Thrive, by Arianna Huffington
There were so many good nuggets in this book, I felt like it deserved its own post. Thrive was a quick read and the back is filled with resources. I found myself having the urge to give back so much stronger than I’ve ever had while reading this book, and thinking about it in a deeper way. The book focuses on what Huffington calls the Third Metric, made up of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
Excerpts from the book are in italics! Bold added for emphasis by me.
Huffington talks about the stress of over-busyness, overworking, overconnecting on social media, and underconnecting with ourselves and with one another and says we take much better care of our smartphones than ourselves.
A lot of the things she talks about — being too connected, taking a break from social media, your computer & phone, etc. are all things I’ve been personally feeling a lot the past few years. Although I’m pretty good at disconnecting for short periods of time. Disconnecting for a longer period of time would be an experiment.
Because that capacity to go deep—to be alone with ourselves—is so essential to our creativity, it’s become a much more valuable skill, worth far more than a productivity app, a cleared-out in-box, or a rigidly efficient schedule.
I’m already alone a lot. I work by myself usually from home or my office. Sometimes I’m out and about, sometimes I have an intern with me, but for the majority of my time I’m by myself. So I already know how being alone can actually be really helpful for concentration and getting things done, but being alone with no devices is not something I do often so I should probably try it.
Eric Barker, who studies how human behavior affects creativity, wrote “Those who can sit in a chair, undistracted for hours, mastering subjects and creating things will rule the world—while the rest of us frantically and futilely try to keep up with texts, tweets, and other incessant interruptions.”
Something I’ve also been thinking a lot about is how, because of technology, we are in a time of a lot of change when it comes to the types of jobs that are available. People are being replaced by machines. But, luckily for me, creative jobs can’t be mechanized. I’m already trying to lean more into my creativity, reading what Eric Barker wrote makes me more inclined to do it even more.
Take the cheetah, the fastest land animal on earth, for example. It can accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in just three seconds. But it also spends up to eighteen hours a day sleeping. They’re sleeping their way to the top of the animal kingdom.
This was interesting to me because I’m currently in the midst of testing my body. I’m working out more than just 5 times a week and am doing two-a-days a few times a week as well. I’ve been worried about recovery time and a friend told me SLEEP. I can admit, I’m not the best sleeper. I think it’s super important, but I’m a light sleeper and I tend to wake up often. I need to try to sleep better, and even start to rest and maybe take naps during the day while I’m working out so much if I want my body to recover. If any of you are specialists in this area, give me your tips!
Being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us—including ourselves. And that is where wisdom is found.
While I think there are great things about social media and technology and how it can connect us — I can easily stay up to date on my nieces and nephews, FaceTime with them, and see what friends are up to. But at the same time, when relied on and not restricted, social media and technology can also deeply cut into our lives.
I’m one of those people who HATES IT when I’m with someone and they are unnecessarily on their phone. Or they leave it face up on the table when nothing pressing is going on. Odds are, no one is going to call or text you with something THAT important where you can’t take an hour to not check every notification. Personally, I have zero notifications, and I typically ignore my phone when it rings or buzzes. I’ll answer and communicate on my time. Because of this pet peeve of mine, I’m VERY conscious of doing it myself. Recently a friend told me that she felt like I was always really present with her and when we spend time together, that I’m never on my phone and how odd that was for my profession. That made me feel great as that’s exactly how I want to be.
I really feel like technology and social media, for many of us, has stunted our personal and intellectual growth by not giving our minds time to dwell, think, ponder, wander. How often to you not do anything? How often do you take a walk WITHOUT your phone? How often do you sit in silence, no music, no podcast? It’s rare.
Huffington talks about eulogies, and how they never talk about how much money someone made or how much power they had. How they always focus on family, friends, love, laughter, giving, etc.
If we want to redefine what it means to live a successful life, we need to integrate into our daily lives the certainty of our death.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross writes in her book Death: The Final Stage of Growth, calls death a “highly creative force.… Facing death means facing the ultimate question of the meaning of life. If we really want to live we must have the courage to recognize that life is ultimately very short, and that everything we do counts.”
I won’t get too much into it but death is a very real thing to me. More on this subject in this post. I have had a lot of death in my life from a young age and I’ve never felt like tomorrow was guaranteed, for me or anyone in my life. While I live practically, I tend to be a little risky because of this. So her talking about death and eulogies, I totally get.
Part of why I put so much pressure on myself, and why I feel like every day, every hour matters is because I feel like every moment is precious. Putting yourself into the scenario of what would you do if you knew you were going to die in a month — what would you change about how you are living? You should try to live more like that now.
As Gregory Burns, author of Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, writes, insight and discovery are most accessible to us when we break up our routine. “Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with.”
This is something I need to be reminded of because I tend to like a little routine and feel like that also helps creativity. Helps me set aside time for creative things. But I agree that we need to get out and experience things to change it up and get inspired. I told myself I wanted to take advantage of all the amazing museums and galleries we have here in DC this year and try to visit them all much more often.
I mentioned sleep earlier in the post but Huffington also talks a lot about sleep and how important it is. I was reading the book on my iPad late at night while I couldn’t sleep so I found that ironic. I’ve always been on the train that sleep is just as important for your body, health, wellness, recovery, skin, as eating healthy and working out. Now, there is a lot of science to back this up.
A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that people who got more sleep than the bare minimum they needed increased the volume of gray matter in their brains, which is linked to improved psychological health.
A 2013 study on mice showed that during sleep the brain clears out harmful waste proteins that build up between its cells—a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
“Everything you do, you’ll do better with a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Breus.
Professor Roenneberg says, “We sometimes overeat, but we generally cannot oversleep. When we wake up unprompted, feeling refreshed, we have slept enough.”
So don’t feel guilty about getting those Zzzzz’s!
Huffington also goes into a lot about how good walking every day is for you. I can’t see how walking every day could be bad for you unless you have some sort of injury. I walk my dog a lot and always enjoy it, but she goes into studies about walking that I found interesting, and how pets are good for you too! I can’t wait until it’s not freezing cold outside so I can walk Hemingway for longer than 10 minutes!
Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.
This is the perfect way to say what I mentioned earlier about how I think technology and social media has stopped us from giving our minds time to dwell, think, ponder, and wander. We can look up answers to questions in seconds on the Internet. We have access to millions of articles and websites and books daily. We’re on information overload, but what do we know deeply?
In order to manage time—or what we delude ourselves into thinking of as managing time—we rigidly schedule ourselves, rushing from meeting to meeting, event to event, constantly trying to save a bit of time here, a bit there. We download apps for productivity and eagerly click on articles with time-saving life hacks. We try to shave a few seconds off our daily routine, in hopes that we can create enough space to schedule yet another meeting or appointment that will help us climb the ladder of success. Like airlines, we routinely overbook ourselves, fearful of any unused capacity, confident that we can fit everything in. We fear that if we don’t cram as much as possible into our day, we might miss out on something fabulous, important, special, or career advancing. But there are no rollover minutes in life. We don’t get to keep all that time we “save.” It’s actually a very costly way to live.
I’m over being busy and scheduled. Obviously you have to schedule some things in on your calendar. And you can schedule “creative time” in. But the days I feel the best are days where all I have on my calendar is my workout. Where I have the day to decide what I’m going to work on. I know this isn’t possible for everyone so trust me, I am grateful for it.
“Slow Thinking is intuitive, woolly and creative,” wrote Carl Honoré. “It is what we do when the pressure is off, and there is time to let ideas simmer on the back burner. It yields rich, nuanced insights and sometimes surprising breakthroughs.… The future will belong to those who can innovate—and innovation comes from knowing when to slow down.”
Personally I have found that really good ideas come to me when I’m not trying to think them up. I’ll just be doing something random or something fun, and an idea will literally hit me. I grab some paper and start writing down everything I’m thinking.
If you walk in with fear and anger, you’ll find fear and anger. Go into situations with what you want to find there.… When you worry, you’re holding pictures in your mind that you want less of.… What you focus upon, you become. What you focus on comes to you. So hold in your mind what you want more of. —JOHN-ROGER
Love this quote. It reminds me to be more positive and optimistic. The older I get the more realistic and pessimistic I get so I need this reminder.
Huffington goes into giving back a lot and I found my self flooded with desire to give back while reading this part of the book.
One study demonstrated that volunteering at least once a week yields improvements to well-being tantamount to your salary increasing from $20,000 to $75,000. A Harvard Business School study showed that “donating to charity has a similar relationship to subjective well-being as a doubling of household income.” This is the case in poor countries and rich countries alike. And the same study found that students who were told to spend a small amount of money on someone else were happier than students who were told to spend it on themselves.
Have you read Thrive? Did anything strike a chord with you?