On April 6th of 2007, Arianna Huffington found herself collapsed in a pool of her own blood. It was the beginning of a long discovery process, moving from doctor to doctor, test to test. Finally, her doctor gave her an unusual diagnosis: civilization's disease. There was no cure he could offer. "It's in your own hands Arianna, there is no pill I can give you."
I enjoyed the privilege of hearing Huffington tell her personal story just last week at Brendon Burchard's High Performance Academy in Santa Clara, California. An honest portrayal of her journey to a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder touched the audience, leaving us with much to contemplate about our own lives.
"We are living in a society where sleep deprivation and burnout are believed to lead to success," said Huffington. "Some people succeed despite these things, but no one succeeds because of them. Many, many more people would have achieved success had they not burned themselves out." After her collapse from exhaustion Huffington, learned to lead her life in a very different style. She learned that well-being is a practice, not a state.
In her most recent book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Huffington shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, thinking, workplace, and personal lives.
Here is her personal prescription for happiness and success.
Sleep your way to the top
Sleep deprivation drastically impairs our judgment. You are more likely to achieve success and health with a regular and generous sleep schedule.
Treat your bedtime like an appointment, with the same urgency and importance that you give your work-repeated appointments. Determine what time you need to get up and count the hours backwards to allow for the seven or eight hours of sleep your body needs. Like a flight or important meeting, your sleep should be thought of as the fixed point of your day--everything else should be adjusted as needed.
Reevaluate your use of technology
"We take better care of our smartphones than we do ourselves," Huffington says. The average smartphone user checks his or her device every six and a half minutes, or about one 150 times a day. Never mind the tension caused by an overflowing inbox. This stressful task can actually cause you to hold your breath for short bursts of time, a condition technology expert and consultant Linda Stone has dubbed "email apnea."
At Volkswagon, employee cell phones are programmed to switch off work emails from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. so employees can unplug from work. A growing number of companies mandate that employees take vacations and remove themselves mentally from the demands of work so they can take care of themselves and their families--a good rule of thumb to follow.
Science now validates that meditation is much, much more than a New Age tool. Finally, we've reached that tipping point: more and more people realize that stress-reduction and mindfulness aren't only about love and harmony--they are also about increased well-being and improved performance.
Introduce just five minutes of meditation into your day and build up to 20. Anyone, even Type-A personalities like Huffington, can learn to meditate. She provides a number of tools for support and guidance to improve your meditation practice in Appendix B of Thrive.
Huffington grew up witnessing her mother, whom she considered filthy rich in time, move through her days much like a child. She lived in the present, taking time to smell the roses. While this time-rich state is not something Huffington considers an inherited trait, she has learned that there are things you can do to turn your time famine into a feast.
Guard your time, because it's precious. Huffington suggests that you do an audit of the things you plan to do. Carefully choose where you want to invest your physical and emotional energy and be very intentional about the things you do.
We are surrounded by daily opportunities to help others and our environment. Huffington believes that we have the power to transform our own lives by giving to others.
Think about your determination to get things done: to achieve goal after goal. This type of focus comes from a perceived deficit, focused on what you don't have and are trying to obtain. Huffington eloquently reminds us of the power of giving back; when you give you will tap into your sense of abundance and overflow instead of lack. It's a practice that gives in both directions.