When you think about thriving, what do you think about? Many know the admonishment that we’re meant to thrive in life and not merely survive, but what does that mean exactly?
To thrive is to grow or develop vigorously…to flourish. Yes, please!
In Arianna Huffington’s compelling book Thrive; The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder she invites us on a very personal journey that strikes just the right balance of self-revealing but never TMI. A true cornucopia for the reader, she pulls from a wide array of progressive companies, thought leaders, theologians, artists, athletes, religions, and researchers.
After collapsing in her office from exhaustion in 2007 (and breaking her cheekbone and gashing her forehead on the way down), Huffington had a “Is this really what it’s all about?” moment. She was wildly successful by our culture’s standards, but face down in a pool of blood she knew there had to be a better way.
Huffington says our current definition of success is like a two-legged stool – out of balance – and proposes a third leg (metric) to the equation defined by four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
I’m mad for this book for many reasons, not least because she’s an author after my own heart sprinkling so many quotes throughout the book. She encourages us to live with our eulogy in mind and asks us to consider how much we are giving the eulogizer to work with. Sobering thought, yes?
PILLAR #1: WELL-BEING
Unsurprisingly, this is the longest section of the book. She devotes almost 100 pages to topics like lack of engagement, stress, burnout, overconnectivity, continuous partial attention, sleep deprivation and the clever term social jet lag. Antidotes are offered, thankfully, such as meditation, mindfulness, solitude and the gift of walking. A self-described sleep evangelist, she offers numerous tips for maximizing your snooze time.
Huffington suggests three simple steps to nurture your sense of well-being:
- Add 30 minutes of sleep to your day. Preferable go to bed 30 minutes sooner each night, but short daytime naps also work.
- Add movement to your daily regime; walk, run, stretch, dance, do yoga.
- Add five minutes of meditation to your day with the idea of building up to 15-20 minutes total.
PILLAR #2: WISDOM
Discussing the wisdom of vulnerability and gratitude, she also outlines the gifts of intuition vs. linear reasoning. Alerting the reader to the concepts of hurry sickness and time famine, she talks of the Slow Food movement, GPS for the Soul and the Serenity Prayer.
“Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom,” she says.
Huffington suggests three simple steps to cultivate wisdom:
- Let go of something no longer serving you such as a particular resentment, negative self-talk, or a project you know you aren’t going to complete.
- Start a gratitude list and consider sharing it with two friends who will also share theirs with you.
- Designate a specific time each night when you unplug from all your devices and greet the morning with a deep breath or moment of silence before mindlessly reaching for your smartphone.
PILLAR #3: WONDER
“At the root of our secular age is the fatal error that has led us to regard organized religion and the spiritual truth that man embodies as one and the same thing. This has caused millions to deny the reality of the latter because they have rejected the former. The impulse to know ourselves – which, after all, is a key component of spiritual seeking – is as deeply imprinted within us as our instincts for survival, sex, and power,” says Huffington.
She encourages us to immerse ourselves in nature and all of the arts we can find – visual art, music, sculpture, photography, cinema, architecture, literature, drama, poetry, and dance. There is also the art of alone time, the art of silence, and the art of noticing coincidences, serendipities and synchronicities.
Huffington believes present moment awareness is the key to experiencing wonder and suggests three simple steps:
- Focus on your breath for 10 seconds whenever you feel tense, rush or distracted.
- Pick an image that ignites joy in you – something that inspires a sense of wonder – and whenever you feel contracted, access the image.
- Forgive your inner judge – both for judging yourself and for the judgments you hold against others.
PILLAR #4: GIVING
“Giving and service mark the path to a world in which we are no longer strangers and alone, but members of a vast yet tightly knit family,” says Huffington. She encourages us to be go-givers instead of go-getters and touts the values of social entrepreneurship.
“Essentially, giving is a miracle drug (with no side effects) for health and well-being,” says Huffington.
It can be in the form of time, talent or treasure – there is no wrong way to contribute and no one way that is nobler than the next. Think acts of generosity and keep your definition of giving loose.
Huffington suggests three simple steps to awaken our giving nature:
- Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit, paying attention to how this affects your mind, emotions and body.
- Make a personal connection with the people you meet in your daily transactions – the checkout clerk, the cleaning crew, the barista.
- Offer one of your skills or talents to help someone out – try on the role of go-giver.
All roads lead back to cultivating a sense of well-being in this book. No small task, to be sure.
“If you told yourself that the goal is to write the great American novel, you might never begin. But you would be far more likely to begin if you told yourself to write one hundred words a day. It’s the same with transforming ourselves,” says Huffington.
Questions to ponder:
Where in your life do you find yourself asking, “Is this really what it’s all about?”
Of the four areas outlined above – well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving – which pillar is most absent in your life, and what is that costing you?
On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to making a change (however small) in that arena?
What will your legacy be?