The 3 Components of Thriving

tree, plant in the hand

This is a post by Dave Arnold who is an author, speaker, and coach. You can connect with him on his website at, & Twitter.

I remember the time in my life when I worked two very taxing jobs – one as a pastor of an inner city church, and the other as a case worker at a non-for-profit helping refugees adjust to America.

My days (and nights) were full of busyness and activity. Granted, my work was meaningful because I helped a lot of people; but the truth was I barely came up for air. My relationship with God suffered, and I barely had time for my wife. Even on my “so-called” day off, I usually ended up working on my sermon for Sunday.

I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t discontent. I was just…

Disappointed, felt alone, and my purpose muddled.

In a word,

I was surviving.

If we’re honest with ourselves, being a leader is hard. There’s tons of pressure, and we often feel like we’re blowing it. Can you relate?

We question if we’re making a difference, if God has a plan for us, if we’re really doing what we’re called to do. If you’ve ever had these thoughts – congratulations! It means you’re human. It means you don’t want to settle; it means you refuse to be another statistic. This is leadership.

The problem occurs when we stay muddled, disappointed, and alone… because then we coast into survival mode. True, all of us face seasons of survival (this is a part of life), but to stay in survival mode is detrimental.

So what are some things we can do to move from a posture of survival to that of thriving? I suggest it involves 3 components:

1. Identity. Identity has to do with who you are and who you are becoming. This is huge! If you don’t know who you are, you will easily sink into survival mode because you will find yourself constantly reacting.

And when you react, you’re never really free. Someone – or something – is always in control. Conversely, when you know who you are, you are able to respond to others and circumstances in a healthy way.

Could it still hurt? You bet. But it won’t send you spiraling down, and often, you will learn a valuable lesson.

To thrive you must know who you are and who you want to become – the best you, you can be.

2. Design. Design has to do with what you’re passion areas are – your unique design and wiring.

After a year or so of working crazy hours and merely surviving, my wife asked me one day, “So, if you could do three things – the three things that make you feel most alive – what would they be?”

It was a great question and something I thought about a lot. After writing in my journal, I came up with these three things:



Coaching/Helping People

When I shared this with my wife, she affirmed it and said, “Okay, now what can you do to move toward doing these things?”

The truth is, writing, speaking, and coaching are the things I am most passionate about. It’s what I think about day and night. It’s how I’m designed.

The key is to (1) know your design – those things which make you feel alive; and (2) start taking action on it.

3. Calling. Calling has to do with how you express or live out your design so that it impacts the world around you.

Let’s face it, a calling is ineffective if it doesn’t impact people’s lives. It must be something larger than you. It must, in a sense, lift you out of yourself and into a larger story. Now that’s a true calling.

A good start to discovering your calling is what I call the three P’s:




Prayer is vital: it’s the starting point. Pray and ask God to show you what your calling is.

People are often the affirmation piece of your calling. That is, the people around you – your spouse, friends, pastor, etc. – are typically the ones that say, “Hey, you’re really good at…”

Placement is the circumstances which forge your calling and push you out of yourself. And I have found that it often involves pain and sacrifice and struggle for this to happen. Why? Because as humans we naturally drift toward comfort and passivity. Pain pushes us out of this and helps us see what we couldn’t (or wouldn’t!) see before.

When you have all three of these components – identity, design, and calling – that is when you thrive in life.

I don’t know about you, but I am so done with survival. I want to thrive! Who’s with me?

Note: If this resonated with this at all, I would ask that you consider two things. (1) Sign up for my email list and receive my weekly content right into your inbox. Click here for that.

(2) Consider my coaching services, How To Thrive Coaching. If you’re struggling with something and it’s holding you back from thriving, or if you are plagued with doubts, or fears, or simply question if you really have what it takes to make a difference, than please contact me and set up a FREE 30 min. consultation. You can contact me at You can also go here to learn more.

Question: What is one thing you do to thrive in life?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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27 thoughts on “The 3 Components of Thriving

  1. Excellent post, Dave. Powerful questions from your wife, and I applaud your response and determination to live out your calling.

  2. I really enjoyed this article. I think one of the things we struggle with is that we have many interests but when we pursue them all we can feel like we are spreading ourselves too thin. As leaders we don’t want to let anyone down.

  3. Great post Dave! One thing that has helped me to thrive is changing my fitness level. A few years ago I couldn’t run a half mile. Last weekend I completed my second marathon. It has changed me mentally, physically, and spiritually. Just like the movie Chariots Of Fire I hear God when I run:)

  4. Variety helps me thrive. Variety with food, with exercise with writing topics… Otherwise, I get stagnant and bored. Now, within that, I do need to keep consistency with some base habits (exercise, Bible study, prayer, etc.), but variety within those definitely helps me thrive. On another note, I think you could really get into some great “How to…” with each of your points in this post. Would be helpful, I think, to a lot of people.

    • Well said, Kari. Variety is so important and helps break up the routine. Yea, good point on getting into the How-to’s… I think if I did that I would have a small novel and Dan wouldn’t be down for that – ha! Maybe I can do part 2 – wink, wink Dan.

  5. Helpful post Dan. Exercising my spiritual gift of exhortation helps me thrive, teaching a bible study makes me thrive. I am working physical exercise into my life right now and finding I love the quiet time of walking by myself and listening to the Lord as I walk. Reading good books also helps me thrive. Reading good blogs such as yours and a few others helps also. Thanks

  6. What a great post! This is something I feel very strongly about, that every human being has within them a unique mix of talent, passion and purpose that they were designed to express in the world around them. I’ve not seen this idea articulated as well and as clearly as it is in this post. It’s a perfect guide for how to go about identifying and pursuing the unique contribution to the world we are each created to make, and an encouragement to go ahead and do so.

    Interestingly, I think I probably share the same three passions – writing, teaching/preaching, and coaching/encouraging. I’ve found doing these things are when I feel most alive. The interesting thing is how long I remained unaware of them being part of the way I’m wired.

  7. Hi Dan, and guest writer Dave,

    I’m stopping over from Floyd’s blog. Nice to meet you both.

    Dave, your reminder in step 2.) “to take action” is always a good kick in the pants, huh? :)

    Thanks. Have a great day, gentlemen,
    Jennifer Dougan

  8. Great post Dave. One of the greatest killers of potential is the ‘survival mode’. With this three things, Identity, Design and Calling, even if we slip into the survival mode, at least the general direction is noted, and we can keep churning out purpose for our lives. Thanks for sharing. I love it.

  9. I enjoyed the post Dave. One of the biggest things I do to thrive is to not confuse my job with my identity. As a Pastor of a growing church I have to work an outside job to earn income. That job is not who I am. There are also days at the church where I have clean bathrooms and vacuum floors but those tasks are not what get me out of bed everyday. Keeping the fact that i get to serve some great people as they grow in their Christian Faith keeps me motivated and puts life in the right perspective.

    • Great insights Jon, those are things every leader needs to know and remember. Our job position is not our identity. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here.

  10. Nice, Dave. And thanks for posting, Dan.

    Top 3 things I do to Thrive:

    * Lead my life from quiet to stay focused on what matters most
    * Invest in growing personally and professionally every day
    * Work/serve in areas of my greatest strengths

    There are more things we can do, but these 3 summarize the biggies.

    • Great ways to thrive in life Kent, love your comment about focusing on areas of strengths. Each of your 3 are huge. Thank you for adding to the discussion.