What did I expect from Flourish by Antonia Case, before I began reading? Judging by the title, and the uplifting abstract on the cover, I imagined it would be a how-to guide, distilling good advice and directing me on the finer points of thriving in my own life. Possibly, it would remind me to drink more water, make time for meaningful connections and maintain a gratitude list. All good solid stuff, scientifically proven, and trotted out in magazine articles across the world.
But what I actually got was something a little more stimulating. I was given my first taste of ancient Greek philosophy. And shown what the greatest thinkers of all time had to say about the meaning of life. More specifically, how we can mould and shape our existence, so that we may flourish. But before I get to the passages that spoke clear and loud to me (and there were plenty, this book definitely deserves a re-read), here’s some background to Flourish by Antonia Case.
The Background to this book
Firstly Case, the editor of Womankind magazine, wrote this book over a period of fourteen years and four children. It begins with her and her partner travelling around South America, looking for a place, a community, a vocation where they can flourish. From this point her life unfolds. She explores new countries, ponders the meaning of life, starts businesses and raises children.
When I began this book, I noticed some impatience within myself. I was expecting a guide and I kept looking for some hard and fast answers. ‘Tell me what works’, I thought. ‘I just want to know what to do!’ But instead of definitives, there are just wise words from the world’s greatest thinkers.
I expect every single person who reads this book will get something different from it. I was surprised by the amount of times I stopped reading to process a paragraph. And, at one point, even hunted down my yellow highlighter.
Here’s what I took from flourish
- We become through what we do
As a counsellor I’m so used to introspection, analysis and theorising that I often forget it’s only through the doing that we become. You can think about art all you like, talk about it until the paint dries on the pallet, but unless you pick up the brush and start painting, you can’t call yourself a painter. It’s through the habits practised hour after hour, accumulating day by day, that we flourish into who we want to be. Not through the imagining, thinking or reading about our ideal self. Flourishing is a verb, not a noun
- You don’t flourish at a distant point in the future, but now
Often, when we imagine ourselves flourishing it’s at a distant point in the future. Perhaps next year when I’ve got a new job/ finished writing my book/ become fluent in French. But Case states that by putting the flourishing off to a future point, it may never happen. Instead, start in the present, and begin acting like your future self where you are.
- Let yourself be as happy as you can be
Life, for everyone, is a mix of the good and the bad. But it seems we each have an inbuilt set point for happiness. So if you’re usually a four out of ten, and then you win the lottery, you’ll soon be back at your original four. Although this may sound fatalistic, there are ways to maximise contentment. Namely, being aware of all the things you enjoy, and then pursuing them.
Bertrand Russel writes, “The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities for happiness he has. And the less he is at the mercy of fate. Since if he loses one thing, he can fall back upon another.
I always love hearing your thoughts, so please share below how you flourish and thrive in life, and what works for you.