Arianna Huffington’s Four-Part Guide to Thriving
- by Susan McDonnell
Influencer and author Arianna Huffington wishes that people would treat themselves as tenderly as they treat their smartphones.
“My iPhone starts to alert me when there’s just 20 percent battery remaining,” she said. “Then it starts to drop, and I start to panic and look around for a recharging shrine.”
We’ve all been there.
The trouble, Huffington said, is that while the thought of our phones dying can drive us into a power source-seeking frenzy, we don’t seem to have the same relationships with ourselves.
“If we start treating ourselves with the same reverence that we do our smartphones—that mechanism of knowing when our batteries are going to die—then we will be thriving,” she said.
If anyone should hold the keys to thriving in today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s Huffington. In fact, she wrote the book—Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder—which she discussed during a recent Authors@Wharton event.
Huffington sees the business world as living under a collective delusion: That the only way to be successful is through sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, she said, that’s the wrong approach. She learned that the hard way, when she collapsed from exhaustion, hit her head, broke her cheekbone and ended up with four stitches on her right eye.
“If you are lying in a pool of your own blood on the floor of your office, you are not successful,” she said of that experience.
She pointed to other health wake-up calls of the so-called successful: heart attacks at early ages, diabetes, high blood pressure—all the result of burnout and sleepless nights.
Moreover, she noted, most decisions we make with just a precious handful of hours of sleep aren’t good ones.
Putting health and well-being first is essential to thriving—both in business and in life. And the first and best way to make a change toward a healthier, happier life, she said, is to get more sleep.
“The evidence is overwhelming that sleep is a miracle drug,” said Huffington.
“A lot of bad decisions are made by leaders with very high IQs and degrees from great schools,” said Huffington, yet these leaders lack one thing: wisdom.
When talking of wisdom, Huffington referred to our ability to connect to ourselves.
“Within us, we have a place of wisdom, peace, strength and joy,” she said. “Most of the time, we don’t live there. For me, thriving is how quickly we course-correct and return to that place.”
She pointed to meditation as a tool increasingly used by CEOs and other leaders to tap into their own personal wisdom.
How much of our time is spent connected to the world around us each day? If you look at our use of technology—computers, smartphones, tablets and the like, it seems like a lot.
But Huffington noted that we are not really connecting.
“We are so buried in our to-do list that we lose our capacity for wonder and joy,” she said.
Even disconnecting from technology for just a few moments a day can enhance our awareness of the world around us.
“Giving is the shortcut to happiness,” said Huffington. “That’s the truth.”
This view is well validated, study after study, book after book (Huffington specifically cited Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success by Wharton’s own Professor of Management and the Class of 1965 Chair Adam Grant). Huffington said that the most successful people in the world note those moments during which they gave as among the most important and rewarding in their lives.
So CEOs, take note. The Art of War, which warns against shutting your eyes even for one second, is no longer a great book to live by.
“As the world is changing, and teamwork and collaboration, and flexibility are becoming more important, I recommend The Giving Tree or Make Way for the Ducklings. Then they’ll be able to adapt to the new world of business,” said Huffington about new must-reads for business leaders.
Editor’s note: Alumni can access a live-stream of the next Authors@Wharton event with Amy Chua via live streaming video. Visit www.wharton.upenn.edu/webinars to register.