Last week, I recommended Arianna Huffington's book Thrive to you. It's filled with business and life wisdom that she acquired while building her media empire, along with diverse tips from her Badass Business peers. Thrive's premise is that along with money and power, many of us are missing a "3rd metric" in our definition of success. This metric is composed of Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder, and Giving.
Today, we focus on what Huffington says about Well-Being. The chapter starts by examining the global Stress Epidemic. We've discussed the multiple views on stress before, but Huffington makes the case that our world is definitively ill.
Stress is putting us in competition with each other. And we're too short-sighted to realize that the prize we're fighting over is: sickness, lack of concentration, loss of sleep, and diminished productivity. Here are some fascinating facts and opinions that she features:
A company's bottom-line health corresponds to its employees' health. We cannot treat these two things separately; they're positively intertwined. Think of it this way when you're scrutinizing the operating expenses in your P&L: sick care costs more than health care.
The typical smart phone user checks his or her phone every 6 1/2 minutes, equating to 150 times a day! I also recently heard that every time you check your phone, you're distracted for at least 10 minutes. I'm no mathematician, but this implies that we're basically accomplishing... nothing.
In fact, way ahead of her time in 1997, Linda Stone coined the term "continuous partial attention," meaning that we're always halfway paying attention to something, but we're never connecting to anything or anyone, 100%. Imagine the effects today.
This "halfway-connection" can also be an effect of simply filling our schedule to unnecessary capacity - with or without technology. On the topic of being productive, Sheryl Sandberg gives a similar opinion as one of my wise mama-friends:
"Having children forced me to treat every minute of my time as precious- did I really need that meeting? Was that trip essential? And not only did I get more productive, but everyone around me did too as I cut out meetings that weren't essential for them also."
Along with how we relish in bragging about how stressed we are, we also love to bring up the fascinating topic [please note the sarcasm] of how little sleep we get. But in fact, not enough sleep takes a toll on our mood, concentration, and accessing higher-level thinking. Get this: in 2011, lost performance in the U.S. workforce due to lack of sleep cost organizations $63 BILLION.
So after all this despairing news, what is one to do? How do we combat these ailments and embrace well-being in the real world?
Huffington describes several practical, bite-sized tips to help our well-being improve. Here are a couple that resonated with me. I've practiced them faaaairly successfully :) over past 2 years:
Sleep and do it well! Bonus points for trying it with no guilt attached. I simply cannot believe how much better I feel and how much more clearly I'm able to think with gas in the tank. My days of being a walking zombie are mostly gone, and I do not know how I ever survived on 4-5 hours (though every body is different, of course).
To improve the quality, I bought myself an alarm clock that's not my phone, and I keep my phone away from the bed, as Huffington advises. Also, I'm aware of the effects of alcohol on my sleep. I love my wine (so don't mishear me; I do drink), but I'm aware of what 0 vs. 1 vs. 2 glasses is going to do to my sleep and adjust accordingly.
Lastly on this point, pay it forward and try not contributing to lack of sleep bragging contests (come on, we all get sucked in). If you're feeling extra-bold, try this: the next time one of your colleagues strikes one up, volunteer how great and well-rested you feel. People don't know how to react when someone doesn't take the bait; it's hysterical.
Take holidays. And again, try to leave the phone away from the metaphorical bed. In reality, I know that this isn't appropriate for every vacation; but for me, I've learned about myself that even holding a phone triggers a physical response. I listen to my brain and body to know when I need a technology fast or can handle a break with pre-determined check-in points.
Lastly, try on meditation. I implore you. As I readily admit, I was not a believer either; but this helps me: Richard Davidson argues that we can practice enhancing our well-being through mediation.
As you can see, Huffington believes that Well-Being is a practice, which we must actively... well, practice. Well-being is not necessarily the absence of stress, but it's a response to how we manage it. There are seemingly small tweaks that we're all capable of making, which will have deep and lasting effects on our health and work.
PS - check out these new quotes on meditation and stress in the gallery.