The Well-Being Journal

Arianna Huffington: Changing the Definition of Success

Madison Agee

Arianna Huffington has a mission: She wants to evolve our society’s thinking on how we define success. Traditionally, we’ve seen it as twofold: money and power. Huffington believes that this is far too limiting, not to mention borderline dangerous. In putting too much importance on accumulating more power and more money, we’re putting ourselves at risk of burnout and exhaustion, poor physical health, unhappiness, and low well-being. We’re also negatively affecting connections with our family, friends and community.

Especially concerning for Huffington is that our modern culture fetishizes this. Being overworked, exhausted and burned out is a badge of honor. We constantly talk about how many hours we’ve logged at the office, how few hours of sleep we got last night, how many emails we sent, how many projects we’ve completed.

In Huffington’s case, she was a model of traditional success – lots of money and power – but it led her to have a serious wake-up call. She passed out in her office, sending her to the hospital with a fractured cheekbone, a gash above her eye, and the start of a medical journey looking for answers to why she passed out. With few definitive reasons for her accident other than “exhaustion,” Huffington realized that she needed to change her thinking around success.

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Huffington shared her story at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit and in her latest book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Each one of us needs to start thinking of success as having three metrics instead of two – the third necessary to truly thrive. This “third metric” has four pillars:

  1. Well-being. Huffington remarked that we take care of our smartphones better than we do ourselves, and this needs to change. Because 75 percent of our modern healthcare costs go to treating preventable, stress-related chronic illnesses, taking time for our better well-being can make an enormous impact.
  2. Wisdom. We need to take time to just think, engage in intellectual activity, and connect to ourselves and the people and the world around us. This requires that we disconnect from our electronic devices and pay attention to things we wouldn’t otherwise see.
  3. Wonder. This entails bringing back to the joy in everyday life – taking note of the usual “occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives” and reveling in them.
  4. Willingness to give. Huffington suggests that we, as human beings, are wired for giving. Our empathy for other people encourages us to complete selfless acts, which in turn creates good feelings within ourselves. This is a “virtuous cycle” that contributes to our better well-being.

Huffington also discussed how this third metric is playing itself out in workplaces, hers included. At the Huffington Post, there are nap rooms and meditation spaces, and employees and journalists are not expected to check email during non-working hours. She also drew attention to a Volkswagen policy of disabling its employees’ phones after hours.

Huffington believes that by pursuing this third metric of success, we can lead more fulfilling lives with deeper connections to the things that really matter.

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Summit Thrive Arianna Huffington