Arriana Huffington led the blogging revolution as founder of the Huffington Post. But a non-stop digital lifestyle took its toll and she had to drastically rebalance her life. Thrive is her manual for 21st century life. It’s reviewed for Prowess by Julia Ebbens of Julia’s Yoga.
Thrive is an antidote to a pressure-filled day in modern life. The ability to spend time re-evaluating our priorities and values is surely the first step to initiate change towards a life we truly crave. Whilst Arianna sets out basic concepts such as obtaining more sleep and cultivating gratitude in our daily lives, the books overall purpose is to persuade us to redefine what for many of us is the purpose or goal of our life. This profound process involves knocking the traditional image of power and money on the head and instead replacing it with a mindful existence with an emphasis on wellbeing, creativity and community spirit. It rejects the individualistic pursuit of wealth and encourages us to create sufficient space in our lives to align with a richer way of living.
Even if we are ‘progressing’ well in line with conventional ambitions such as creating a solid career path, and obtaining a degree of material wealth and stability, there will always be something missing which will hold us back from reaching ‘wholeness’. We can continue to work ourselves ragged marching towards the top of the ladder, but sooner or later we will fall back down.
How many people, after achieving the goals outlined by society as strongly desirable, i.e a house, car, position of some reputation and status, sit back and think to themselves ‘is this it?’,’is this the extent of my life?’ ‘Why do I wake up in the morning and sleep walk through the day fulfilling obligation after obligation whilst ignoring an aching desire to run free and smell the roses?’.
Arianna suggests that we should invest fully in developing an additional realm of living, which she describes as ‘the third metric’. This realm should be comprised of wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving.
The price we pay in pursuit of the traditional pillars of happiness under the conventional definition of success if often far too high. Insomnia, exhaustion, obesity and stress are the modern day indications of a life lived out of balance in a desperate bid to race to an insurmountable top. We should not endure these impairments as part and parcel of a working life, accepting these ailments as inevitable consequences in a bid to ‘succeed’. In the end our bodies and minds will rebel, and with the increasing frequency of heart disease, stress and other chronic illnesses it is essential that we give our bodies the respect they deserve. Huffington suggests we can predominantly achieve this by:
- Prioritising sleep. If you do nothing else, allow yourself the chance to obtain 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each If necessary make an appointment in your diary outlining the time which you will put aside, without exception,to rest and recharge. This is the most important appointment of your day, so treat it as such. Without adequate sleep, we can easily end up burnt out, something which is a disease of our generation.
- Mindfulness. Even large corporate organisations such as Google are recognising the intrinsic value of creating a mindful workforce. After all, in terms of productivity, meditation is proven to increase efforts. Don’t see it as a burdensome chore, or worse, a guilty indulgence. See it for what it is, simply a tool to harness the strength of your mind.
- Turn it off. Our overconnectivity is leading us to a state of almost constant arousal. We are drawn compulsively to endlessly check the myriad range of screens within reaching distance, throughout the day and night, as if our life depended on such technological vigilance. The reality is it is not fulfilling us, it is only making us feel increasingly inadequate and lost. If we put our phones down and looked around us, we can gradually become aware, that things are actually, for the most part, fine, and that we don’t need to impulsively search google endlessly for ‘the answer’. Find a way to limit your screen time, either by using a free downloadable app or by using your own willpower. Also set a cut off time in the evening whereby no more emails will be sent or browsers opened, choosing instead to converse in real time with a human being or settling down with a good book.
- Move. An obvious but often neglected method of obtaining wellbeing. Dance, run, swim, walk, do yoga. Move your body and your mind will follow. Best way to beat depression, anxiety, insomnia along with just about any physical ailment you can imagine. Let’s bring back walking as our main method of transport, or better yet get your bike out and feel frequent bursts of joy as you transition throughout your day.
- Focus. Let us separate our relentless petty worries from the stuff that really matters and invest energy on the things which makes our heart sing. In amongst chaos we can choose to remain true to our own values and needs, and if we aren’t sure what they are, sitting quietly with ourselves is a good way to reconnect to them!
- Listen. When we become in touch with our inner voice, we must listen and respect it. Don’t ignore your inner wisdom which is waiting patiently to be listened to and honoured. You know what’s right for you on a fundamental level, the key is not to doubt it or allow someone else’s voice to overshadow your own.
- Be grateful: instil a sense of gratitude into your day, when you wake, smile and think of the value in having a fresh day laying out before you, when you go to sleep, smile and think of the experiences of your day.
- Be curious: allow your mind to wander to subjects which interest you, allow the library to be your toy shop, indulging your whims and satisfying your innate desire for knowledge and discovery. We must encourage our natural curiosity and allow this freedom of thought to keep us interested and passionate about life.
- Notice: we don’t often give our attention to any one thing anymore, and we need to cultivate the ability to block out unnecessary stimuli in our hyperconnected world. Go to a gallery and spend half an hour looking at just one painting, notice how much joy we can obtain from fully engaging, and from giving our scattered attention a focus.
- Let’s make service a joy. We need to go beyond ourselves (which we are far better equipped to do once we make our own wellbeing a priority). We need to learn the art of compassion and generosity and make it a key element of our lives. Volunteering should be a standard part of our existence, in whatever capacity we see fit, we will benefit others and ourselves and there is no reason we can’t prioritise this as part of a full and well lived life.
- Don’t wait for a disaster: whilst natural disasters across the world tend to provoke a sense of global responsibility to give and provide, there is plenty of people in need in our own towns, and even on our own street. We can look local and work at strengthening our own communities for an immediate sense of purpose and achievement.
- Go-give: whilst we encourage go-getters in our modern world, we need to value the power of go-givers equally. Social entrepreneurs who look at how they can add value to others lives are a prime example. Let’s thrive together!
Thanks to Julia Ebbens of Julia’s Yoga in Norwich for this review.