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Last week I had the great privilege and honour of meeting Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post and hearing her speak about what’s currently weighing on her mind.
So, what’s on Arianna’s mind right now? Right now ‘thriving’ is on her mind and how we go about living more authentic and fulfilling lives.
Our current lives are so disconnected and there is a common acceptance that the only way to live a good life is through success and money, all of which are having serious impacts on many areas such as our health, the planet and important decisions made in the world today.
Too many of us, like Arianna herself, wait for serious wake up calls before taking action and asking life’s big questions such as “What am I here for?” and “What kind of life do I want to live?” This reminds me of Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk about starting with the ‘Why’ – we need to start with our purpose and the life we want for ourselves and work back from there.
Too many of us are trying to balance on two legged stools and wondering why we feel about to topple over any second and why we can never seem to find a good flow. Arianna shared her insight that the way to thrive is through finding the third leg of the stool. Our society today has reduced success down to the two metrics of money and power and Arianna’s new book ‘Thrive’ is focused on the third leg of the stool which Arianna calls the ‘Third Metric’ and it consists of the four pillars of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. Whilst each of these pillars are immense topics in their own right, Arianna touched on aspects within each.
Key to well-being is the need to reduce stress which has the largest impact on people’s health today. Rather than measuring our bank accounts, Arianna suggests that we start to measure our cortisol levels. Meditation is a powerful daily practice which works to lower our stress and improve our consciousness and ability to cope with the daily challenges that life throws our way. Thankfully organisations such as 1 Giant Mind are making meditation accessible to the masses by producing simple apps to teach meditation. The good news is that more and more prominent figures in our society such as athletes and business tycoons are coming out and talking about their meditation practices and the immense benefits they feel from meditation – slowly the message is getting out.
The importance of sleep is also not to be underestimated. As Arianna mentioned, if you were to type in “Why am I” into google in Australia, the top option that comes up on Google’s auto complete is “always tired” and the second is “so tired”. We are addicted to burnt-out living and we need to realise that coming to work not having slept is the same as coming to work drunk. Arianna’s advice here is to try to get at least 7 hours of sleep and to start with really small steps like trying to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night.
Arianna reminisced over how she used to sometimes feel so exhausted that she wished she was able to climb under the table in meetings without anyone noticing so that she could take a nap on the floor in an animal-like way and she exclaimed that she never wants to feel that way again! Arianna is very much walking the talk with her staff as well, with the Huffington Post offering nap rooms and meditation and yoga classes and an email policy which makes it clear that when people are off work they are not expected to be on email.
On the pillar of wisdom, Arianna’s advice is that at the end of each day we need to pick a time when we turn off all of our devices …… and escort them out of the bedroom. One of the reasons for this is that if we wake up in the middle of the night we are going to be tempted to look at our data and after we do this we simply do not reach the same level of deep sleep we were in.
Arianna encouraged us all to consider a digital detox, whether it be a digital detox day once a week or once a month or a digital detox holiday where we simply switch off our devices and open our eyes to our surroundings. As Arianna said, if the CTO of Cisco can do it, we can!
This has raised the question for me around how we truly make the change from the knowledge age to the wisdom age and transform and apply our knowledge in a wise way. As Arianna mentioned, people are smart but they are disconnected and not wise. Our data won’t give us wisdom, and the needle is getting harder and harder to find in the increasingly bigger haystack which is why we need to continue to refine ourselves so that we are able to recognise truth and recognise wisdom.
The next pillar is wonder. As Arianna said, there is incredible wonder in this world which is recognisable by everyone across all spiritual and religious preferences. As an example, even the most atheist people are fascinated and amazed by coincidences as a glimpse of the mystery of the universe.
In today’s world we are constantly in a hurry and trying to achieve multiple things at once. Arianna noted that it is now scientifically proven that multitasking is a myth – it is actually just task switching and is the most unproductive and stressful thing we can do. As Arianna mentioned, when we look back we realise that we weren’t present at all and imagine all of the wonder that we have missed along the way.
The final pillar is giving. I think Arianna summed this final pillar up beautifully by saying that giving people are those who make giving the heart of living, and that when we get involved in giving we get closer to who we really are. I do feel truly blessed to be around compassionate people who make giving a priority in their lives and who try to instil these qualities of empathy, gratitude and giving back in their families.
We need to challenge ourselves constantly around what kind of lives we want to lead and then work backwards from there. The time is now, not when we are sitting in the doctor’s chair after a scary and potentially fatal wake up call.
Arianna urges us to consciously concentrate our minds on what matters. We need to learn ways to return to wisdom, strength and compassion more and more, and support each other to return to it so that we can transform the planet.
Thank you for these nuggets Arianna, they are powerful and truly possible.
Endi Frydman – National Practice Manager, Marketing