Arianna Huffington, the editor-in-chief at Huffington Post, has a new book called "Thrive" (Harmony, 2014) out this month that is well worth reading. She suggests that money and power are a rather limited way of evaluating one's success in life. Huffington believes we need a third metric which includes creating well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
Huffington shares personal stories about growing up in Greece and lessons learned from her mother, who owned little but was extremely generous with others, often giving things to people who complimented them. Her mom also believed in being fully present, never missing an opportunity to interact with a shopkeeper or stranger. She tells some lovely personal stories about learning from her mom about what's truly important in life, all the way up to sharing how her mom died surrounded by family, a final shopping trip to a farmer's market, and sharing good food and wine.
Huffington addresses the issue of burning out at work, something that women are especially prone to. In contrast to "Leaning In" the recent book by Sheryl Sandberg, Huffington suggests that we all begin to intentionally lean out of work and being available 24/7. She is in a unique position to be aware of the demands of the 24 hour news cycle, and the addictive draw of email, phone contact, and hyper-vigilance to news. She feels we need to feminize the workplace with core beliefs that we don't want to just make it to the top, we want to make the world a better place.
Here are a few of her valuable suggestions:
1. Get more sleep. She feels many of us aren't functioning at our best level because we are tired, hungry or lonely. Adults, teens, and children all get less sleep than they did a generation ago. Try an earlier, and firm bedtime. Try it for a month as she did and see how you feel. Ask family and friends to help you with your goal of getting to sleep earlier.
2. Take breaks. She has a nap room in side the Huffington Post for all the employees, also has healthy snacks there like hummus and carrot sticks. We are more effective at work when we stop for lunch and rest breaks. Perhaps you can get outside the office at lunch.
3. Give your phone a bedtime. Tuck it into a sleeping position early in the evening in a location which is NOT in your bedroom, so you are not tempted to check it during off hours. Could you put it to bed at 7pm? 6pm? Try this one and see if it helps restore you to truly be off. Don't turn it back on immediately when your feet hit the floor in the morning. Give yourself a little time to start your day in your own calming way first.
4. Take real vacations where your phone and email do not go with you.
5. Volunteer and do selfless service. At Huff Post, they pay employees for their time to do a few days of service for a cause they care about every year, but even if you don't, do it anyway. Research shows it makes us happier and helps us avoid burnout.
6. Let's have some silence. It helps us reconnect with ourselves. It quiets and soothes us.
7. Give important people, like your loved ones, your full and undivided attention. It's powerful and rare.
8. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind. This will help you peel back to reveal what really matters in your life and what you are focusing on. Work doesn't love you back. People do.
9. Protect your own emotional capital. Don't be a spend thrift with your time and energy.
10. Stop to experience awe and wonder in your daily life, whether it's noticing the sunset or the sky, a sweet interaction between people, a child's joy, or a tender moment. Savor it. Slow down for a variety of petite happiness.
11. Refuse to multi-task. It's draining, physically, mentally, and emotionally to operate in life with a split screen mentality.
12. Nobody stays on this wise course all the time, so when you veer off, get yourself re-centered again.
I enjoyed Huffington's approachable and open tone. In "Thrive" she is forthcoming about dealing with challenges in her own life and with her adult daughters as they experience difficulties like overcoming substance abuse. She emerges as a likeable, warm, and authentic person who is sharing some of her own life lessons, including about what Huffington calls, "kicking out the obnoxious roommate in her head"(a term for her negative self-talk).
It's too narrow to focus our sights on being a success at work. The real challenge is succeeding at the 30,000 or so days in life we are fortunate enough to have. It's an appealing idea to remake the workplace and our work practices to reflect this third measure of success. We need to shift the definition and the boundaries of what builds success, for ourselves and for the next generation, our children, who follow us.