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Redefining Success -- Lessons From Arianna Huffington's Thrive

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Imagine finding the editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group Arianna Huffington on the morning of April 6, 2007 lying on the floor, in a pool of blood, in her office.

That's exactly what happened to Arianna when her head hit the corner of her desk, resulting in a cut eye and a broken cheekbone. She collapsed due to exhaustion and lack of sleep. It left her paranoid as she was trying to find the underlying medical problem -- could it be symptoms of something even worse? But it turns out, it was a lack of sleep.

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Fortunately, I was able to have two encounters with Arianna, and her messages of wisdom have redefined the way I see success, and for the better.

Burnout, stress and sleep deprivation are all common things we face as humans living in the digital, hyper-connected age. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Success is traditionally defined by two things: money and power.

Over time our society's notion of success has been reduced to money and power. In fact, at this point, success, money, and power have practically become synonymous in the minds of many. This idea of success can work-- or at least appear to work-- in the short term. But over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two- legged stool-- you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you're going to topple over. -- Arianna Huffington

But the three-legged stool was missing its third leg: well-being. So without this third leg, how do you expect to stay upright and afloat? You don't, and that's exactly what happened to Arianna lying in a pool of her own blood in 2007.

Relax, take a deep breath with me before you read on.

1... 2.. inhale... 3... 4... exhale...

It's time to be more mindful and present in our digital lives.

It doesn't take scientific research to recognize the problem at hand. Countless colleagues, friends and family just simply don't sleep enough. We are also ultra-connected to our smart phones, and we have a hard time separating ourselves from them. We still believe that working 24/7 is the way to success -- to work beyond our limits, to sleep less, to do more, and more and more. We all try to cram so much into a day hoping that the bucket doesn't overflow.

So why should my generation, generation Y, the millennials or the "stress generation" pay attention to this calling? According to Stress in America, a study commissioned by the American Psychological Association, millennials are one of the most stressed demographics.

We are at the front of the stress parade and it only creates a recipe for disaster -- especially when it comes to the decisions we make in our lives, from our personal health, diet, your ability to build and nurture relationships or your memory and ability to learn... the list goes on.

Millennials grew up attached to technology, wired 24/7, waking up next to our smart phones, texting and driving, checking social media while on a cute date, binge watching your favorite shows instead of spending time with real people... we're all guilty. Watch this viral video that captures this digital over-connectivity, "I Forgot My Phone."

Technology, especially when it becomes addictive, makes it harder to connect with ourselves, our wisdom, and our ability to wonder and to give. Our hyperconnectedness is the snake lurking in our digital Garden of Eden. As Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford psychologist, puts it, 'People have a pathological relationship with their devices.' -- Arianna Huffington

As quoted in Thrive: "Stress and burnout have huge consequences for both our personal health and our healthcare system. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that from 1983 to 2009, there was between a 10-30% increase in stress levels across all demographic categories. Higher levels of stress can lead to higher instances of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity."

Arianna's honest and fundamental perspective provides us a window of reflection into something that is often neglected -- to bring attention on the topic of our well-being in a work-obsessed society and find balance.

A first step to improving your well-being and balance is your attitude towards your life. We are easily annoyed by the simplest of things because we are often always in a hurry -- always going and going.

Instead of letting the frequent wailing of sirens irritate us, we could use the sound to remind us to take a pause and notice the moment. At the traffic crossing, instead of being impatient for the green man, appreciate how the red man gives us a chance to stop, breathe and look around. -- Tessa Watt

For millennials, feeling pressure from all corners of our lives -- whether it's your school debt, relationships, career, family -- the last thing you want to lose is... yourself.

The book Thrive advocates for the Third Metric in "redefining success -- in order to live a healthy, balanced and meaningful life." That Third Metric, Arianna writes, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder and capacity for compassion and giving.

"Life is shaped from the inside out not the outside in." -- Arianna Huffington

Here are ten practical ways to bring more well-being to your life:

  1. Finish things: Reduce your baggage and the mental weight you carry. Arianna: "Did you know you can complete a project by dropping it?"
  2. Experience wonder: We grew up loving moments of magic and wonder, the magic of exploration and discovery -- bring it back to your life by enabling yourself to discover and dream.
  3. Remove poison If there is somebody toxic in your life, kindly remove them from your life. Don't ever hold grudges. "Resentment is like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die." -- Carrie Fisher
  4. Natural hours of sleep: Try sleeping for eight hours at minimum as a start. You'll soon find what your natural sleeping hours are and soon begin to wake up naturally and feel refreshed.
  5. Practice mindfulness: Start taking breaks out of your day where you just become mindful. To feel your hands, your feet, to pay attention to your breathing -- just be 100 percent present.
  6. Digital disconnect: Experience digital-free hours to see things differently and experience deeper connections with people. You'll notice and realize things you didn't before because you were too busy starring at that screen. The world is full of wonders, you just have to look up.
  7. Meditate: Meditation isn't just for old people. Try a deep breathing exercise right before you sleep or the next time you're stressed. Start with a minute and eventually dedicate 15-20 minutes to meditate and be at peace.
  8. Give: Generosity is huge to unlocking happiness. How great does it feel when you help or give to others, asking for nothing back? Do something nice for somebody every day -- whether it is a compliment or a small gift.
  9. Learn to say no: Saying yes to anybody means saying no to everybody. Ask yourself, "Is it that important that you need to do that?" Don't overwhelm yourself with responsibilities that you cannot meet.
  10. Personal time: Devote time to yourself. A time of sanctuary where you can rediscover and recharge at your own pace. Take a warm bath, practice deep breathing, banish LCD screens temporarily, take the longer walk and just be in the comfortable in your own skin. Many of life's wonders are discovered when we are alone.

When you don't sleep enough, you bring out the worst version of yourself to the world. In my experience you: become more impulsive and make horrible decisions, feel more lonely than usual, have heightened impatience, get frustrated and upset more easily and have lower control of emotions and self-esteem.

Eight sleep tips from Thrive:
  1. Get a new pillow and a new pillowcase
  2. Make your bedroom darker and keep it cool
  3. Practice deep breathing before bed
  4. Take a warm bath before bed
  5. Exercise or at least walk every day
  6. Banish all LCD screens at night
  7. Cut down on coffee after 2 p.m and avoid alcohol right before bedtime to give the body time to metabolize it
  8. Prevent stress from building up throughout the day -- it makes it harder to fall asleep -- every few hours take 60 seconds of recovery time -- simply stop what you are doing and bring awareness to the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, or both.

In the age of hyper-connectivity, we need to know how to disconnect and reconnect with ourselves. Because if we are looking to improve and change this world--we need to be functioning at our best to lead the change we wish to see and thrive.

Don't just go out there and climb the ladder of success. Instead, redefine success. Because the world desperately needs it. -- Arianna Huffington

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