Dr. Amy Miner, PhD

Dr. Amy Miner, PhD

Thriving is more than Surviving

Well-being is integrated, holistic, and a fundamental human goal. Well-being includes the experience of functioning well, having a sense of engagement and competence, being resilient in the face of setbacks, having good relationships with others, a sense of belonging, and contributing to a community.

Well-being is not just the absence of “ill-being.” Rather, there are specific conditions that support it and that deliberate work is associated with it in order to ensure it. White and Kern remind us that well-being is not the mere absence of psychological or behavioral problems, but reflects the presence of strengths and wellness. [1] Hupert refers to ten features that represent well-being as the following: competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self-esteem, and vitality. [2]

Additionally, well-being is seen as lying at the opposite end of the spectrum to the common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. These features can be combined in specific ways to provide operational definitions of “flourishing.” Jones and Kahn [3] suggest that decades of research in human development, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, and educational practice and policy, as well as other fields, have illuminated that major domains of human development—social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, academic—are deeply intertwined in the brain and in behavior. All are central to learning.

Supporting well-being is not about removing difficulty or hardship but rather reflects an individuals’ ability to gain, improve, grow, enable, navigate, and create conditions to facilitate and ensure that as individuals we are flourishing and thriving [4].)

Well-being moves beyond avoiding difficulties and surviving towards thriving.

Thriving is succeeding despite or because of a circumstance and includes the skills to work through difficulties rather than removing hardships. To thrive means to grow, flourish, and prosper.

Our role as educators is to create the conditions in which all students and adults acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to achieve and sustain well-being. Everything that happens in an educational setting is an integrated experience that impacts well-being in and outside of the school setting. In addition to providing critical college and career readiness, we recognize a comprehensive and life-long approach to well-being that includes Maslow’s upper hierarchical layers of esteem and actualization. [5]



Esteem includes confidence, strength, self-belief, personal and social acceptance, and respect from others. Esteem includes the need for a sense of personal importance, value, or self-esteem.

Self-actualization drives us to realize our true potential and achieve our “ideal self.” Self-actualization needs include personal and creative self-growth, which are achieved through the fulfillment of our full potential. When we come to a place of self-actualization, we use our strengths to lift those around us.

Unified in this work, educators, parents, and employers have been calling for more support and fewer barriers in addressing the well-being of both students and adults in preparing the future workforce and members of society with the life skills that we increasingly need and value.


  1. White, M. A., & Kern, M. L., (2018). Positive education: Learning and teaching for wellbeing and academic mastery. International Journal of Wellbeing, 8(1), 1-17. doi:10.5502/ijw.v8i1.588
  2. Hupert, F. A.; So, T. T. C, (2011, November 20). Flourishing Across Europe: Application of a New Conceptual Framework for Defining Well-Being.
  3. Jones, S. M. & Kahn, J. (2017).  The Evidence Base for How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The Aspen Institute: National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development.
  4. Seligman ME. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. 2011 New York, NY Free Press
  5. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: McLeod, S (2018). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html.


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More to explore:

What do we know about well-being?

Well-being is the overarching, inclusive, and comprehensive term that encompasses physical, social, emotional, mental, and academic skills and dispositions. Well-being is integrated

Creating the Conditions for Well-Being

Fundamental to the In Focus framework on well-being is Maslow’s Hierarchy, which suggests a 5-tiered model of needs that must be satisfied

Funding and ESSR Information

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funding is intended to address students’ needs for underrepresented and highly impacted student subgroups.

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Curriculum Connections - Thriving is more than Surviving