowledge it. Recalibrate: Each week, at the end of the week, jot down one thing you accomplished that you’re proud of. It could be something personal or professional. If you want to take it up a notch, list three things you’re proud of each week.

Be Well, Live Well

If we want to be well, we have to take intentional steps to prioritize and recognize our total health and wellbeing, including our emotions, relationships, purpose, and achievements. When we shift our focus from problems to the possibilities that lie within each of those areas of our lives, we’ll be more likely to thrive.

As we close, I wanted to share something I’m proud of, something that stirs up positive emotions in me. In the wake of the accident, I reconnected to an alive and expressive part of myself that I used to hide from the public because I was insecure about it – my voice. Three years after the accident, I started writing, recording, and releasing original message-driven music intended to help people feel validated and less alone.

The song I wrote after the accident is called Didn’t See It Coming. I wrote it for anyone who’s been blindsided in some way in their life. It’s an anthem and a reminder to rise up when we get knocked down. You can listen to it here or wherever you stream music. Feel free to share it with clients, too.

In observance of the end of mental health month, here is my third song, Lightbulbs, which is about checking on the lightbulbs, the shiny, happy people in your life, because you never know what they’re going through. I hope you enjoy it and share it as a reminder to check on those around you and offer support.

Take good care, be well, live well. You matter and what you do matters. Keep making an impact!

About Rachel Druckenmiller, Founder of UNMUTED:

Rachel Druckenmiller—an award-winning thought leader and TEDx speaker—is a catalyst who helps people unleash possibilities and unmute themselves.

For more insights like this, connect with Rachel on LinkedIn, her websiteSpotify, and YouTube. And if you know anyone who would benefit from her work as a speaker and trainer, you can email her at [email protected].

For nearly 20 years, Rachel has helped leaders and organizations elevate engagement, accelerate growth, and unleash purpose and possibilities by activating curiosity, character, and confidence. The result is that people are motivated to do and be their best and highest performing selves, leading to greater influence, impact, and fulfillment at work and in the world. As a trained facilitator and professional speaker with a background in workplace culture, health, and human behavior, Rachel brings a unique perspective and set of skills to catalyze both introspective insight and meaningful connection that lead to lasting transformation.

Recognized by Smart Meetings as a Best of the Stage Speaker, Forbes as a Next1000 honoree, Workforce Magazine as a 40 Under 40 Game Changer, and the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. by the Wellness Council of America, Rachel is a change agent whose refreshing perspective has helped her stand out as a leader in her field. Rachel has served clients ranging from 20 to 60,000 employees, including organizations like the American Bar Association, the Association of Legal Administrators, Citizens Bank, Sherwin-Williams, UnitedHealthcare, SHRM, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rachel is a TEDx speaker, singer-songwriter, and a course instructor for Simon Sinek’s virtual classroom. She holds a Master’s degree in Health Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Rachel is the Founder of UNMUTED, a speaking and training company whose mission is to activate the power of curiosity to ignite personal and professional clarity, so people move forward with greater purpose, passion, confidence, and courage.

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