"Have you ever noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?"
When you think of success what two words pop into your mind? For many, it’s money and power. If you are lucky, you have about thirty thousand days to play the game of life. What you value will determine what game you play.
Arianna Huffington in Thrive shares the scientific findings that show us that if you value money, you will never feel truly abundant. If you value power, recognition and fame, you will never really feel you have enough. And if you value saving time and live your life madly rushing about trying to find and save time, you will live a frazzled and stressed life.
She teaches us that over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool. She learned the hard way that you may be able to balance them for a while but eventually you will topple over.
She teaches us the missing third leg or metric that she discovered. It consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. These four pillars create the four sections of the book. Through them she helps us learn how to thrive and live our lives with more grace, more joy, more compassion, more gratitude and more love.
The four pillars
"...the current way we lead our lives is not working… there are scientifically proven ways we can live our lives differently – ways that will have an immediate and measurable impact on our health and happiness.”"
Daily positive changes in the four pillars of the third metric can make a big difference in your life. Below are three things you can do now to get started in each pillar. Which pillar will you start with this week?
- Get more sleep
- Move your body
- Meditate daily
- Let go of something you no longer need (resentment, negative self-talk, a project you know you won’t complete)
- Start a gratitude list and share it with two or more friends who send theirs to you
- Draw a line at night at which you turn off your devices and remove the digital world from your bedroom
- Become fully present: Focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds whenever you feel tense, rushed or distracted
- Whenever you feel contracted think of something that brings you joy and inspires a sense of wonder
- Look at each day with newness and wonder by forgiving yourself for any judgments you are holding
- Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit
- Make a personal connection with the people you interact with daily – the barista, the sales clerk, the cleaning crew, etc.
- Use your special skill or talent to help someone who might need it
From these four pillars you will find powerful lessons that speak directly to you. Perhaps they will be from the well-being category. I remember the first time I heard these lessons (when I read books like Eat, Move, Sleep and Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way) I changed things in my life. Life changed again when I first became aware of the importance of lessons in the giving category, through books like Give and Take and The Charge. So today, I will delve into two of the lessons Arianna shares that have been harder for me to learn.
Coincidence? I think not!
"One pathway to awakening wonder in our lives is the serendipity of coincidence."
Arianna talks about the importance of coincidence. I had planned a lovely retreat to Big Sur for my husband and me for his 50th birthday celebration. As the date approached, and my work stress heightened, I added a conference to our short agenda. As the date drew even closer, I suggested we do our 2015 business planning while away. After all, we had so much to do. I know what you’re thinking and you are right! What a drag!
Of course I didn’t want a spare minute to be wasted so I brought the next book on my list to read on the plane. It happened to be Thrive. What a lovely coincidence. It was exactly what I needed. It helped me recalibrate my compass.
Working in the pharmaceutical industry, I value evidence and am highly skeptical of anything that is not proven. However, Arianna taught me under the category of wonder to appreciate the coincidences in life. Maybe we don’t have to know what coincidences mean. They can just simply be reminders to maintain your sense of wonder, to stop and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment and open to the mystery of life.
A new drug for stress
"This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs."
Would you like to decrease the stress in your life? There is a new drug that, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, showed stress reduction resulting in a 23 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a significant decrease in cancer mortality. The drug? It is at your disposal whenever and wherever you want it! It’s meditation.
I’m sure you know some people who are really great at tennis. How did they get that way? Well of course, they practiced a lot! What about people you know who are really happy? How did they get that way?
Nope! We learn in Thrive that we need to view happiness not as a trait but rather as a skill, like tennis. You have to practice to enhance your happiness and well-being. In fact, every strand of scientific evidence points to this.
Meditation is one way to practice.
Meditation is a wonder drug and like any drug, it needs to be adhered to. I always say “showering works, but you still have to do it everyday!” It is the same with meditation. It must become a part of your everyday life to be effective.
Isn’t it time? Time to live your life with more grace, joy compassion, gratitude and love. Time to create your own definition of success and create a life that will achieve that.
We are bombarded by signals from society to make more money and climb higher on the ladder. Have you seen many signals that remind you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, take care of yourself, reach out to others, pause to wonder and connect to that place from which everything is possible?
Reading this summary may just be that signal. How will you remake your world to help you achieve your definition of success? A great start would be to pick up Thrive and find the ideas that speak to you. As Arianna says “Onward, upward, and inward!”