How can we design for thriving when our lives are messy? When our days are held together with threads and nothing seems to be working right, it is difficult to imagine thriving. I can move to that space quite easily.

Those of us who care for children are intimately acquainted with heartache and challenge. Teachers and parents have this in common.

We all know how it feels when the stomach flu rolls through the family on the three days you’ve set aside for rest and relaxation. Or relationships feel more like sandpaper than salve. Or when our child is struggling or depressed or anxious. Or when God forbid, tragedy strikes. I can hear my heart screaming, ‘What does designing for thriving look like then?’ How do we thrive amidst the winters of life?

Here is where my theology shows through and what I believe about God becomes evident. I believe in love and light and cultivating those great blessings in our lives, despite all the messiness. I believe we were designed for greatness and we have more than we could ask or imagine. I believe in the abundant life!

Photo by Adarsh Kummur on Unsplash

Photo by Rob Mulally on Unsplash

Yet, I realize, quite a bit of life is the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Maybe you had the flu for eight weeks straight and even the antibiotics didn’t kick it. Or your house had a tree fall on it. Or you’re amidst an ugly divorce. Or your grandpa is sick. Or work is just a slog.

So, I am in this tug-of-war just like you are. How can we design for thriving, creating goodness, when we just keep getting kicked down?

Here are two big ideas to help us get back on solid ground:

Do the next best thing.

Often for me, the next best thing is upping my self-care game. I focus on my routines, contemplative practices, creative work, or rest. It sometimes is a massage or a therapy appointment or maybe even some retail therapy, but truthfully, the best work is done in my journal or on my yoga mat or on a walk in the park.

In the Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor describes 7 principles of happiness.  His final one resonates with me, possibly because I often move to fight or flight when things get really rough. But Achor encourages us to hold on tight to the people around us and don’t let go.

He vividly describes a training session in the fire maze where the whole idea was to work through a burning building connected arm-in-arm with his partner. The learning came when he himself had to be pulled out of the fire because he was travelling in circles amidst the flames, alone.

Being in the fire alone is terrifying.

In our culture of increasing isolation, we must cling to those who offer us support. Achor concludes,

“…individuals who invest in their social support systems are simply better equipped to thrive in even the most difficult circumstances, while those who withdraw from people around them effectively cut off every line of protection they have available, at the very moment they need them most.”

You might find you need to be alone or you might choose to cling to those who offer support, but you must get clear on the key question, “What is the next best thing?”

If this world is offering up hard stuff, we can take time to reflect on what we want and take action towards our desired outcome.

Listen to the voice whispering, “We’re doin’ good.”

I have all kinds of voices in my head (in an undiagnosed version), but I can choose to listen to the ones whispering goodness. Amidst the messy, you can choose too.

Sometimes this is a prayer journey or a dive into our spiritual practices. Maybe your sacred pathway is through music, nature, sewing, or painting. Maybe going to church is just the restoration you need. Gratitude is often a key to unlocking our hearts.

You see the voice whispering is all around us. We can choose to do what helps us believe.

I’m fortunate because my husband actually whispers “We’re doin’ good.” to me. I write about that grace in Learn Forward: An Invitation to the Most Important Journeys of a Child. As mentioned earlier, it helps to surround yourself with those people.

So, as we enter a new week, let’s choose to believe in the great goodness of life. It is a changemaking grace that will empower us for a full life!

For the sake of the children,