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.

Huffington_Arianna_Bio_pic

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

The Quiet Emergency of Financial Well-Being

Madison Agee

Have you ever stressed about your finances? Have you worried that there’s not enough money in the bank to pay bills? Or felt like you didn’t have an idea how to pay for your child’s college education? Or simply couldn’t figure out how to retire comfortably?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. According to data from Gallup, 43 percent of American workers, if they lost their job, couldn’t go more than one month without experiencing significant financial hardship. More than a quarter (28 percent) don’t feel they currently have enough money to live comfortably. Nearly one in four (39 percent) say saving for the future just isn’t a realistic goal for them.

People at all income levels are struggling financially, with wide-ranging impact. They may not be sleeping at night, exercising or eating right, or quitting smoking even though they know they should. They may be delaying necessary medical treatment, as 30 percent of Americans have done, according to Gallup.

As a result, low financial well-being can all negatively affect the four other elements of well-being: purpose, social, community and physical. Individuals with low financial well-being are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse, and have a lower sense of self-worth. They’re likely to restrict activity with friends and family, and reduce their involvement in their communities. In fact, this epidemic of financial distress has been dubbed the “Quiet Emergency in Healthcare” by Forbes.

The impact of poor financial well-being isn’t just limited to individuals. Employers can see higher rates of absenteeism, less on-the-job productivity, and increased health costs from their employees who are struggling financially. Low financial well-being can also impede adoption of employee wellness programs. For example, someone who is living under a mountain of credit card debt probably isn’t making losing weight a top priority. Yet, less than half of large U.S. companies have, or plan on having, a financial wellness strategy in place over the next two years and only 22 percent offer any education around debt management and budgeting to their employees. Poor financial well-being can drive up healthcare usage, creating additional costs for health plans and health systems as well.

At Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, Andres Gutierrez from the Dave Ramsey organization spoke on the issue of low financial well-being and what can be done to address it. He asserted that one reason for this crisis is ignorance – people simply don’t know enough about personal finance. This isn’t necessarily their fault; the financial services industry refuses to use “straight talk” and real language to better explain its products and services. Little wonder, then, that people make bad decisions when it comes to their money, according to Gutierrez – decisions that become increasingly worse the more trouble they’re facing (e.g., taking out payday and title loans).

So how can individuals improve their financial well-being? The Ramsey approach stresses behavior change over “head knowledge,” guiding people to adjust the way they think about and interact with their money. Using the Seven Baby Steps, complemented by a powerful combination of plain-language education and inspiration, individuals can follow a proven path to taking control of their finances. At the Summit, Gutierrez noted that if people’s financial houses are in order, then it becomes much easier for them to then focus on other aspects of their own well-being.

To learn more, read about the Ramsey approach in action in the workplace – outstanding results achieved in just 90 days.

Topics: Financial Well-Being Well-Being Summit

Bringing the Promise of Well-Being to New Markets

Madison Agee

Once upon a time, if you thought about a person pursuing “well-being,” that may have generated a certain image in your mind: someone who has lots of disposable income, shops at Whole Foods, lives in a suburban community conducive to outdoor exercise, attends exclusive yoga classes in expensive workout wear, is likely under the age of 50 … and so on. Insight from the recent Healthways 2014 Well-Being Summit indicates that this image is rapidly changing.

At the Summit, the founders of Feel Rich, Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, discussed their company’s mission to bring the message of better well-being to minority and urban communities. These markets have historically been underserved with authentic, connected messaging that educates and excites them about taking steps to improve their well-being.

To achieve their mission, the two entrepreneurs utilize engaging multimedia content delivered by hip-hop artists who are considered trustworthy messengers of change. These artists – many of whom are committed to healthy lifestyles (did you know the rapper Common is a vegan fitness enthusiast?) – promote better well-being to the African-American and Latino markets through relatable imagery and authentic language.

Jones and Ullman’s approach also allows well-being brands that are looking to gain entrance into or further penetrate these markets to connect to their target consumers in a more genuine way. For example, they spearheaded the Johnson & Johnson “Text4Baby” campaign, which provided expecting and new mothers with health advice and information for both themselves and their babies. The mothers were inspired to receive the texts with a promise of a personal lullaby for their new baby sung by actor-model-musical artist Tyrese.

Older adults, too, are tuning in to well-being in growing numbers. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab provided the Well-Being Summit audience with an interesting overview of some of the demographics and trends of this expanding population. Generally speaking, this market:

  • Considers itself ill, but not sick — e.g., “I may have high blood pressure, but I’m doing just fine”
  • Has at least some college education
  • Values having health and ability and freedom to still live active lives
  • Is skeptical of information, preferring testimonials and advice from others like them
  • Is committed to working or required to work as long as they can — 40 percent plan to “work until they drop”
  • Is overloaded by information, which is often contradictory
  • Is relatively isolated — 30 percent of people 60+ live alone, and 70 percent of 50+ live in rural areas

Coughlin pointed out that traditional methods of delivering a well-being message to seniors, which are predicated on facts, fear and a prescriptive “this is what’s good for you” approach, don’t work. Instead, organizations and brands trying to reach this demographic should use a more fun, social-oriented framework that:

  • Leverages social networks
  • Speaks in terms of solutions, not just data
  • Encourages life performance instead of illness management
  • Is personal and authentic
  • Is constructed to enable a longer life span versus getting a senior through this life stage

Connecting with these two “non-traditional” markets for well-being products and services – urban/minority and seniors – requires that brands take a new approach. In both instances, authenticity and social engagement are critically important.

Topics: Well-Being Aging Seniors Consumers urban Well-Being Summit Minorities

Should You Be Emphasizing "Feminine" Values at Your Organization?

Madison Agee

According to New York Times best-selling author and corporate consultant John Gerzema, the values that we traditionally associate with femininity – such as nurture, empathy, collaboration and flexibility – are the “operating system of the 21st century.” As he recently discussed at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, where he connected well-being to leadership and consumer trends, most people already think these feminine values are of great importance, a trend that will only continue to grow in the future.

In the book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, which Gerzema co-authored by Michael D’Antonio, the authors explore this idea in detail. Their research, which took into account surveys of 64,000 people in 13 countries around the world, reveals some interesting insight into what people believe to be important and the values and approaches they feel will benefit themselves, their families, communities and workplaces, and the greater good.

Results from the surveys indicate that two-thirds of people think the world would be a better place if men thought like women. More than half (57 percent) are also frustrated with the conduct of men. The authors then split their original survey group of 64,000 into two halves and asked the first half to classify 125 human traits (e.g., “confident,” “visionary,” “adaptive”) according to whether the traits were masculine, feminine or neither. They then asked the other half to rank the same 125 traits (which were not given any gender association) based on how those traits relate to leadership, success, morality and happiness.

Conclusions from their research led the authors to assert that people all over the world are looking for more “feminine” leaders – leaders whose power stems more from gentle influence and persuasion than autocratic control. Gerzema and D’Antonio also concluded that feminine values are on the rise, and that people now prefer these values to those historically associated with masculinity.

Gerzema provided Summit attendees with both the results of their research and examples of how this rise of feminine values is being played out in far-flung corners of the world. He discussed how businesses and organizations all over the world are rejecting traditional models associated with masculinity and instead emphasizing these more feminine approaches to leadership, work and productivity – and achieving incredible success from doing so.

Traits such as empathy, collaboration, inclusion and humility are helping organizations achieve their business goals. As surprising evidence of this shift in thinking, Gerzema shared that 67 percent of survey participants indicated that they would work for less money at a company in which they truly believed, upturning the classic model that people are primarily motivated by money. Clearly, liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals — in other words, having a sense of purpose — is a significant contributor to well-being. To learn more about the importance of well-being, download the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being Report.

Topics: Well-Being Wellness Program Leadership Women Well-Being Summit Feminine