Notes on Thrive

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

How do you define success? What does it look and feel like for you? Huffington argues that we need to look beyond the typical measures of money and power to a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. This may sound a little touchy-feely for some, but she includes research, examples from her own life, and wisdom from the ancient Greeks to support her premise. As I read it, my inner voice yelled out, "Yes, yes! We need this."

Huffington doesn't exclude money and power as measures (she clearly has both), but calls for creating a balance. I clearly chose a different path than most (I teach juggling, remember). My life choices have been driven by a definition of success that has always included a quality of life component. One of my high school graduation cards that stayed on my wall throughout college and for years after had this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.”

Over time, I have developed many habits that fall in line with her four areas (see my notes in the image below for more detail about the book) such as walking every day, a nighttime routine to make falling asleep easy, and experiencing wonder in nature. But reading Thrive reminded me of several areas I want (need?) to work on such as meditation and listening more to my inner voice.

Role of Women: We selected Thrive for the Chamber Leadership Lit discussion group this month. The participants vary from month to month and this book happened to attract all women. Huffington argues that bringing a new definition of success that focuses on well-being is the third women's revolution so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by the makeup of the group. One participant raised the question, "Why does it have to fall on women?"  That led to an interesting conversation. Thinking about it more since, I would answer that it's not just on women to bring about change, but the characteristics that have been traditionally seen as feminine (empathy, compassion, etc.) need to gain more power. Both men and women can help bring about this change.

One participant also called for women to work together more and not always put up a perfect front. In addition to successes, we need to talk about our struggles, the ways current power/money culture frustrates us, and changes we are trying to implement. By sharing our imperfections and struggles, we give others permission to do the same and that's how we can figure out ways to collaborate for change. In other words, sometimes we need to drop the facade and just show up in a ponytail and no make-up (an example that came up in our conversation).

What can we do? Whether currently in a leadership role or not, what can we as individuals do to impact change and bring about a different definition of success? How can we answer Huffington's call to action and "find the leader in the mirror?" I have been exploring this for awhile now and the discussion around this book helped push it further. Here are questions that I ask myself or want to start asking myself to bring about change in myself and the groups that I participate in and lead.

* Reduce the Noise & Listen:

- What new habits do I want to practice with my phone and social media?

- When do I jump into a conversation to fill the silence?

- What happens if I sit in that discomfort and pay attention to where it's coming from?

- How can I encourage others to embrace quiet and listen to their own bodies?

- What questions can I ask myself and others to prompt personal reflection?

* Trust Inner Voice:

- When am I doing something that I "should do" vs. what I want or feel excitement about doing?

- Where am I feeling tension when I'm working on a project or in a meeting? Why?

- When do I look to "experts" for answers or over-prepare for an event?

- Is that learning for growth's sake or to cover insecurity?

* Celebrate Struggle & Success:

- At events, ask fellow business people "What are you working on?" to open up conversations.

- What struggles and successes am I willing to share? Where/how will I share them?

- How can I more deliberately bring out these themes in our workshops and speaking?

- Where else can I step up and lead?

What ideas do you have for creating a culture in your home, work, or community that focuses on helping people thrive?

[Writer's note: While working on this post, I found myself going back to an old way of writing about books. This is my second blog post in this current style and I needed to hit the pause button when it started to feel wonky. I stepped away from the post, reflected on what my goal for it was, and then moved paragraphs of text to a section labeled "extra." I didn't end up using the text and I'm happy with the new direction it took. I think Huffington would be happy with this example of creating stillness and listening to my inner wisdom/intuition. Or as her mother would say, I "let it marinate."]