Sometimes, life brings you a wakeup call.
Arianna Huffington, publisher, author, philanthropist, and one of Forbes most powerful women in the world, found herself on the floor in a pool of blood. She’d collapsed from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone and cutting her eye.
She was working eighteen-hour days to build The Huffington Post while being a mom of two teenagers. Arianna was considered hugely successful within our society’s conventional framework, but she actually wasn’t living a successful life by any sane definition of success!
Something had to radically change in her life.
And so Arianna Huffington found herself on the front lines of redefining success in today’s world when she sat down to write her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.
This is the second in a series all about the must-read business books I recommend to my clients and anyone else who wants to experience career-changing a-ha moments. I review these books and distill them into easily-digestible blog posts.
Basically, I read them so you don’t have to (although I absolutely recommend reading them!).
Today we’re diving into Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive. Arianna makes a powerful case for why we need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. She divides her book into sections on well-being (you can read my recap here), wisdom, wonder, and giving.
It’s time to dive into Arianna’s take on cultivating wisdom in your life.
What is wisdom?
Arianna was brought up on the classics and Greek myths, with Athena as the goddess of wisdom. Athena embodied:
- Strength and vulnerability.
- Creativity and nurturing.
- Passion and discipline.
- Pragmatism and intuition.
- Intellect and imagination.
- Masculine and feminine.
Like Athena, women don’t need to leave parts of themselves behind in order to thrive in a male-dominated world. Instead, we need to reclaim our instincts to tap into our inner wisdom that’s already there.
Wisdom is about what we’re really seeking: not money and power, but connection and love.
Have a hunch, inkling, or gut feeling about something? Pay attention!
According to Arianna, one big sign we need more wisdom in our world is our failure to listen to our own intuition and heed warning signs.
Somewhere along the way, intuition became discarded by too many people, sometimes even as something associated with the paranormal. But third-century philosopher Plotinus wrote that there are three kinds of knowledge: opinion, science, and illumination. While the internet has made the first two types of knowledge readily available 24/7, we’re moving further away from illumination, or that deep inner wisdom that really matters.
Believe in your intuition! Your subconscious has been reading situations for years and is often much more accurate than your conscious mind. Arianna includes some very specific instances of this phenomenon:
- The fire chief who ordered the other firefighters out of a (seemingly) perfectly-intact house they were inspecting, because he had a gut feeling something was wrong. Moments later, the floor they were standing on collapsed.
- Nurses who knew test results before they’d been completed. They looked at their patients, and they knew.
The easiest way for Arianna herself to become out of touch with her intuition, she says, is to become sleep-deprived. It takes plenty of rest and often meditation, yoga, or other mindfulness work to quiet the noise of the world and hear our inner voices. And while cell phones and other devices have plenty of upsides, we can never forget that our hyper-connectedness is not bringing us closer to our intuition. Pace your relationship with technology accordingly, she urges us.
Most of us suffer from “hurry sickness” and “time famine.”
That terrible feeling that there’s never enough time has some very real consequences, including stress and overall diminished satisfaction with your life. But the feeling of having enough time, or even extra time? That’s called “time affluence” and it’s absolutely possible to achieve!
Our best role models for time affluence, Arianna points out, are children. They know exactly how to exist in the moment and stop and smell the roses. They deeply understand the joys of slowing down.
Be honest: how do you talk about yourself inside your own head?
Arianna calls our critical inner voices “the obnoxious roommate living in our head,” pointing out that many of us don’t even think about our worst enemies as harshly as we think about ourselves.
It’s tough to get rid of your obnoxious roommate completely, especially when the media directed at women these days reinforces the idea that our lives are somehow lacking. While telling us we should be sexier, richer, thinner, better mothers, better wives and girlfriends, and more, the media also shouts at us, “You go girl!” What a confusing way to drive home the message that our entire gender is somehow lacking.
Educating our obnoxious roommate is one of the many wonderful things that come with redefining success for yourself. Look at your own values and goals and be patient with yourself.
What’s your keystone habit?
It’s easy to forget that habits exist for a very good reason. We lead busy and complex lives, so it makes sense that certain actions and thoughts would be organized by our minds as automatic – when something is truly a habit, you don’t even have to think about it.
The problem is, our minds don’t really differentiate about whether a habit is good or bad for us – it’s simply automatic. If we’re not able to reprogram our minds’ automatic pilot, we’ll stay stuck with our bad habits forever.
Enter the “keystone habit,” that, when changed, has a positive effect on many of our personal habits. For Arianna, sleep is her keystone habit. Once she gets into the habit of getting enough sleep, she finds it’s easier to exercise and meditate, too. Instead of managing three new habits, she focuses solely on her keystone habit of sleep.
Arianna’s action steps for us.
After plenty of thought-provoking reflections on wisdom, Arianna makes these thoughts actionable.
- Let it go. Listen to your inner wisdom and let go of something that you no longer need. Maybe you’ll choose negative self-talk, resentment, or a project that your heart isn’t really in.
- Write down what you’re thankful for – then share it. Keep a gratitude list and share it with two or more friends who’ll send theirs to you.
- Choose a time each night when you’ll turn off your devices and remove them from your bedroom.
Hopefully, his recap and Arianna’s action steps gave you some food for thought about what might help you get plugged into your own sense of wisdom. What stood out most to you? How do you invite more wisdom into your life? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!