Thrive: True Identity

The THRIVEtoday True Identity events train you in skills that help your brain work the way God designed it to work; in JOY! When your brain is fueled by relational joy, you recover quickly from difficult emotions. You have more resiliency, faithfulness, integrity, confidence, gentleness, and security. True Identity will help you grow godly character through fun, interactive training, resetting your nervous system and changing the way you think and feel. The True Identity event combines neuroscience and theology with exercises designed to transform your life to a new normal of joy and peace.

Answers to Your Questions

Why do I need relational skills and how would I be different after the training?

Relational brain skills are what we rely on to express the best of ourselves in good times and bad. God designed our brain to learn and use specific “abilities” so that we love instead of hate and reflect the best of humanity instead of the worst. We also know these “habits” as gentle protector skills. With practice and guidance, we discover how to appropriately interact with other people with kindness, patience, and forgiveness.

We may notice some people calm down fast while others “stay hot” for long periods. Others seem to handle adversity with resilience and courage while others attack or disconnect. Too often we associate these qualities with a person’s identity so we say, “Oh that Kim, she is always so calm!” rather than understand these qualities are expressions of learned character skills that we can use to better reflect the person God made us to be. Here lies the good news! Each of us can “update” our emotional responses to better reflect the values we hold dear. These “Christ-like character traits” are actually relational skills – and we have identified 19 that must be learned.

True Identity is the training track of THRIVE where we start joy using a variety of relational brain skills from appreciation to rest with engaging exercises to build a stronger attachment to God. In True Identity we discover how to live peacefully and joyfully with the comforting awareness of Immanuel by our side. True Identity is where we reset our normal to joy and peace from stress, anxiety, overwhelm, chaos and the high-octane pace of life we may feel helpless to change.

Learning new brain skills requires time, practice and interaction. While we wish all of us could learn new brain skills by reading a book or watching a video, this is not how God designed the fast-track wiring of the brain. Much like going to the gym to exercise, brain skills are learned using hands-on exercises in shared states of joy and rest. True Identity provides carefully designed exercises to train our brain to experience a new and refreshing “normal” in seven key areas of life. The seven essential elements are:

  • Restarting my brain’s normal.
  • Eating: using food to build my joy.
  • Resting: inserting rest into my life.
  • Praying: interacting with Immanuel.
  • Belonging: keeping my relationships big.
  • Playing: adding play to my life and relationships.
  • Giving: living from the generous heart Jesus gave me.


Each element is an expression of the vast array of our identity expressed in our character. We can learn to be kind and patient because we see and experience kindness and patience in other people. We learn when to speak, and when to be silent because others demonstrate and correct us. We learn to smile at the right times and rest as needed – just like we learned to read and write. We learn how to get along with other people and to notice when someone needs a breather. We recover when things go wrong and we stay ourselves when big emotions arise. These are a few relational skills that keep interactions enjoyable and make relationships work. Just like learning the alphabet before pairing words together, we must practice foundational skills before mastering more demanding, complex skills.

Do you know someone who doesn’t smile? What about someone who talks when they should listen? Do you know a person who avoids rest or is unaware of the correct time to pause or stop during an interaction? It does not take long before we feel the painful absence of relational skills in our interactions.

At THRIVEtoday we have spent nearly 20 years working with Dr. Jim Wilder and esteemed colleagues to create and test exercises designed to equip people with the skills to thrive. When you attend True Identity, you spend each training session practicing carefully designed exercises to train your brain to grow more joy. Engaging exercises with God and practice with people provide opportunities to expand your relational repertoire to be a more confident, joyful and resilient person.

This experiential training is structured to introduce new brain-based character skills while strengthening existing skills. This means you may be able to quiet and rest under ideal circumstances, but with practice and coaching, you can then stay peaceful during conflict and strife.

How will I learn new skills at the True Identity event?


The True Identity event combines neuroscience and theology with exercises designed to transform your life to a new normal of joy and peace. The training at True Identity takes place in triads so you join and rotate groups to practice exercises that train your brain in the skills that make relationships work. Each session alternates between high-energy joy and low-energy rest with exercises that match how God designed your nervous system to work.

Some exercises have an individual focus while others involve your group. Woven into this flow are engaging exercises that focus on interacting with God so you expand your ability to live with the peaceful awareness of God’s presence in your life. This interactive practice along with the diversity of skills each group offers leads to a well-rounded experience that equips, refreshes and inspires you toward what Scripture calls a “sound mind” with an “abundant life.”

How will it impact my relationships with people?

From the beginning of time, God designed us for relationships. First, we were made in His image. Then, it was not good for man to be alone, so God created a woman. Eventually, man and woman walked with God in the cool of the day. Then families, villages, and communities could interact with each other. With each new relationship comes the opportunity for more joy. As Scripture shows, relationships are clearly near to God’s heart. These are so special to God that He gives us each other as gifts to enjoy. The quality of a relationship often depends on the quality of relational skills that are present. The True Identity event trains attendees in skills the brain uses for focus, motivation, and interaction so the brain works the way God designed it to work; with glad-to-be-together JOY!

When your brain runs on joy, your motivation, relationships, and life are desire-driven instead of fear-driven. This means you remember who you are and what is important when life gets hard and relationships become painful. You stay level-headed instead of unregulated in your thoughts and emotions. One of the common responses we hear during True Identity is how attendees wish they had these skills earlier in life because of the transformation that is taking place. We also have attendees telling us, “I wish I had brought five more people!” because they want to share the good stuff with family and friends.

How can my relationship with God be impacted?

Relational skills can lead to a greater intimacy in our relationships, especially our most-prized relationship with Immanuel. Skill training allows us to see and treat others as God sees and treats us. Skill 13 of the 19 skills, for example, helps us live with the awareness of God’s interactive presence so we not only become more like Jesus in word and action, but we follow Jesus’ example of saying and doing what the Father is saying and doing.

We use the same relational skills with God as we do with people so the practice pays off in our most cherished relationships; with God and with those we love. Relational skill training compliments other disciplines of the faith and adds color and life to our walk with Christ.

How is the one or two-day version different than the 5-day format?

Each training session of True Identity builds on the previous session. While the five-day training includes more time for exercises and greater impact, the one and two-day training events include a full schedule with engaging exercises that cover a wide range of skills along with introductory teaching lessons to better apply the theory behind the training. Research shows people better learn and use new information when they have the information along with hands-on practice. Here is our approach to True Identity. Attendees learn the theory and then practice the exercises. The five-day format covers the full range of identity elements while the one and two-day events focus on several elements. Let’s take a look at the list of identity elements for each version.

5-day True Identity

  • Restarting my brain’s normal.
  • Eating: using food to build my joy.
  • Resting: inserting rest into my life.
  • Praying: interacting with Immanuel.
  • Belonging: keeping my relationships big.
  • Playing: adding play to my life and relationships.
  • Giving: living from the generous heart Jesus gave me.

2-day True Identity

  • Restarting my brain’s normal.
  • Resting: inserting rest into my life.
  • Praying: interacting with Immanuel.
  • Playing: adding play to my life and relationships.
  • Giving: living from the generous heart Jesus gave me.

1-day True Identity

  • Restarting my brain’s normal.
  • Resting: inserting rest into my life.
  • Praying: interacting with Immanuel.
  • Playing: adding play to my life and relationships.

Should I bring a friend to True Identity?

But of course! Having friends on this journey adds flavor and joy to the overall training experience. While attendees meet new people during the interactive training, a friend provides momentum to return home and continue the skill practice. There is now the language and the experience to go with it.

In the past, attendees have brought along children, a spouse, family member, colleague, prayer partner, even a small group. We encourage people to rotate groups so you can decide whether you want to stay with your friend during the entire course of training, or split up to try a new training group.

Is there any prep work needed before attending?

The exciting answer is, “No!”

True Identity is the only track in the THRIVEtoday package free from the bonded partner and preparation requirements. We wanted this step to be as easy as possible for everyone to attend! Do not assume the lenient registration requirements mean there is no substance to the content. True Identity is designed with the essential identity elements strategically laid out to give attendees the best possible training experience.

What is the difference between True Identity and Tracks One, Two and Three?

Tracks One, Two and Three of THRIVE Training are interdependent. Each training track builds on the foundation of the previous track. For example, Track One – Positive Identity provides the joy and peace capacity that’s needed in Track Two – Resilient Identity, which provides the return to joy component necessary for Track Three – Sharing Identity, which practices solutions for pain. Each level increases in difficulty and complexity.

True Identity interacts with the three tracks during THRIVE Training, however, it is independent of the three sequential tracks. True Identity is unique in its own right and includes elements from Tracks One, Two and Three. Attendees who have attended all three tracks of THRIVE have enjoyed True Identity while True Identity graduates often return to Track One with a bonded partner to continue their growth.

What might I expect to be different after experiencing True Identity?

Peace is God’s signature. Practicing brain skills with people and with God brings together an influx of peace with glad-to-be-together joy. This stream is the “sweet spot” for our nervous system. After the training and with continued practice, attendees report a noticeable difference in how they express the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives and relationships.

This includes greater love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5)

How is True Identity different than other conferences and retreats?

Much of the latest trend of techniques and theory designed to make us better parents, effective leaders, and competent counselors lack a solid understanding of the brain’s right hemispheric control center. This leaves those of us trying to apply their methods empty and disappointed. What sets THRIVEtoday apart from other events, particularly True Identity, is the focus on right-brain training. Good books, exciting conferences, and fascinating seminars get better when we add the “missing element” to the equation, which is relational brain skills.

Everything from parenting to leading and counseling depends on a mature, peaceful and synchronized nervous system. Each full day of True Identity provides strategic, hands-on brain training to free us from fears and emotional struggles that waste our life. True Identity introduces Immanuel-based exercises along with relational circuit practice so we stay the best version of our relational selves. True Identity provides a careful design to rehearse, apply and transform our joy capacity, quieting skills and more. True Identity introduces the skills to know what we are doing with what matters most so we pass on best of ourselves to our children, grandchildren, and community.

What is the difference between True Identity and Joy Rekindled Marriage retreats?

Let’s start with similarities. First, True Identity and Joy Rekindled both include skill training exercises and this equates to fun, engaging interactions along with short teaching blocks which make these events impactful. Both offer numerous opportunities to strategically retrain your brain and deepen your relationships. Both build joy and both provide opportunities for profound transformation by practicing the 19 relational brain skills.

Joy Rekindled is designed for marriages, so the exercises are specifically geared for married couples to build more joy, deepen their bond and develop more intimacy. Joy Rekindled is a weekend where couples proactively add some serious joy and excitement to their marriage. On the other hand, True Identity trains family group bonds (Skill 5) instead of couple bonds (Skill 3) so the training is more manageable in terms of learning new skills and strengthening existing skills. What you should attend comes down to where the greatest need lies. Does your marriage need a joy tune-up or do you feel your life needs a jumpstart of joy?

What would my church gain from hosting a True Identity weekend?

Churches are the ideal host for a True Identity weekend, because the hosting responsibilities are easy while the results of the event on the community are vast.

True Identity provides Christ-like character change by equipping groups with the skills to rest, increase relational joy, live with a greater awareness of God’s presence, keep relationships bigger than problems, see others as God sees them, and more. Whether the community values spiritual formation, marriage enrichment, discipleship, or recovery, the skills from True Identity will empower people to better express their faith and develop earned maturity so God’s people remain resilient during fatigue, conflict, and trial.

The True Identity weekend emboldens church communities in their mission to make disciples and spread the good stuff with the world.

Upcoming True Identity Trainings

July 30 - August 3

Hope College

Holland, MI

September 7-8

TBD

New Orleans, LA

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