How do you define success — are you living the best version of your life?
These are some of the many questions explored in one of Arianna Huffington’s latest books, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder,” which I read prior to attending her talk at the Collin County Business Alliance’s 6th anniversary luncheon on Friday, Dec. 1. Rather ironically, I consumed the book via audiobook, as I am so busy in life that I rarely have the chance to sit down and enjoy the luxury of reading.
While her name is synonymous with the wildly popular news and blog site The Huffington Post, over the past year, Huffington has become known as a passionate advocate for sleep, after chronic exhaustion and sleep deprivation resulted in a fall that broke her cheekbone in 2007. Huffington launched Thrive Global, a consumer and corporate productivity and heath platform, last August with the aim of changing the way people work by ending the delusion that exhaustion is the price one must pay for success.
I, like many others, have defined elements of success based off accomplishments —how many boxes can be checked off the never-ending daily to-do list —and how many dollars are stacking up in the bank account. Though I add acts of kindness and time spent with loved ones as other measurements of success, I am tremendously preoccupied with accomplishing as much as I can in a day —so much so that I rarely am not multitasking and I scarcely allow for moments of stillness and silence.
In her book, Huffington redefines the pillars of success, labeling them as well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. She emphasizes the need to regenerate and recharge. We spend so much of our lives forcing connections with the world —throughout various social platforms — that we neglect the importance of connecting with ourselves.
Huffington defines the American Dream as the acquisition of things, noting that the first metric of success for many is money and power. People are quite literally working themselves to death in order to obtain more items and status, sparking the question — is it really worth it? Not only are we shaving years off our lives by damaging our heath through chronic stress, sleep deprivation and over-working, but we are sacrificing our present by always working towards a future we may not even have. It is all terribly ironic when you consider it. We are killing ourselves to be on top, but when will we ever enjoy our success? When will we be satisfied? The answer is simple; the answer is now. As Huffington writes, we have become too busy to be aware that we are actually living. Our lives are happening as we think and worry and speak.
Huffington follows the practice of many intellectuals and religious figures by centering herself through meditation. She lists the enormous benefits of mindfulness, taking a few minutes out of each day to clear one’s mind and focus on sensation rather than active thoughts. She also stresses the importance of balancing productivity with relaxation in order to prevent work from flooding our lives. The sacrifice for success is often alienation of other fields of our lives —our hobbies, interests, social lives, families. If we prevent work from invading our free time, we will have the opportunity to live more personally fulfilling lives. We may not get tomorrow —why not be happy now? After all, so much of our anxieties and limitations exist only in our minds.
Originally I was scheduled to interview Ms. Huffington, but the night before she cancelled press interviews. I was a little disappointed, as I really connected with her book and wanted to discuss it further. However, I found out at the event that Ms. Huffington was flying into L.A. that evening to have dinner with her daughter. By following her own advice, she was forgoing a bit of work for some cherished family time. I admire Ms. Huffington for being able to balance and prioritize her life.
Saying “no” is often a polite way of saying “that is not a priority.” But you know what? Often, that is okay. It takes a strong person to know when to politely say no. Our time is our most precious resource. Who and what we choose to give it to should be ours to decide. Some opportunities can be more enriching —either to you or who or those around you —than you might have originally considered. On the other hand, it is okay to lighten your workload and devote time to what makes you happy.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of Arianna Huffington’s latest book. The work she is doing is very important. To have such a respected and established professional woman tell us that we should stop priding ourselves in being workaholics who are always plugged in was truly refreshing. As I write this —covered in paint, as I spent a few hours on my off day engaged in my favorite hobby rather than catch up on e-mails—I realize that I consider mine a life well spent.
Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune and Prosper Press. What do you want in your paper? Email her at email@example.com to let her know.