9 lessons on slowing down and reassessing our values from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive

I wasn’t expecting huge things from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. For one, there’s the title. Reviews haven’t necessarily been glowing either. However, Thrive comes with a few life lessons that really are worth mulling over, and it’s a book I’ll return to. After all, if a book gets you thinking about how you’re living your life, do reviews really matter at all?

On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day. –RUMI


Arianna Huffington’s “12 Steps to Thrive”. Infographic source: mindvalleyacademy.com

1. Think about the end and work backwards

[It] is very telling what we don’t hear in eulogies. We almost never hear things like: “The crowning achievement of his life was when he made senior vice president.” Or: “He increased market share for his company multiple times during his tenure.” Or: “She never stopped working. She ate lunch at her desk. Every day.” Or: “He never made it to his kid’s Little League games because he always had to go over those figures one more time.” Or: “While she didn’t have any real friends, she had six hundred Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her in-box every night.” Or: “His PowerPoint slides were always meticulously prepared.” Our eulogies are always about the other stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.

2. Talk about death with your loved ones

“The best part of The Conversation Project,” she told me, “is that we are asking people to talk about their end of life wishes at the kitchen table and not in the ICU. We are asking them to talk about what matters to them, not what’s the matter with them. The conversations turn out to be some of the most intimate and caring ones that families have ever had.”

3. “Turn off all notifications; you should control when you want information”

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life. –Wu Men

4. Sit idly in the garden

“there needs to be time for efficient data collection and time for inefficient contemplation, time to operate the machine and time to sit idly in the garden”

In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

5. Dedicate a little time to philosophy and thinking about the world

“Stoicism took off because it offered security and peace in a time of warfare and crisis,” write Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, authors of a biography of the Stoic Cato the Younger. “The Stoic creed didn’t promise material security or a peace in the afterlife; but it did promise an unshakable happiness in this life.”

6. What matters is what we give our attention to

I did a major “life audit” when I turned forty, and I realized how many projects I had committed to in my head—such as learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook. Most remained unfinished, and many were not even started. Yet these countless incomplete projects drained my energy and diffused my attention. As soon as the file was opened, each one took a little bit of me away. It was very liberating to realize that I could “complete” a project by simply dropping it—by eliminating it from my to-do list. Why carry around this unnecessary baggage? That’s how I completed learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook and a host of other projects that now no longer have a claim on my attention.

7. Treat bedtime like an appointment you can’t miss

Too many of us think of our sleep as the flexible item in our schedule that can be endlessly moved around to accommodate our fixed and top priority of work. But like a flight or train, our sleep should be thought of as the fixed point in our day, and everything else should be adjusted as needed so we don’t miss it.

8. Find time to appreciate art and beauty

Maxwell Anderson, the CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, describes a museum’s mission as providing visitors with “resonance and wonder … an intangible sense of elation—a feeling that a weight was lifted.” Or as my fellow countryman Aristotle put it: “catharsis.”

 9. Retain a sense of wonder

For me, whether I’m on a visit to a monastery in Greece or an elaborately planned staycation (that involves disengaging from all my devices, going on long hikes or walks, yoga classes and unhurried meditations, sleeping in with no alarms, and reading actual books you can underline that have nothing to do with work), the essential element is to regain that sense of wonder. It means disconnecting from the outside world and setting out—for however short a time—on an inner journey.

You can find the book on Amazon, or read more about stoicism and mindfulness here on the blog.



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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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