This Award-Winning Photographer and Activist Hones His Focus By Creating a 1, 3, and 5 Year Plan

“A plan is a purpose. A life without a purpose is like a compass without a magnet.”

Courtesy of Sebastian Copeland
Courtesy of Sebastian Copeland

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people. 

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Sebastian Copeland: Think.

TG: What gives you energy?

SC: Seeing the joy in my children’s eyes.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

SC: Getting older. But I am not seeing a way out of that one.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

SC: The Little Prince.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

SC: No. But it tucks me in at night. Even while I resent it.

TG: How do you deal with email?

SC: It deals with me. Unfairly with volume.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

SC: Read.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

SC: Yesterday. Who came up with 24 hours in the day? It’s missing two. I need to speak to the manager.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 

SC: Keep your eye on the road, not the rearview mirror. Reminisce but don’t revel.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

SC: The most powerful warriors are patience and time — Tolstoy

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

SC: Think clearly and delegate.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

SC: Trust hard work, stay curious, and don’t count – it all works out.

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?

SC: My 80 year old mother- turns out she was right.

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?

SC: I forget to smile.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

SC: Meditate.

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

SC: Listening to others and to yourself in equal parts.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

SC: Being grateful for the good. A problem is a solution waiting to happen.

TG: What brings you optimism?

SC: Love.

TG: Fill in the blanks: People think I’m ____________, but really I’m _________.

SC: People think I’m distracted, but really I’m just curious.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

SC: Listening to their story, and make sure they know they’re being heard. Everybody hurts and has a story to tell and it’s easy to tune out. You get a lot back when you take a moment to empathize.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

SC: Get glasses. Just kidding. Actually, I think one, three, and five years ahead. It is flexible, but there is always a plan. A plan is a purpose. A life without a purpose is like a compass without a magnet.

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

SC: Having children.

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?

SC: Wait until lunch to read the news. Also, get news briefs.

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

SC: Think of what I love doing. That usually includes breathing.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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