Arianna Huffington learned the hard way that “success” isn’t always what we think it is. The new-media pioneer and mother of two daughters has written a new book that explores well-being, wonder, and wisdom as critical to true success—especially for working women raising children. For Mother’s Day this year, we took the themes from Thrive and created three new cards to encourage our own mothers to get some much-needed rest and relaxation. Huffington spoke with us recently about her book, her daughters, and how to unplug.
In your book Thrive, you talk about measuring life by a Third Metric that’s neither power nor money, but a more spiritual sense of well-being. Can you tell us about a time when you struggled to keep the Third Metric in mind?
Thrive came about because of my wakeup call. On the morning of April 6, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. I was working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build a business, expand our coverage, and bring in investors. In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way. I began to overcome that phase when I realized that by incorporating daily practices into my life, it was possible to not just survive and succeed, but to thrive.
My children have completely embraced this Third Metric of success into their lives, and I feel I taught them more by example than I could ever have taught them with words. And I, of course, was blessed to have a mother who embodied this way of living. But it took me much longer to recognize its value and embrace it myself.
At the end of your chapter on maintaining a sense of wonder, you suggest a meditative practice that focuses on an “image that ignites the joy in you.” What’s yours?
I have many, but one of my favorites is a photo by Gordon Parks, “Boy with June bug.” I have it hanging in my bedroom and I also have it in black and white in my office. The expression on the boy’s face is one of absolute peace. Also, you know how every parent has his or her phone loaded with photos of their children? Well, I carry an iPhone and three BlackBerrys (I know, I know). So at any given moment I am carrying around thousands of photos of my daughters that ignite joy in me.
Do you practice meditation or yoga with your daughters?
My mother actually taught my younger sister, Agapi, and me how to meditate when I was thirteen years old. But although I’ve known its benefits since my teens, finding time for meditation was always a challenge because I was under the impression that I had to “do” meditation. And I didn’t have time for another burdensome thing to “do.” Fortunately, a friend pointed out one day that we don’t “do” meditation; meditation “does” us. That opened the door for me. The only thing to “do” in meditation is nothing.
I’m happy to say that Isabella, my youngest daughter, skipped right over the rebellion phase and has embraced meditation and yoga, while Christina has embraced other practices that I recommend in Thrive—including doing a gratitude list every night and sharing it with three friends.
What’s your #1 tip for getting 8 hours of sleep a night for over-extended women with careers and children?
Doctors recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep for optimal well-being and I realized that especially when your children are young and you have a career, this can get challenging. But, I recommend in Thrive that they at least begin to make baby steps—starting, for example, by getting just thirty minutes more sleep than they are getting now. The easiest way is to go to bed earlier, but sometimes, when it’s possible, a short nap, can make a huge difference.
One of your mother’s favorite philosophies was “Don’t miss the moment.” What’s the phrase you want your daughters to keep with them?
Onward, upward, and inward!