If you haven't heard the name Arianna Huffington, let me introduce you: She's the woman behind the Huffington Post Media Group, serving as president and editor-in-chief. But in all honesty, she would likely describe herself as a woman, mother and daughter first and foremost, if you read her new book "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder," which just came out this year. I know, I know; it's a long title, but it's definitely worth a read, and I'm not necessarily a fan of this liberal publisher.
On May 29 Campaign Live in the UK reported that one of the objectives of Huffington's latest book (she's written 13 altogether) is to plead with the media and marketing industries to stop promoting success in such a way as to cause "burnout." And she's especially concerned with the burnout being experienced by women, who she feels already multitask far too much if they have a husband and family to take care of and nurture in addition to achieving success in their career.
So this is her "call to arms" if you will, an effort to point out some things that we may already know, but which we are blatantly ignoring, to our detriment, and which have got to change if we don't want to send ourselves to an early grave.
For example, Arianna Huffington thinks not getting enough sleep each night (it differs on how much is needed for each of us, and she tells you how to find your sweet spot), as well as never taking any downtime from electronic devices (email checks at midnight, anyone?), is part of the reason that we are getting burned out so fast in this 24/7 world. She also thinks we are forever growing in knowledge only to remain unwise. And that most people zip through their day oblivious to the little things in life that matter, like, yes, stopping to smell the roses or truly engaging with loved ones.
For someone who sat down to read her book with skepticism--and a fairly closed mind about what this liberal "mindfulness advocating" publisher could say that I needed to hear, I was pleasantly surprised. Although there were too many references to "new agey" topics for my personal liking (and she does try to incorporate those ideas under new names, like "mindfulness"); I just ignored those, because the other content was informative and reaffirming to hear, despite the tarring and feathering some in the media world have given the latest Huffington tome. And to borrow a new-age term myself (because she borrows some from Christianity and other religions), I found most of the book "enlightening."
"Thrive" by Arianna Huffington seeks to encourage people to realize that although the world is now 24/7, especially the media and marketing industries, that "doesn't mean the same people have to be on 24/7." Hallelujah! It is time someone said it out loud.
Working overtime just to impress the boss (or not taking off to see your kids game for fear the boss will see it as a lack of commitment to your job) is only going to lead to burnout and the wrong priorities in life, and it will definitely rob you of your creativity, as Huffington posits. Ditto for those who think your day doesn't end when you clock out and go home (it should), instead feeling compelled to check emails and text messages long into the night, even though they are not urgent and can wait until the next day. Stop it!
Huffington isn't the first woman to say all this to women. Georgia's SuiteTrack author Erin Wolf wrote in "If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Secrets to Career Success From Top Women Leaders" that staying true to one's values while seeking to achieve success is a day-by-day effort, but worth it. And in her book "Lessons From the Trenches: A Woman's Guide to Winning the Corporate Game," we are told that women often have to do double the work (and appear more committed to the job) than their male counterparts in order to enjoy business success. And yes, that oftentimes means being available 24/7 to the boss and the company and foregoing little Johnny's ball game.
But humans need sleep, nutritious food, laughter, and healthy emotional relationships with people they love, and that's what Arianna is selling in her new book: the need to H.A.L.T., as Dr. Judson Brewer of Yale so aptly states when describing resource depletion.
Our workplaces are filled with people who are hungry, angry, lonely and tired (HALT). Arianna says "we work through mealtimes, don't see our children, conduct most social contacts electronically, and work late (and)--that pretty much touches all the bases of HALT." Indeed, few people would argue with her, but what's the solution, give up career aspirations?
According to the woman who only realized the problem herself when she awakened in a pool of her own blood after collapsing from exhaustion, the solution is to go back to the basics of life, regardless of what it costs us: getting enough sleep, eating proper meals (with your family in the evenings, for example), turning off and tuning out workplace connections (electronic and otherwise) at the end of your shift, and taking time to interact with nature (like nature walks or gardening work) and spending quality time face-to-face with family and friends.
And while it all sounds simple, it is anything but, as it requires being willing to risk scorn for shunning society's idea of success--and its idea of the dedicated employee (someone tied to their iPhone, iPad or laptop 24/7). It als0 requires being willing to risk career advancement (or even your job, in some cases) in order to live a life that permits you to stay in good health and have time for family and friends. But Huffington thinks that if enough women would do it, then companies and corporations would bend their cultures to suit our preferences for living a balanced life. Sort of a working woman's boycott, if you will.
Arianna's detractors say it is an easy pill for her to swallow, as she is already successful in her career field and has plenty of money to allow her to exit the workplace--or tweak her own to her satisfaction (which she has done), if she desires to do so. And while that is true, it is also true that there is power in numbers. But it remains to be seen if the Huffington Post editor-in-chief will motivate women towards this new paradigm, where life becomes more about living than the 40 hours you spend at work.