How Do You Define Success? Thoughts on Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive”

Thrive BookcoverArianna Huffington’s new book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating A Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder has been on my list of potential reads for awhile. As a Smith College alum, I was intrigued by the fact that her book was inspired by her 2013 Smith College commencement speech, not to mention that I was genuinely curious about Ms. Huffington herself, after several years of finding myself reading a plethora of articles from the “Huff Post”.

My last business “read” (I actually listened to the audiobook) was Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Right off the bat, I was struck by how different these two books are from one another. While Ms. Sandberg talks about “leaning in” while still taking care of personal life, her book talks much more extensively about the “leaning in” part while by comparison Ms. Huffington talks about how taking care of self is an essential component of success. In fact, I would argue this actually isn’t a business book at all. While Ms. Huffington alludes to how choices in her career helped her come to her conclusions, this is far from a “how to run your business book”.

The premise for the book, that our definition of success, which only generally includes the metrics of money and power, is actually hurting us, is in my opinion very real.

I grew up in a household where both my parents worked very hard – my Mom was a public school teacher and my Dad, an electrical engineer for IBM. It wasn’t unusual to see my Dad with his laptop and my Mom with her papers to grade on tables in front of the TV set. The paradigm that was set, by example, is that you have to work really hard (and maybe even all the time) to make good money and be successful at your job.

And I know I’m not alone in this experience. I’ve seen it time and time again and Ms. Huffington notes how highly hard work and long hours are valued in our society in general and that part of the problem with the success paradigm is that people wear their (over)commitment to working like a badge of courage.

This book and Ms. Huffington, perhaps, would not exist had she not woken up to the error of her ways — long hours and not enough self-care that led caused her to experience extensive health problems. Her own personal formula for redefining her idea of success includes a third metric, which includes four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.

The best moments of Thrive are when she shares stories from her own life and the people that are close to her that illustrate the importance of each of these values. These stories are so compelling that  at times, I was deeply moved (and shedding tears). Although it may seem strange, Ms. Huffington’s discussion of death and the experience of her mother’s passing, as a way to illustrate how we can live with more wonder in our lives, was by far the most moving.

I also appreciated her extensive discussion of meditation, sleep, multi-tasking (and why it’s not so great), the usefulness of walking (not necessarily with exercise in mind!), and how profound the act of volunteerism can be (and not just for the recipients). While none of these were new concepts for me, I had never seen them put together before it this way, and I found it easy to begin re-commit to many of these practices again after having read Ms. Huffington’s insights.

I have found that my pace began to slow down, and I naturally began to smell the roses more. I’m sure I’ll be returning to the book as a reference as a result of two lists of useful tools she includes: 1) Applications and Tools that Help Us Focus and Filter our Data and 2) Online Meditation Tools,  as well as the many beautiful quotes that intersperse her discussion.

Now it’s your turn: What is your relationship with success? Could you use more balance in your life? What strategies do you employ to pursue success while staying healthy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!



Disclosure: While I wasn’t paid to write this review, I was provided with a free review copy from Blogging for Books. The opinions in this blog are solely my own.

3 Responses to How Do You Define Success? Thoughts on Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive”

  1. Hi Natalie – Interesting post on an important topic. I love helping people live healthier, happier, more vibrant lives through tai chi and other forms of movement and self-care. As far as “success,” I’m going to get Arianna’s book at re-examine what success is all about.

    • says:

      Marie, glad you found it useful. You’ll have to let me know what you think once you’ve read Thrive. I’m sure you’ll find some great ideas there to share with your clients.

  2. Yes, I totally agree with Arianna Huffington! Self-care is absolutely essential for doing good work in the world and enjoying life to it’s fullest. Sleep, exercise & yoga, meditation and awareness practices have made a beautiful life for me. It doesn’t have to take hours out of the day. Can’t wait to read this! Thanks for the review.

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