Flourishing: Why Some People Thrive and Others Just Survive

by | Feb 3, 2022

Steve Graves is an author, coach, entrepreneur, faith-and-work pioneer…and he’s been my friend and advisor for almost 20 years. Workmatters is excited to partner with Steve in sharing his content with you from time to time as a resource in your journey to find purpose and meaning in your work and life!
– David Roth, Workmatters President and CEO

“Life is a matter of degrees. Some have life, but it flickers like a dying candle, and is indistinct as the fire in the smoking flax. Others are full of life, and are bright and vehement, like the fire upon the blacksmith’s forge when the bellows are in full blast. Christ has come that His people may have life in all its fullness!” – C.H. Spurgeon

 We get by. We are motivated enough or conditioned sufficiently or have just enough bulldog in us that we push ourselves from one day to the next and one week or month to the next… and we get by.  The weeks and months compound and they turn into years. But we get by. And then something happens that shakes a question out of us – “Is this all that was intended for my life?” It might be a divine epiphany of sorts, a longer-than-usual glance in the mirror, a sore back that keeps us down longer than usual, or an encounter with an old friend from school.  The question forms, settling in like a mid-afternoon rainstorm, and it doesn’t get chased away easily. In short, it roots deep into our soul. And we wonder if this is all there is for us.

This question is why I wrote Flourishing: Why Some People Thrive and Others Just Survive.

Not because I have “3 simple steps” that magically make the rain stop and never reappear, but rather, to at least focus on the question that visits all of us on and off throughout our lives.

A Baseline Definition

Often a term is best captured when it is cast against its contrast. The dark makes the light instantly stand out. The cold makes the hot immediately sensed. The slowmakes the fast quickly understood.  Seeing the extreme poor cast against even the moderately rich stops us in our tracks.  What about the contrast of flourishing versus not flourishing?

  • To not flourish is to feel hindered, withered, exhausted, empty, hopeless, helpless, confused, purposeless, or lost.
  • To flourish is to bloom, grow, thrive, be energized, shine, bear fruit, break forth, or overflow.


Look back at the plants on the header of this blog. One seems to be flourishing with life and growth, blooming and thriving. It has energy and life flowing from its deepest roots to the outer tips of its branches. The other plants are the lifeless opposite. It is dark, withered, struggling.

Or consider a town. Have you had the occasion to travel through a town or community that is flourishing and then on the same trip go through a dried-up ghost town? This past fall, when the leaves were at their peak, my wife and I joined three other couples on a two-day, 65-mile bike ride across a section of the Missouri Katy Trail.

Every mile was a colorful Pinterest poster of flourishing trees waving their seasonal brilliance.  Day two was my favorite. As we twisted our way for miles alongside the Missouri River, every turn turned into yet another “photo opp” stop. In contrast to this picturesque flourishing was that the trail passed through a half-dozen dying or fully departed communities. Gone were the days of life, energy, new construction, new faces, and Sunday-after-church picnics.  What once flourished was gone.

Flourishing and non-flourishing can be applied to trees, communities, businesses, churches, marriages, or friendships. But it can also be applied to a single individual life.


So how can we discover the life that thrives and flourishes? Here is the driving thought: Flourishing in life is a product of right perspective and wise living applied over time. It is not stacking up stuff or running from dream to dream. Nor is it a money-back guaranteed, self-help formula that we can will our way into existence. Afternoon rainstorms will visit all of us if we live long enough. However, there are some guidelines to steer us.

Years ago I began noticing people who seemed to flourish, and I asked myself what these people had in common with others who seemed to thrive in their life and work. Out of that pondering I have extracted nine ways of “right thinking and wise behaving” that help deliver the life God always intended for us. These guidelines are discussed extensively in the book, and I’ll share them with you here:

  1. The truth about prosperity requires us to redefine around something called “shalom.”
  2. You need to get comfortable but not addicted to your own sound
  3. A composite scorecard delivers the holistic win
  4. There is supreme importance in cultivating deep roots
  5. Practice the long view of life
  6. Love covers all
  7. Go deep and give much is the secret of investing in things that matter
  8. How silence makes you grow
  9. There is no silver bullet when it comes to flourishing. Instead I must endure a lifelong walk in the right direction.

God never intended my life to be an empty routine of just hanging on. He intended for a rich, fulfilling, impactful life to be experienced by us all. Get in on it. And check out the new book here.

“Even though it is planted, will it flourish?”  Ezekiel 17:10 (HCSB)

You can learn more about Steve, read his personal blog, and consider his influential books at stephenrgraves.com.