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Thrive - Redefining Success

How many of you loved doing book reports? The writers out there probably loved them. I on the other hand absolutely hated them. So here I go again challenging myself outside of my comfort zone. In my new role as Wellness Everything Prime (Ambassador) I need to read more than just short web articles on wellness topics. Therefore I'm starting to read books on wellness and then I’m writing a book report (Maria’s style) on them. The first one is “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington co-founder of The Huffington Post.

“Maria’s style” means, I’m going to take the nuggets I believe are core to what Arianna is trying to convey about the topic. In her book she redefines success by adding a third measure for success. The first two metrics are money and power, but the “Third Metric” consists of four pillars “Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving” so we can Thrive in what we what to achieve. This is a bit long as there are some incredible nuggets to share on each of the topics.

I was hooked right from the first page when Arianna writes “More and more people of all ages and walks of life are coming to realize that there’s more to life than climbing the ladder, that we are more than our resumes, and that we don’t have to buy into the collective delusion that burnout is the necessary price we must pay for success”. How powerful of a statement is that! Here are some more powerful statements that should make us think about our well-being, which ones resonate with you?

  • We fret when our phones go into low battery mode, yet with our bodies, mind and soul, we’ll run them until they shut down.

  • Success is not about doing more, it’s about doing better when we are connected to our inner wisdom, strength and intuition.

  • Sleep deprivation reduces our

    1. emotional intelligence

    2. self-regard

    3. assertiveness

    4. sense of independence

    5. empathy toward others

    6. quality of our relationships

    7. positive thinking and impulse control

  • Workaholism leads to lack of sleep, which in turn, leads to not being our best. We are fueled by the fear that getting enough sleep means we must not be passionate enough about our work or our life

  • Creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership and decision making are enhanced just by getting enough sleep therefore making us more competent and in control of our lives

  • Put sleep on your calendar, what’s on the calendar gets done

  • If we are upset about something then let’s change the channel. We are in control of the clicker and don’t have to replay the scary movie

  • There are many forms of meditation, but the benefits are only a breath away. Stop and breathe – the only price we pay is a few moments of our attention

  • The point of meditation is to find activities that train our mind to be still and fully connected with ourselves. This will lead us to be more productive, engaged, healthier and less stressed

  • What matters most is to find a way to recharge and renew ourselves

  • 90% of what we worry about never happens. Why do we spend energy on worrying?

  • Over connectivity of digital devices makes it harder to renew ourselves because we are partially tuned into everything while never being completely tuned in to anything

  • Email is our servant, turn off notifications and be in control of the information not the reverse where email controls us

  • The norm must become a culture that does not expect employees to be wired and responsive 24/7

  • Walking has led to solutions to problems, lets walk our problems away

  • A journey full of adventure and discovery doesn’t have to involve planes, cars and a passport. Walk and enjoy discovering what surrounds you

  • Pets open our hearts and enhance our lives. Research shows pet owners have higher self-esteem, fewer feelings of loneliness, and are more physically fit than those without pets

  • Three steps that can have dramatic effects on our well-being

    1. Get 30 minutes more sleep than we are getting now. Either go to bed ½ hour earlier or take a nap during the day

    2. Move our body: Walk, run, stretch, do yoga, dance, or anything we want to do, just move anytime

    3. Introduce 5 minutes of meditation into our day. Eventually we can build it up to 15, but even a few moments will open the door to creating a new habit and all the benefits it brings

I continue with my summation on the next pillar “Wisdom” which is defined as “the ability to use our knowledge or experience to make good decisions and judgements.”

In Arianna’s words, “Wisdom is about recognizing what we are really seeking: connection and love. But in order to find them, we need to drop our relentless pursuit of success as society defines it for something more genuine, more meaningful, and more fulfilling.” Her thoughts on why wisdom plays a huge role in thriving:

  • Everything good or bad that happens in our lives, is a teacher, and life is a giant classroom

  • Whenever we find ourselves in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset, practice gratitude by using the “ten finger gratitude exercise” by psychologist Mark Williams. Found this great video on how to practice this on YouTube

  • Be grateful for the disaster that didn’t happen, the close calls

  • Intuition: our inner knowing, hunch, gut instinct, or our inner voice is a great source of wisdom. Feed and nurture intuition, and live a life where we make use of its wisdom, key to thrive at work and life

  • Harder to connect with our wisdom due to our dependence on technology. This is creating a traffic jam between us and our place of insight and peace. Arianna calls this iParadox: Our smartphones are blocking our paths to wisdom

  • Learning the wisdom of slowing down, truly living, is itself a journey. Read Rachel Macy Stafford’s “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’” which blew up on The Huffington Post in 2013

  • We always think we’re saving time, and yet we feel like we never have enough of it. The more we use time-saving devices and strategies the more we feel rushed. Leslie Perlow gave this feeling a name “time famine”. On the flip side, the feeling of having enough time, or even surplus time, is “time affluence”.

  • Time affluence isn’t an inherited trait, we need to work on it. Fight back against “hurry sickness” by walking, not running and join the SLOW movement.

  • When McDonald’s opened in Rome in 1986, Carlo Petrini protested against the concept of fast food and the Slow Food movement started. In 2004, Carlo Honoré, a Canadian Journalist wrote the book “In Praise of Slow”. “It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work, to food, to parenting.”

  • Gaining a sense of time affluence leads us to greater well-being and deeper wisdom

  • Great wisdom in action. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years he stated “As I walk out the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

  • Life will challenge us, what is important is to use our inner tools to meet those challenges

  • The serenity prayer sums ups stoic wisdom: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It starts with daily, tiny positive changes that move us in the direction we want to go.

  • Here are three things that made a difference in Arianna’s life

    1. Listen to your inner wisdom, let go of something today that you no longer need – it could be resentments, negative self-talk, or project you will never complete

    2. Start a gratitude list you can share with one or two friends that share theirs

    3. Have a specific time every night when you turn off your devices, gently escort them out of the bedroom. Disconnecting digitally will help you connect with your wisdom, intuition, and creativity. And when you wake up in the morning, don’t start by looking at your phones. Take one minute, to breathe deeply, be grateful and set your intentions for the day

I continue my debrief with the pillar that takes into consideration the feeling of surprise mingled with adoration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected or inexplicable. It is “Wonder” or also known as awe, astonishment or amazement. It is not a product of what we see, it’s our state of mind, our being, the perspective from which we are looking at the world. Countless things in our daily lives can awaken the state of wonder we knew when we were children. We just have to look at it with a different set of eyes, the eyes of our childhood.

Here is what I’ve learned from Arianna’s "wonder" section:

  • The purpose of human life is to love whatever or whoever is around you to be loved. Meaning: loving the world and all its beauty and the people that fill our lives.

  • Poet Wu Men Hui-k'ai who lived in the 1200’s wrote this beautiful poem on wonder and awe

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

  • Nature and art are the two most fertile grounds for experiencing wonder. Visual arts invoke emotions that heal our souls. Flowers of spring, blue skies, and children running on the beach in a painting are visual symbols of hope. Art galleries are oases that give us the opportunity to disconnect from our hyper connected lives and experience the feeling of wonder.

  • Of course there are many art forms such as music, sculptures, photography, cinema, literature, architectures, drama, poetry, and dance. Each can ignite a different excitement of awe and wonder deep inside us. Music for instance can teach us lessons in life by listening to the lyrics. Arianna highlighted how a simple song “Let it Be” by the Beatles changed her journey in life by just these few lines:

  • Another powerful road map to our inner self is storytelling. Mindfulness helps us become aware of our own story. Do this by disconnecting from the outside world and set out – for however short a time – on an inner journey.

  • Without spiritual renewal, we may be left with only negative experiences to draw from. Science shows our brain is good at building brain structure from negative experiences and to overcome this we need to take time to wonder at the world around us, feel gratitude for the good in our lives, and overcome the bias toward focusing on the negative. In order for it to “take” to become part of us, we need to slow down and let wonder do its job at its own pace.

  • Coincidences: Life’s secret door to wonder….when they happen at an improbable time they have a magical power. There is something about them that delight us. Research shows if we are willing to let ourselves experience the wonder of coincidence we are more confident and at ease with life. We can’t choose where and when they grace us with their presence, but we can choose to be open to the mystery and its power for optimism.

  • There is no single thing that can teach us more about life than death. If we want to redefine what it means to live a successful life, we need to integrate into our daily lives the certainty of death. The fact that our time is limited is what makes it so precious therefore recognizing that life is short and everything we do counts, influences us to treasure the moments of awe and wonder.

  • Arianna has three things that help her live in the moment & enjoy the wonder and awe of life:

    1. Focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds when you feel rushed, tense or distracted

    2. Pick an image that ignites joy in you and anytime you feel stuck, go to it and expand your thoughts to positivity

    3. Forgive yourself for any judgements you are holding against yourself and then forgive your judgements of others. If Nelson Mandela can do it, then you can too. Then look at your life and the day ahead with newness and wonder

Einstein defined wonder as a precondition for life. He wrote that whoever lacks the capacity to wonder, “Whoever remains unmoved, whoever cannot contemplate or know the deep shudder of the soul in enchantment, might just as well be dead for he has already closed his eyes upon life.” Words to reflect upon.

The fourth and final element of the Third Metric is “giving”. Giving, loving, caring, empathy and compassion, going beyond ourselves and stepping out of our comfort zones to help serve others. Well-being, wisdom and wonder are our personal wake-up call, whereas giving is our wake-up call for humanity. We all need to find the leader in the mirror, and take steps to make a difference, both in our own communities and throughout the world.

The world will be a better place when volunteering is something we just do in our day-to-day lives and not something exceptional or something that makes us feel noble. It is the only way we, as individuals, will ultimately make a real difference. Giving can be as simple as sharing our talents and skills to help others with their own abilities, to donating money and time to causes dear to us.

Research found compassion can free us of all that limits our imagination. Meditation has shown to enhance and increase spontaneous compassionate behaviours.

To engage in service or volunteering – widens our boundaries of being. Just as when we flex our giving muscles every day, the process begins to transform our own lives. Sometimes it is through gravity that enable us to stand tall and help others, those are the times that enable us to feel most abundant. Giving sends a message to the universe we have all we need.

Can you imagine how humanity would change if the world began valuing go-givers as much as go-getters. We need to be more of a “Social Entrepreneur”, the term Bill Drayton coined to describe people who combined practical skills with compassionate goals.

Studies found that those who volunteer live longer and that volunteering seniors were more likely to engage in brain-building activities that lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also show giving in the workplace create a healthier, more creative and collaborative workplace. I’m extremely lucky I work for an organization where giving back is a way of work-life. I was even able to promote my Cooking the Mindful Way – A Tribute to Alzheimer’s Cookbook on our giving portal and was able to reach my goal to give back.

It starts with small steps and Arianna shared what she does:

  1. Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit, and pay attention to how this affects your mind, your emotions and your body

  2. During the day make a personal connection with people you might normally pass by or take for granted. Such as the grocery clerk, the cleaning crew, the barista. See how this makes you feel more connected to the moment

  3. Use your skill or talent you have to help someone who could benefit from it. Transform from go-getter to go-giver, and reconnect to the world and to the natural abundance in your own life

After reading this book I’m reminded of my own wellness journey which started firstly to improve my health but has morphed to so much more by supporting my team at TELUS and sharing about anything wellness on this website. Many of the concepts that Arianna talked about I’ve implement in one way or another in my own life and have also shared in my mindful moments. It reaffirms the path or journey I am on is well worth taking because as Einstein put it, “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”.

Thriving in life isn’t just about money and power. It is about living life to its fullest by focusing on our well-being, using our wisdom, taking in the world in awe and wonder, and giving back in our daily lives. If you would like to discuss any of these please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m here to help in any way I can. I enjoyed reading this book.

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