Money and power are insufficient metrics to a well-lived life. People need a “third metric” to measure happiness, argues Arianna Huffington. Her thesis is that Americans’ relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of interpersonal relationships, family life, and careers. She also cautions that being connected to the world 24/7, ironically weakens peoples’ connection to what truly matters. Arianna Huffington’s personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye caused by an exhaustion-caused fall. She made some major changes in her life and shared those changes with the world in “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder”. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, chronically stress, poorly slept or fearful of becoming an A-type automaton consumed by work, you probably need to read her book. Or, if you are really a time-constrained stress-bag, just read my summary below………….and then read her book.
Not surprisingly, her book focuses heavily upon the importance of rest and sleep. She argues that you need to make your bedroom dark and keeping it cool. Give yourself 30 minutes more a day, or at least taking a nap. She went from 4-5 hours sleep a night, to 7 hours a night. (editor’s note: sleep is important, but physical health and well-being is another essential) She feels very strongly that we’re going to be better at work when we’re taking care of ourselves. The better you feel, the more rested you are, the more capable you’ll be in seeing opportunities or problems that others are missing. But her book touches upon a number of other useful realizations that form the basis of what I believe will be the prevailing set of personal values for the upcoming generations of American workers. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, she calls for a Third Metric, i.e. a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power. Her metric consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. These four pillars make up the four sections of her book. Here is a summary, in list form, of Huffington’s major points in her new book:
1. Being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us — including ourselves. It is the close connections that offer real lessons and, thus, real wisdom.
2. Multi-tasking is not only scientifically impossible, but it also dishonors those who look to you to be present with them. You can’t be present and be multi-tasking. Don’t miss the moment.
3. Sleep deprivation reduces our emotional intelligence, self-regard, assertiveness, sense of independence, empathy toward others, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, positive thinking, and impulse control.
4. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
5. We’re moving to this new era, the second machine age, where a lot of tasks are being done by robots and machines, and increasingly, creativity is going to our most valuable asset.
6. “….. whenever I’d complain or was upset about something in my own life, my mother had the same advice: “Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the bad, scary movie.”
7. And when we’re living a life of perpetual time famine, we rob ourselves of our ability to experience another key element of the Third Metric: wonder, our sense of delight in the mysteries of the universe, as well as the everyday occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives. This includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
8. When we include our own well-being in our definition of success, another thing that changes is our relationship with time.
9. We’re all going to veer away from where we ideally want to be. That’s the nature of life. In fact, we may be off course more often than we are on course. Balance, in life, is an on-going objective, not a permanent state of being.
10. We all have within us a centered place of wisdom, harmony, and strength.
11. Live as if everything that happens is in your favor. You aren’t a victim of life; you are a beneficiary.
12. Death is like dropping off a car rental with an empty gas tank. You use the car fully and then give it back, keeping only your soul.
13. Giving in small daily ways has been really important. Leaving aside what we give to charity or volunteering time, just one of the first steps I recommend and I practice is to make personal connections with people who otherwise you might take for granted
14. Mindfulness makes us aware of our lives as we’re living them. It reminds us to stay connected to the essence of who we are, to take care of ourselves, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible. It “cultivates our ability to do things knowing that we’re doing them.”
15. The ability to influence things and have a real impact on all the things that matter. We are moving into an era where leadership is no longer about top-down but about actually being in the center of a circle and more teamwork and more collaboration. The idea of power as a top-down thing is less and less significant.
16. Accepting mistakes as a necessary part of your life allows you to release projects that aren’t empowering you and focus your energy on your true priorities. Let go of things that don’t serve you.
17. “Music can reach those places where words alone can’t go.”
18. To truly redefine success we need to redefine our relationship with death. Our eulogies are always about the other stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh. “Practice death daily” . She suggests that “the purpose of death is the release of love.” On that note, here are 5 common “regrets” that one can avoid in one’s life, courtesy of Dr. Neil Fiore, who had two near-death experiences. His prescription closely mirrors the Huffington’s revelations:
REGRET #1: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. If you find yourself consistently overworking, you may be a perfectionist trying to avoid criticism by working harder and longer than you need to.
To avoid this regret: You’ve probably heard that you should break up projects into smaller segments rather than trying to do everything at once. Most people think this approach simply gives you more control over what to do when, but it also helps you avoid getting bogged down in perfectionism…and prevents you from getting overwhelmed by trying to finish projects in one shot. Instead of saying, I must finish all this work perfectly, say, I choose to begin this project by working on an outline or making some calls for 15 or 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
REGRET #2: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Being your own person—whether it’s in your personal relationships or your professional life—takes courage. You must be willing to deviate from society’s expectations…and to overcome fear of criticism.
To avoid this regret: Pay attention when your actions aren’t in sync with your true beliefs.
REGRET #3: I wish I had stayed in touch with friends and loved ones. All of us have friends or family members we’ve lost touch with.
To avoid this regret: Make a list of friends or relatives you’d like to reconnect with, then schedule specific times every week when you will call, text, e-mail or visit. Instead of saying, “I should call Amy,” put Amy on your calendar for, say, Wednesday at noon. After a few weeks, keeping in touch will be automatic because it’s so rewarding to have these warm, supportive connections.
REGRET #4: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. It’s often scary to express our true emotions—so much so that we may feel that we don’t even know how.
To avoid this regret: Start by keeping an emotions journal where you can vent all your emotions privately and promptly.If you decide to share your feelings with someone, write a “script” so you don’t have to hunt for words during the conversation. Example: You can start a difficult message with, “Our relationship is important to me, so I’m anxious about telling you something that upset me.” Don’t blame the other person. Rather, focus on your own feelings.
For people who have a difficult time saying “no,” a great trick is to start with “yes”…followed by a statement that expresses your true feelings. For example, “Yes, I would love to organize the fund-raiser… thank you for asking me, but unfortunately, I have other commitments right now.” The beauty is you never have to utter the word “no” but still get the benefit of not agreeing to something you don’t want to do.
REGRET #5: I wish I had let myself be happier. Bad things happen to everyone. Here’s a secret, though: You can learn to be compassionate toward yourself even when having difficult emotions such as depression. And you can enjoy yourself even when lonely. Remember that you are the one who chooses how you respond to tough situations.
Writing about one’s negative emotions has been shown to reduce stress hormones and lessen the intensity of negative feelings. You also can be active—dance or sing, for example—to help deal with negative emotions. Recognizing your strengths and joys can promote happiness as well.
FINALLY, here are 10 specific actions one can take based upon both Huffington’s and Fiore’s recommendations.
THE LIST OF 10 THINGS TO DO TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER
Finish Things. Reduce your baggage and the mental weight you carry. “Did you know you can complete a project by dropping it?”
Experience wonder—We grew up loving moments of magic and wonder, the magic of exploration and discovery—bring it back to your life by enabling yourself to discover and dream.
Remove poison from your life. If there is somebody toxic in your life, kindly remove them from your life. Don’t ever hold grudges. “Resentment is like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die.” — Carrie Fisher
Get your natural needed hours of sleep. Try sleeping for 8 hours at minimum as a start. You’ll soon find when you can naturally wake up (with the hours that work for you) and soon begin to wake up naturally and feel refreshed.
Practice Mindfulness. Start taking breaks out of your day where you just become mindful. To feel your hands, your feet, to pay attention to your breathing—just be 100% present.
Digital Disconnect. Experience digital-free hours to see things differently or to experience deeper connections with people. You’ll notice and realize things you didn’t before because you were too busy starring at that screen. The world is full of wonders, you just have to look up.
Meditate. Meditation isn’t just for old people. Many of Steve Job’s brilliance came from his meditative moments. Try a deep breathing exercise right before you sleep, or the next time you’re stressed. Start with a minute and eventually dedicate 15-20 mins to meditate and be at peace.
Give. Generosity is huge to unlocking happiness. How great does it feel when you help or give to others asking for nothing back? Do something nice for somebody everyday—whether it is a compliment or a small gift.
Learn to say “No”. Saying yes to anybody means saying no to everybody. Ask yourself, “is it that important that you need to do that?”. Don’t overwhelm yourself with responsibilities that you cannot meet.
Personal Time. Devote time to yourself. A time of sanctuary where you can rediscover and recharge at your own pace. Take a warm bath, practice deep breathing, banish LCD screens temporarily, take the longer walk, and just be in the comfortable in your own skin. Many of life’s wonders are discovered when we are alone.