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Take Back Your Life

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This past week, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion during Advertising Week's 10th Anniversary Conference. The topic of discussion: "The Third Metric -- Redefining Success Beyond Power and Money." Moderated by Arianna Huffington, the conversation centered on "redefining success beyond the first two metrics of money and power to include a third metric: well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder and to give back." Participating on the panel was not only intellectually stimulating, but was great fun. It was much like a potluck dinner party, where all the guests contributed a unique dish and the hostess provided the perfect seasoning for a nuanced discussion about the individual interpretations of success.

This was not a "take back the night" discussion, but rather a "take back your life" discussion. The wonderful panelists provided humorous anecdotes about how they had changed their lives and found fulfillment with their new metric. Olivia Munn, a natural comic, charmed the audience with delightful disclosure of her reaction to stress. Arianna's story of crashing from exhaustion and hurting herself physically fell powerfully on the audience. Her comments about self-care through napping and sleeping and giving yourself permission to drop projects which are overwhelming or just cumulatively too heavy brought laughter from the audience several times, as the wisdom made perfect sense. It was liberating!

As we were discussing the incidents in our lives which made us shift our metric for success, I was particularly struck by a comment made by Pat Christen, President and CEO of HopeLab. With full vulnerability and trust, she shared her realization that she had stopped looking deeply into her children's eyes because of so many other pulls on her attention. Her decision to give her little ones her undivided attention could be inspiration for the harried parents who juggle the child in the stroller with the Blackberry and the latte. If only children did as we say and not as we do, all would be well. Universally, children are watching adults all the time. The adults they love are huge role models who teach lifelong lessons through how they interact, what they say and what they don't say. Paying attention to a phone call or a message from someone else when you are with your child is disrespectful and just plain rude. It is interesting that we then expect our children to hang on our every word. We readily accept that children pick up our mannerisms, but often fail to appreciate that they pick up our style of interaction and tend to pay attention to what we pay attention to. Parents often say, "Shh, the children are listening." It would be good to remember that they are also watching, and it is in the combination of listening to and watching us that culture and values are indirectly transmitted. Pat's children will feel respected and believe that what they have to say or what they feel is important because mom stopped and dropped what she was doing to really look at them and listen to them.

The theme of multitasking was taken on by Arianna. I agree that it appears to be a new criteria for sainthood. Funny how I can readily agree that multitasking is not necessarily constructive or even productive sometimes for the individual, yet while interviewing someone only yesterday, I asked them about their ability to multitask, as I require that capacity. Maybe the difference is I don't lionize it as a positive character trait, but more as a skilled trait indicative of flexibility.

What does success look like in childhood? This is an easy one for adults to answer, and they would probably be wrong. Once children are old enough to understand the concept of success, they are more likely to identify feeling good, being good and doing good as success. Children do appreciate that happiness is a good thing. Somewhere along the road, that clarity gets muddled. Interestingly, children's definition of happiness usually includes the happiness of those they love. I'm not suggesting we should all regress to childhood or move to Bhutan, but rather that listening to and looking deep into the eyes of our children might bring us all back to the idea of relationships as success.

The secret sauce of successful relationships is empathy. To be in a meaningful relationship with someone, you need to understand how they feel, to be able to take their perspective. Children develop empathy when they are treated empathically. This is my third metric -- having meaningful and loving relationships.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.