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For Arianna Huffington, It’s Life or Death

The media magnate says our pursuit of success is literally killing us. Here, she explains why balancing her life and planning for her death go hand in hand

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Arianna Huffington wakes up every day with the weight of a booming media company resting on her shoulders. Yet somehow, despite the chaos, she commits to a full eight hours of shut-eye each night and sets aside at least 10 minutes each morning for meditation.

It wasn’t always this way, though. After suffering an injury in 2007—she’d been working 18 hours a day and collapsed from lack of sleep and exhaustion—Huffington was forced to reevaluate her definition of success. She realized she was a living example of what our culture had become: an environment where money and power are celebrated at the expense of our health and ultimate happiness. In her new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Huffington preaches a powerful message. She explains that “to live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.”

DuJour caught up with the media mogul to discuss how she manages to balance her own life, her candid thoughts on death and more.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching for the book?
What surprised me most was how so much of ancient wisdom is now validated by modern science. About sleep, introducing balance in our lives, renewing ourselves—and also, how many people are completely burned out. Because people have these delusions that if we’re not burned out were not going to be successful.

Have you mastered the idea of the “Third Metric”?
I’m definitely a work in progress. I don’t think I can say I’ve mastered it. But I know what makes me feel my best, happiest and most effective. I’m not perfect—I’m not perfect at anything. But when I do these things I feel so much better that it reinforces doing it more constantly. And then when I don’t, it’s important not to judge ourselves.

What countries do you think suffer most from the epidemic of being overworked?
It’s international. Everywhere. We just launched The Huffington Post in South Korea, which is the most stressed country—40 people commit suicide every day. In Germany also, but they’re beginning to implement changes. Volkswagen gives company phones to their employees and they program them to turn off at 6 p.m. and turn on at 7 a.m.

What have you found to be the most effective tool in managing your own life?
A good day starts the night before. For me, getting enough sleep is a priority. The number varies from person to person, but I need seven to eight hours. Also, not sleeping with my smartphone by my bed, and when I wake up, not going to my smartphone first thing. I meditate first—even if I don’t have a lot of time, I do 10 to 15 minutes of yoga or my stationary bike.

What’s the one place you find it easiest to disconnect?
I find it easiest to disconnect while walking, whether hiking in the woods or walking on the street. And it’s easy for me to disconnect in bed provided I charge all my devices far, far away, to help me avoid the middle-of-the-night temptation to check the latest news or latest emails.

In the book, you speak so candidly about death and eulogizing the deceased. What inspired that?
In the West, death is a subject we mostly sweep under the rug. But there may be no single thing that can teach us more about life. I remember all the preparations I went through during my pregnancies: the Lamaze classes, the breathing exercises, the endless reading on the subject. How strange, I thought to myself one day, to spend hour upon hour learning how to bring life into the world, but hardly a minute learning how to leave it. Where are our culture’s preparations for leaving life with gratitude and grace?

Have you ever thought about your own eulogy?
As for me, I do think about death and eulogies often. But not my own eulogy. One of the best things about eulogies is that you don’t have to write your own! So I’m off the hook. What matters to me is doing everything I can to give my loved ones plenty of material to work with.

 

HUFFINGTON’S  CULTURAL MUST-LIST

Book: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by 
Father Gregory Boyle
TV Show: Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday
Song: “Toes” by Zac Brown Band
Movie: Last year’s Disconnect, starring Marc Jacobs. I love that it used storytelling to wake us up to one of the biggest problems of our modern age: the effect that being “connected” to technology 24/7 is having on our ability to connect with our lives, ourselves and the people we love.

 

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