Imagine finding the editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post lying on the floor of her office in a pool of her own blood. That’s exactly what happened on the morning of 6th April 2007 when Arianna Huffington head hit the corner of her desk, resulting in a cut eye and a broken cheekbone. She had collapsed due to exhaustion and lack of sleep.
As she waited in the emergency room, she asked herself “is this really success?”
Success is traditionally defined by two things: money and power. We still believe that working 24/7 is the way to success – to work beyond our limits, to sleep less, to do more. Huffington sees all around us a society in which success is equated with exhaustion. Successful people are supposed to devote themselves completely to their professions. They pull all-nighters. They sacrifice their families and happiness. They plug themselves in, but never unplug themselves. Our work has become to dominate everything, as if that defines us. We take better care of our smart phones than we do ourselves. We plan our day around recharging our devices, but we rarely do the same with ourselves.
And by acting this way, they sometimes achieve wealth and power. But does that really make them successful? We have around 30,000 days to play the game of life. If you have been to a memorial lately, you’ll have noticed that eulogies have very little to do with our LinkedIn profiles.
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.
The stool was missing its third leg: well being, the ability to draw on intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder and capacity for compassion and giving. Arianna argues that we need a third metric for defining success in order to live a healthy, productive, and meaningful life.
Arianna describes the four pillars that enable her to lead a healthy and mindful life:
- Well-being: More than just enjoying life, we should engage in activities that instill peace and poignancy while also offering a recharge — sleep, walking, relaxation, meditation.
- Wisdom: Wisdom is different from simply having a high IQ. We must audit our lives and extract from our experiences the lessons that will guide us forward.
- Wonder: There is so much innate wonder around us to which the perils of work and stress make us blind. Re-opening our eyes is essential to enjoying our lives.
- Giving: We should strive to celebrate go-givers as much as go-getters. We should strive to include more giving in our lives. After all, research has shown that giving is good for your health.
Don’t just go out there and climb the ladder of success. Instead, redefine success. Because the world desperately needs it.
This makes for one of the most interesting debates with Millennials. They aren’t so interested in pursuing careers that will take them down the path of money and power. The ubiquitous question for Gen Y is not “What do you do?” but “Why do you do it?”
Millennials will explore new solutions even if they are perceived as controversial. They will bring new energy to business, government and education, and they will fight for change even if it requires them to be more direct and less diplomatic. Collaboration will be in their DNA and inspiration will be their measure of success. With Millennials at the helm, we can look forward to a new definition of success – a more collaborative workplace, corporate environments defined less by politics than by purpose, and to a more empathetic society.
But there is a warning.
In the age of digital hyper-connectivity, Millennials must learn how to disconnect from technology and reconnect with themselves. They are wired 24/7, waking up next to their smart phones, texting and driving, checking social media while on a date, binge watching their favourite shows instead of spending time with real people.
It’s time for us all to be more mindful and present in our digital lives. If we are looking to improve and change this world, we need to be at our best, more of the time, to lead the change we wish to see.
Arianna’s advice…Try sleeping for eight hours a night. Practice mindfulness – start taking breaks out of your day where you devote time just to yourself. Take a warm bath, practice deep breathing, banish LCD screens temporarily, take a long walk, and learn how to be comfortable in your own skin. Experience digital-free hours to experience deeper connections with people. You’ll notice and realise things you didn’t before because you were too busy staring at that screen.
After all, the world is full of wonders. All you have to do is look up.