The Thrive Questionnaire//

This Quote Guides a Stanford Professor Through ‘All Moments in Life’

It reminds her to always appreciate the “big” picture.

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?
Odette Harris: On awakening, the first thing I do is pray.

TG: What gives you energy?
OH: I am recharged by quiet moments. My favorite energizer is to read. Also love hugs from my family. 

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
OH: Weekly Mass—It is centering/grounding. Allows me to recalibrate and re-energize. Also a reminder of my place in the universe and how blessed we all are.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
OH: Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Nobel Laurette)—amazing. It references the destructive forces that heavily permeate our lives—ideas of physical beauty and romantic love. She is a powerful writer!!!

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
OH: I do not sleep with my phone. I see my phone as functional—primarily for work, as I need to be reached for on-call duties. I dock my phone at night.

TG: How do you deal with email?
OH: Not well. I try to read and respond to all emails, which is a never-ending task. I wish we could halt it at times, especially on holidays. I love your advice regarding asking that emails be re-sent when you return.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
OH: Too short for me to do anything I truly love. Usually, I use the time to catch up on things on my desk—to allow for larger time blocks later.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
OH: When my daughters’ were applying to schools. The process added to my established responsibilities was very taxing. Also add to it the lack of control imposed in these processes.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
OH: This was in the realm of work. I am still dealing with it. It is difficult and requires me to draw on all my strategic skills. Also requires that I recognize my limitations and draw on my strengths. Difficult!!!!

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
OH: Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”

As a girl, our girls school asked us to select a quote to guide us. This was my selection and it has guided me throughout—at all moments in life. It is a powerful reminder that not everything is in our control and a reminder to always try to appreciate the “big” picture. 

Dr. Odette Harris is a Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and Director of Brain Injury for Stanford Medical Center. She is the Associate Chief of Staff, Rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, which includes responsibilities for the varied programs of the Polytrauma System of Care, Spinal Cord Injury, Blind Rehabilitation Services and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is also the Site Director and Principal Investigator of the Defense Veterans and Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

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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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