Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global founder and CEO reminds us that burnout is not the price we must pay for success – this is in fact a delusion. Scientific evidence proves that when we prioritise well-being decision making creativity and productivity improves dramatically.

We recently caught up with three prominent Australian business leaders who took part in the Thrive program 12 months ago. Michelle Gallagher is CEO of Opyl Ltd; Dr Rebecca Koss is Executive Manager Environmental Policy & Reporting at Westpac; Luke McCann is Chief Operating Officer at Australian Sports Commission. One year on they share how the Thrive program has influenced their day to day practice and helped them to thrive, both professionally and personally. 

Which aspects of the program are relevant for you, especially now?

Michelle describes how learning about taking ‘microsteps’ (making very small achievable changes), has transformed her routine and allowed her to give herself permission to set boundaries for working-from-home (WFH) and to allow time for self-care. 

“I was allowing work to consume every waking minute, so for me the microsteps opportunity, just making very very small changes was something that stuck with me. So now I feel like I haven’t gotten very far, but I actually have. I don’t look at social media or my emails until I actually sit at my desk. And to me that makes a huge difference and I think this is critical for me to be able to cope in this heightened digital environment we are experiencing with COVID.”

Prioritising self, and setting boundaries when working from home, were important takeaways for Rebecca as she describes the changes she has made to her life as a result of Thrive.

“… setting those boundaries for when I look at the screen and for how long is really essential for my self care, and having permission to do that is something I learnt through the Thrive program.”


“It is really those anchor points of the four pillars which have been helpful for me and given me a framework to work with.”


Luke also reflected on how useful the microsteps aspect of the program was and how the Thrive program pillars have helped him to engage and stay focused throughout the recent months. 

“The four pillars of recharge, refuel, focus and connect have been anchor points and have given me a framework to work with across these past few months…. At the beginning of the COVID crisis I really tried to focus on some self care, I focused on exercise in the morning and making sure I was ready and recharged everyday for what frankly are long days on video conferences. The fresher I was, the more I have been able to sort of engage in dialogues and get the most out of people, which has been challenging in this environment.

How has Thrive improved your performance professionally?

Michelle describes how the Thrive program has helped her to shift her mindset, reframing how she approaches tasks:

“I think it is probably about mindshift. Embedding this way of thinking was to teach my team how to do some of these things. I was kind of excited to come back and share it. I knew my behaviours would be reinforced and I knew as the leader really communicating to the rest of the team these things are really important and I was going to try and live the values.” 

When speaking about reframing, Michelle noted that it “has had one of the biggest impacts, instead of saying ‘I shouldn’t do this’, I am saying ‘I choose to not look at my screen’. And it makes me feel a bit more empowered and I don’t feel resentful anymore.”


“I love the fact that Arianna has enabled this sort of thinking blend in with her business voice”


For Luke, reframing was also an important takeaway from the program and has allowed him to make more meaningful connections in his life (both work and home life):

“Reframing has been really powerful for me and how I think about how I think about the balance between work and family and exercise, and creating space to do the things that are important to me… And being able to connect with people at work in that moment when you really need to and you need to get something out of them. And that comes back to being rested etc every day. And reframing it in my own mind it is ok to look after myself.”

Rebecca describes listening to Ariana in New York and contemplating what the value add was, for her it was self-care: 

“It has really allowed me to self-care. I think that has been the biggest change the Thrive program has provided to me. Giving myself permission to self care and modelling that to the people I work with. That modelling is essential and important. For me my self care is stopping work at 6pm and doing an exercise class. And that gives permission for my staff to do the same. That permission is incredibly important… Really essential for my health and on a day to day basis enabling me to be the best that I can be.  

The Thrive program had benefits for participants that extended beyond their professional work lives. All three of our business leaders reflected how they have become more connected to their life through being more mindful and having time for reflection, and giving permission to themselves to provide self care. 


“It’s about being impactful, it’s about doing things with purpose and meaning, and doing them in a sustainable way” 


The experience of these prominent Australian leaders highlights that no longer is employee well-being a nice to have, it should be acknowledged as a business imperative for organisations across Australia and the APAC regions.  

Interview by Thrive Global APAC

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