Surrounding Ourselves With Thrivers

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by Maria Katrien Heslin ~

We clearly live in troubling, volatile times, where stress, depression and anger are ubiquitous; personal safety is precarious; incivility is commonplace; bitterness is booming; and uncertainty and unhappiness are rampant.

For many, it’s easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of negativity. We see it all over social media, in the news, and we may hear it and feel it from our friends, family and coworkers. Some of the feelings may be easy to understand and justifiable, others less so.

One of the dangers of getting stuck in the misery swirl is that too often we allow one adverse reality to impact how we perceive other aspects of life, such as our work, health, relationships or humanity in general.

It almost seems like negativity is catching. Actually, might this naysaying vortex be socially contagious? If a condition such as obesity is, then it’s likely a social trait such as negativity is too!

In fact, studies show that when one person became obese, their friends were 57% more likely than the average person to become obese; friends of friends were 20% more likely to become obese, and their friends were 10% more likely to become obese. Other behaviors such as smoking, happiness, creativity and drinking saw similar results.

Nick Cooney, in his book Change of Heart, What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change, shares that researchers suggest that such behaviors spread in part through subconscious social signals about what is normal. If the person sitting next to you is eating more, chances are you will, too. If several of your friends are Debbie Downers, you’ll begin to see that as a socially acceptable condition, and you’ll take on that behavior yourself.

The good news is, that hanging out with positive, hard working, fun, spunky and ambitious people can rub off on you too! The Jim Rohn adage that we are the average of the people with whom we most surround ourselves, is far more than lore.

And that’s such a huge part of why I’ve launched this blog “Thrivers.” Yeah, like the world needs another blog! Well, actually in these turbulent times, I think the world does need a vibrant voice of optimism, energy, hard work, positivity, fun, passion and accomplishment.

For Thrivers, I’ve handpicked a handful of writers of various ages and professions, who approach life with optimism, curiosity, energy, humor and a quest to learn, always. What’s not to like about that?!

These are individuals who love what they do professionally, or who are in the active pursuit of that work-centric joy, and who, to the best of my knowledge, don’t wallow, worry or whine excessively while they find their way.

Now this doesn’t mean they necessarily thrive 100% of the time in all parts of their lives or that they always have thrived — but they get what thriving is all about and are on a quest to grow, be happy and inspire others to do the same. On top of that, they’re all people who can write well and produce compelling articles that inform, entertain and engage the reader.

People of this ilk are true thrivers, and they are rare. I’m so fortunate to know them and to have their work gracing our blog waves. Yes, I am surrounding myself with fellow thrivers, which helps me keep thriving, and you can too. Here is a little bit about each of our contributing writers:

Hannah Goodwin graduated from Indiana University in May and this week started a full-time job in the office of Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor. I met Hannah a couple years of ago when she took my class Public Relations for Nonprofits. I liked Hannah right away. She’s sweet, incredibly sarcastic, self-deprecating, bright, inventive and determined. In her last semester, Hannah took my PR Career Success Preparation class, and she may not admit it, but given the plum job she’s just landed, apparently she learned a lot. 😉 Her first piece with Thrivers is called “It’s A Numbers Game,” which clearly demonstrates the qualities I’ve just ascribed her.

After 30+ years in fitness, Mary Yoke is pursuing her Ph.D. She is warm, lively, fit, pretty, interested and downright sparkly. She knows more than almost anyone about fitness and is writing her dissertation on people’s attitudes toward physical activity. Mary’s also a fantastic yoga teacher, who loves music and plays the piano daily while overlooking a large, lush lake. Enjoy Mary’s articles A Doctoral Candidate’s Meeting and The Motivation to Move.

Kate Halliwell is an excellent writer who just enjoyed a most enviable internship in LA at IndieWire, an online entertainment publication. She didn’t exactly sit around, filing or going on coffee runs there; she garnered more than 65 bylines! Kate also is lively and witty, and she has just started her senior year at Indiana University. Kate’s prolific on Thrivers too! Check out her articles:

I’m also thrilled to have the lovely Kelly Bush on our team. Kelly is a 30-something enjoying a new, fabulous career in the New York art world after taking a less fitting path. I met Kelly years ago, when she worked as a Teaching Assistant for my father Tom Heslin, who was an IU Kelley School of Business professor. Kelly is brainy, clever, wise, sharp, tenacious and cultured. Enjoy her first Thrivers piece.

For the moment, our sole male contributing writer is Tibet Spencer. Like the others, he is incredibly likable, funny, focused, astute and positive. He is outdoorsy and athletic, and has a natural charm about him. Tibet graduated from IU in May and has just converted his summer internship into a full-time job with an advertising firm in Indianapolis. His two Thrivers posts have been particularly popular:

Next up is Olivia Humphreys, who was chosen by her classmates to be the one they’d most like to hire, given the opportunity. She’s awesome. Like Hannah, Olivia took both my PR for Nonprofits class and the Career class, and she’s such a positive force. She characterizes herself as a relaxed Type A personality and is really bright, creative, organized and well prepared. Olivia graduated in May and almost immediately began working for a nonprofit called Centerstone. She absolutely loves her job, and in The Better of Two Goods, you can see why. Also enjoy her writing about The Importance of Craft Time at Work and Embracing My Ruby Slipper Syndrome.


stephanie copy
Brand new to the Thrivers team is Stephanie Harbison; her first post comes out next week. Stephanie is impossible not to like, despite the fact she’s so smart, sweet, funny and pretty! 🙂 She is also a great writer, who is passionate about her day job and her volunteer work. She and I met a few years ago and served as leaders of a local group, the Women’s Success Network. Watch for her upcoming piece and many more.


I round out the Thrivers team, and I’m a Mindful Career Coach, who helps people reach their professional mountaintop. I also teach at IU and love laughing, writing, traveling, animals and yoga. I’ll cover topics ranging from hot resume trends to mindful leadership, career success and workplace ins and outs.

So far, Thrivers is off to a flourishing start, with more than 1500 visitors in its first two weeks. We hope you’ll check it out, be inspired, learn from our experiences and share your own. Most of all, we hope you’ll catch the bug and thrive with us!









Goodbye, LA!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Entertainment, Happiness, Internship, Kate, Success, Uncategorized

After two months of writing, reporting, and ceaseless movie and TV discussions, I’m officially done with my IndieWire internship. I’m incredibly sad to leave the friends I made there behind, but hopefully I’ll find myself back there at some point in my career (sooner versus later, please!).

I ended up with 65 published bylines on the site, with a few more pieces scheduled for publication as the year goes on. I covered and/or attended seven or eight premieres, screenings, or other events for the site, as well as some just for fun.

The cast of “BoJack Horseman” at their Season 3 premiere panel.
The cast of “BoJack Horseman” at their Season 3 premiere panel.

My final week was pretty busy with events and goodbye parties, but my favorite was a premiere screening for “BoJack Horseman” Season 3. For those who don’t know it, it’s an animated comedy on Netflix that satirizes Hollywood and celebrity culture. The premiere had a panel with the show’s stars, including Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, and Paul F. Tompkins. I got the chance to meet most of them at the after party, which was super fun.


The IndieWire television team all set for Emmy nominations to begin.
The IndieWire television team all set for Emmy nominations to begin.

We were also overrun with Emmys coverage during my last few weeks, since nominations were announced a few weeks ago. We gathered in one of the conference rooms early in the morning on that Thursday with our PMC provided “Emmy NomNomNominations” breakfast and got to work! It was sort of a chaotic morning at the office, but thanks to some great organization and extensive prep, it all went smoothly.

The Last Bookstore is half museum, half bookstore, all awesome.
The Last Bookstore is half museum, half bookstore, all awesome.

I also got the chance to do a bit more sightseeing during my last week at work. I tried out the Metro bus system and ventured downtown, visiting The Last Bookstore and other famous spots. I probably could have spent the entire day just at the bookstore, but I forced myself out the door after just an hour or two.

I liked my time in LA due to my awesome job and great coworkers, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my favorite cities. The lack of a decent public transit system is baffling to me, and I just couldn’t get used to spending hours and hours in traffic every day. I also hated the parking situation — paying to park everywhere from Target to the public library? Come on! That said, I would be happy to live in LA upon graduation if it meant I could return to IndieWire, or even somewhere like it. As long as I get to do this type of work, I’ll be happy!


Don’t make me go!
Don’t make me go!

All in all, I’m so glad I chose IndieWire over my other summer internship choices. I really felt like I was a useful contributor to the site, rather than just another intern used for fact checking and research.

The list of things I learned this summer goes on and on, but I think the most valuable lesson is that confidence and personality go a long way. I’m a pretty good writer, but I think it was my personality that really endeared me to the IndieWire staff. I made some really good friends in the two months that I was there, which has really upped my chances of being rehired in the spring. Sure, being good at my job will also help my chances, but endearing myself to the team has given me an edge over unknown candidates.

And that isn’t to say that I went in with the goal of making friends — I just found my people there. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m far from an extrovert, but I really hit it off with some of my coworkers and found it easy to go from colleagues to friends. Obviously my work will go under the microscope if I ever get the chance to be rehired there, but I feel comfortable that I have at least two or three people in the LA office who will fight for me!

It feels really strange to have spent a summer working as a professional, doing my dream job … and now going back to school for one more year! Hopefully my last year at IU will prepare me even further for a job in entertainment journalism, thanks to my work at the IDS and my full schedule of film and journalism classes.

Thanks for keeping up with my Hollywood adventure! Here’s to many more.

by Kate Halliwell | email | twitter






The Motivation to Move

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Mary, Wellness

By motivation to move, I’m not talking about moving to another place of residence. I’m talking about move as in moving your body! As in physical activity. Or, for those of you so inclined, exercise.

Last week, Maria and I had a stimulating discussion about moving and not moving. What is the secret to being motivated to be physically active on a regular basis? Do you have the answer? If so, I’d like to hear about it. Seriously.

Cover shot of one of my wellness videos — me working out in 2004.

The motivation to move conundrum is really the key thing I’m interested in researching for my doctorate, and in my subsequent career in academia.

Of course, I’m sure all of you can list the reasons WHY it’s good for us to do regular physical activity. And I imagine that most of you even know the “rules” for what to do in order to be healthy, and in order to be fit. Quick, cover the paragraph below — and name five benefits of regular physical activity! Got it?

Actually, there are dozens and dozens of benefits that have been scientifically proven. Here are a few:

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease (our nation’s #1 killer)
  • Reduces the risk of many cancers
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, many musculoskeletal problems, and depression and anxiety.
  • Increases the ability of your immune system to ward off colds, flu and the like.
  • You’ll have better sleep.
  • Improves your brain function — you’ll think more clearly after a good workout. Etc.
  • But the real plus is that life is simply easier when you’re reasonably fit.
Taking off for a 4-day hike on the Appalachian Trail in CT in 1992 (with my 5-month old son!).

It’s easier to walk a brisk mile to the bus stop. It’s easier to carry out the trash and put your suitcase in the overhead compartment on an airplane. It’s easier to get out of a chair and go up the stairs. You can do more work or exertion with less effort.

It just doesn’t feel as hard to do everyday activities, so the payoff is that you have much more energy and stamina. You feel better! You like yourself better! You are much more likely to thrive!! Sold? Well, maybe. You may have already known all this, but that still isn’t enough to get you to commit to daily activity. Hmmm.

How about the rules or recommendations for physical activity? What are you supposed to do to get all these benefits? The US government (actually the Centers for Disease Control) has published recommendations for all Americans to know and follow. Can you state these guidelines?

Well, the main thing is to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. How does that actually play out? You could do 30 minutes per day, five times per week, for example. Daily movement is better than 150 minutes all on one day.

And what feels like moderate-intensity movement to you? We are all different, so the best thing is to listen to your body and ask yourself: Does this activity feel easy? Does this activity feel moderate? Or does this activity feel hard? Moderate (or, actually, easy) is best if you’re just starting out. It’s less likely to make you sore, and it’s less likely to make you discouraged and quit.

So, are you motivated yet? Well, if you’re like a majority of Americans, probably not. We have a real public health problem of physical inactivity in this country. Millions of people would be healthier, happier and have lower medical costs if they’d just move more. What to do? (Again, if you have the answer to motivating those who are inactive, I’d like to know!)

As I’ve written previously, I’m working on my doctoral dissertation in health behavior. The main behavioral theory I’m modeling my work on posits that people are motivated to do a behavior if it’s fun, popular and easy. (Actually, the specific language used is much more obtuse and theoretical, so I’ve watered it down a bit).

Hiking in Rio de Janeiro in 2002.

When you think about being physically active, are you thinking about something that’s fun? That makes you feel good? Is the activity something that others around you also do, or something you can share with like-minded people? Does the activity feel socially acceptable within your crowd of friends and family? And, do you know what to do?

Perhaps in order to make it “easy,” you need a trainer or a skilled person to get you started. The activity also needs to be doable, convenient and affordable for you. If it isn’t, then you probably won’t stick with it.

So, what comes to mind for you? Water Zumba class? Gentle yoga? Walking the dog outdoors in a beautiful park? Weightlifting with a friend? Frisbee with your significant other? It’s great to have a couple of different activities that you really enjoy; that way, if one of them isn’t available, you always have a backup plan.

Over the years, I’ve taught just about every type of group exercise: step, slide, kickboxing, hi/low impact, stationary indoor cycling, mini-trampoline, water aerobics, Pilates, yoga, bootcamp, etc. For two years, I even taught a jump and pump class, which entailed three minutes of crazy jump rope moves, followed by three minutes of weights, repeat, repeat, etc.

I was also a fairly serious recreational runner. Now, I’m 62 and have to watch excessive joint stress. No more running or jumping for me. So, in case you’re interested, here’s what I generally do: 13,000+ steps per day, every day (that’s about 6 miles of walking).

I wear a Fitbit so I’m able to keep track of my steps. I lift weights for 30-40 minutes twice per week. I teach gentle yoga 2-3 times per week and do a 20-minute yoga routine at home on two or three of the days when I’m not teaching.

Deepwater running with a flotation belt (head stays dry!)

Right now, it’s summer time and hot in Indiana, so I really enjoy doing deep-water exercise in the pool (I’m a terrible swimmer, so I wear a flotation belt to keep me vertical). The pool is great for allowing me to exercise intensely without any joint stress or noticeable perspiration — and I love it!! During the fall and spring semesters I teach a group exercise class (the format varies throughout the semester) twice a week to about 50 freshmen.

Are there days when I have to push myself to move? Um, sometimes, but not often. Fitness has been a big part of my life for 35 or so years, so I have a well-established habit. I’m used to feeling great physically, and I don’t want that to stop.

I also constantly remind myself of the immediate benefits (like abundant energy, increased productivity and clearer thinking), and I definitely choose activities that I really like, that feel good, that light me up and that help me thrive. How about you?

Let’s start a conversation and solve the motivation conundrum together!!! Please let me know if you were previously a couch potato and are now a motivated mover — how did you do it?

by Mary Yoke | email | facebook | linkedin

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