5 Minutes to Change Culture: The 5 to Thrive Challenge

By Tom Vander Ark and Jillian Darwish

Who doesn’t want to improve the tone of the whole day in 5 minutes or less? What better commitment to make in the new year than to positively impact your own life, the lives of those around you, and your school’s culture?

The science of character strengths and social emotional learning (SEL) is well-documented and quite actionable. All that is needed is a bit of intentional leadership.

Stylized text: "5 to thrive school culture challenge
Click here to download the 5 to Thrive Toolkit!

Mayerson Academy, a non-profit professional learning organization, launched the “5 to Thrive Challenge” to encourage education leaders to dedicate five minutes each day over the next month to engage in simple activities that will reframe their thinking and improve the culture in their school. To help get started and frame your thinking, Mayerson Academy provides a free “5 to Thrive Toolkit” that will get you started.

5 Themes That are Key to Culture

Why take the challenge? Because each research-based component of the toolkit has been designed around themes that are known to contribute successful leadership and are key thriving cultures.

1. Self-Awareness: Leaders (formal and informal) with high self-awareness typically know their strengths and limitations.

  • Do you know your strengths, or just your weaknesses?
  • Are you aware of your impact on others’ performance and well-being?

2. Self-Management: Success requires that leaders expertly manage their time, beliefs, thoughts, emotions and their capacity in service to their goals.

  • Do you know what your body language does to your emotions?
  • How are you managing your personal “network effect”?

3. Social Awareness: Social awareness is the ability to understand different situations and how you react in those situations.

  • What is the difference between what I can do and what we can do?
  • What is your listening to talking ratio?

4. Relationships: Strong relationships are an essential component to a thriving organizational culture and effective leadership.

  • When a visitor comes to your school, will they immediately know that you value relationships?
  • How many times did you laugh with your team this week?

5. Strengths. Mayerson Academy focuses on strengths. While there are no silver bullets for SEL success, using the lens of strengths is a powerful tool to improve culture, performance and motivation. The toolkit provided by the challenge also includes additional tools such as an opportunity to take the VIA Character Survey, and receive a personalized strengths profile valued at $20.

All are welcome to access this free toolkit, which includes simple and quick SEL practices adapted from Mayerson Academy’s whole-school Thriving Learning Communities (TLC) Program.

Getting Started with 5 to Thrive

The 5 to Thrive Challenge (#5toThrive) is designed especially for principals, guidance counselors and school leaders who want to expand engagement, motivation, learning and performance through the lens of character strengths and the development of social and emotional learning competencies.

The Challenge:

Dedicate 5 minutes each day over the next month to simple activities that will reframe your thinking and improve the culture in your schools.

How it Works:

1. Download the free toolkit.  Visit the “5 to Thrive” Challenge website to download the toolkit, and also learn about opportunities to take the VIA strengths inventory and to progress towards a free desktop calendar.

2. Share. Use the share features at the top of this blog and/or email it to colleagues.

3. Take 5 to Thrive. Do your best to take 5 minutes each day or each week and continue to share your progress using #5toThrive.


  • Gain activities and strategies to transform school culture.
  • Stimulate growth amongst staff.
  • Free access to the VIA Survey of Character Strengths and the potential to engage more deeply for other goodies like a desktop calendar.

We think the 5 to Thrive Toolkit will improve your day. Take the character strengths survey. We think you’ll learn some things that will improve your relationships. If it works for you, we think you’ll want to share it with your school community.

Download the 5 to Thrive Toolkit now:

Read More:

This post is a part of a blog series that is part of the 5 to Thrive School Culture Challenge produced in partnership with Mayerson Academy (@MayersonAcademy). Download the free 5 to Thrive Toolkit and join the conversation on Twitter using #5toThrive or #EdLeaders.

Jillian Darwish is President of Mayerson Academy, a Cincinnati-based non-profit professional learning organization. Follow her on Twitter: @JillianDarwish

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1 Comment

carol goroff

I would like to have more information about the five to thrive challenge concerning fruit and veggies

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