New Year and New Self-Awareness and Focus: Inspired by Arianna Huffington

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Happy New Year – I hope yours has been off to an optimistic, promising start! Mine has thus far included a healthy, much-needed dose of self-reflection.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, particularly for the past few months. September-December 2015 was not an easy time for me. I switched teams at work from Facebook to Instagram; I am product managing a live event VR experience (launching soon!); I provided product and style editorial expertise to a personal shopping concierge mobile app; and I underwent IVF. It was mentally and physically exhausting and honestly, more overwhelming than I imagined it would be. Writing – my personal love for self-expression and thoughtful creativity – was hard hit.

I start out this new year worn away at the edges. I’ve been a bit too enthusiastic with my go-getter, can-do capabilities. I realize that I’ve veered far from the trajectory that I should heed for my emotional well-being.

That cognition comes from Arianna Huffington, a strong, highly-respected female leader whose personal experiences gave her reason to realize that true life success and well-being was missed in her pursuit of professional ‘success’ (defined by society as work recognition, power, status, etc.). In reflection, she identifies key weaknesses in our present ‘gogogo’ mindset, and identifies three areas for life success: well-being (sleeping better, digitally disconecting, and meditating), wisdom (practicing intuition, introspection, and gratitude), and wonder (having perspective of larger meaning, embracing coincidences/synchronicity, and practicing forgiveness).

I sincerely thank her for writing “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder“, an inspirational guide richly studded with life philosophy jewels. My book is so densely riddled with multi-colored stickies, it looks akin to a full-feathered tribal headdress.

Following is my break-down of the book, illustrated with a few of the many wonderful quotes that I vow to actively live by.

The Situation

Where lies your priorities?

“We have widespread longing to redefine success and lead ‘the good life’. We’re always in a race against time. When we’re living a life of perpetual time famine, we rob ourselves of our ability to experience another key element of thriving: wonder, our sense of delight in the mysteries of the universe, as well as the everyday occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives. … To tap into our wisdom, we have to disconnect from all our omnipresent devices – our gadgets, our screens, our social media – and reconnect with ourselves.”

I sigh as I read those words. This is exactly the conflict that I constantly struggle against. Especially so since I work in social media, where digital screens and online connectivity comprise the majority of my waking existence. I wish for a life filled with delight and joy, yet I push myself to take on professional initiatives I know I excel at and can provide value to others. So how much does the latter really matter? Not nearly enough to make it worthwhile for myself, I realize.

“We spend so much time and effort and energy on those resume entries. Entries that lose all significance as soon as our hearts stop beating. Our eulogies are about what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends. So why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things our eulogy will never cover? … What (should be) foremost in the minds of the people you care about most are the memories you built in their lives.”

I very nearly cried at the truth of it all. I want to spend more time having and making those precious memories that define the best of truly living.

Well-Being

How do you manage and address stress? I’d like to think that I actively manage it, but after reflecting on recent months, I’m fairly certain I have plenty to improve upon.

On mindfulness and meditation: “Mindfulness is not just about our minds but our whole beings. When we are all mind, things can get rigid. When we are all heart, things can get chaotic. Both lead to stress. But when they work together, the heart leading through empathy, the mind guiding us with focus and attention, we become a harmonious human being.”

Isn’t that beautiful? And utterly desirable? That’s exactly what I hope to be.

On digital over-connectivity: “Linda Stone worked on emerging technologies at Apple and Microsoft. In 1997, she coined the term ‘continuous partial attention’ to describe the state of always being partly tuned into everything while never being completely tuned into anything.”

This is a true tragedy that I and so many of my peers grapple with. Being cognizant of it, I purposely set aside time to distance myself from my digital devices. Yet, I still feel the addictive itch of checking for updates. I honestly hate how I crave those quick, fleeting emotional gratification touch points, and subconsciously make YOLO and FOMO comparisons. I wish for a future of inner peace, sans mental tugs.

Wisdom

“Wisdom frees us from the narrow reality we’re trapped in – a reality consumed by the first two metrics of success, money and power. Wisdom is about recognizing what we’re really seeking: connection and love. But in order to find them, we need to drop our relentless pursuit of success as society defines it for something more genuine, more meaningful, and more fulfilling. … There is nothing that we need more today than separating our everyday worries and preoccupations from what is truly important. It is possible to find peace and wisdom (and) achieve that elusive combination between stillness and the stream of the world – that we can be in the world but not of the world.”

Doesn’t that put a new perspective on the world, and what we stand to gain by evaluating our self-priorities?

“Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help us to still the noise of the world so we can listen to our inner voice. ‘Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm’ (Paramahansa Yogananda in his 1946’s ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’). … Intuition is about connections – connections that aren’t obvious and that can’t be reasoned into existence. Our intuition connects us both to our inner selves and to something larger beyond ourselves and our lives. But it’s incredibly easy to become disconnected from it. And with the pressures and pace of modern life, without deliberate effort, it’s more than likely than not that we will stay disconnected. Our intuition is like a tuning fork that keeps us in harmony – if we learn to listen.”

I trust my intuition a great deal, and this makes me put even more faith in it. It tells me there are clear ways in which I can make changes to improve my inner balance.

Wonder

Do you seek out experiences that encourage you to reflect and expand awareness of the grand beauty and magnificence of things far beyond yourself? Here are a few great ways to exercise wonder.

“Museums and galleries remain among the few oases that can deliver what has become increasingly rare in our world: the opportunity to disconnect from our hyperconnected lives and experience the feeling of wonder. Museums are where we go to commune with the permanent, the ineffable, and the unquantifiable. Maxwell Anderson describes a museum’s mission as providing visitors with ‘resonance and wonder… and intangible sense of elation – a feeling that a weight was lifted.’ Or as Aristotle put it: ‘catharsis’.”

“A symphony or opera is a metaphor for life. As philosopher Alan Watts put it, ‘No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.”

Wonder, to me, serves the purpose of feeding your soul with essential qualities of creative imagination and exuberant, horizon-stretching potential. It’s key to renewing and refreshing yourself throughout life, and instrumental in unlocking a wide range of emotions.

“Maintaining a childlike sense of awe and curiosity is part of the fun and immense mystery of being alive. Coincidences connect us across time, to one another, to ourselves, and to an invisible order in the universe. We can’t choose where or when they grace us with their presence, but we can choose to be open to their power.”

One of my key life philosophies is to always strive to experience childlike wonder, so I was utterly delighted to hear Arianna express the same. As children, we spend our initial years impatiently yearning for experience and perspective yet to come. Then, when we arrive at our self-perceived destination of maturity, it’s all-too rarely that we apply the intuitive perspective and enthusiasm gifted since birth. I was taught the sense of that by my parents, and I am resolute to instill that same awareness into the next generation.

“We tend to identify creativity with artists and inventors, but, in fact, creativity is in each and every one of us. We simply need to claim it back and share it. We need to give ourselves permission to follow what makes us feel most alive.

I give Arianna Huffington a standing ovation for sharing some of the best life advice I’ve ever come across. I feel like I’ve been given clear justification to make much-needed changes. I may have a bit of a path to get to where I want to be, but I understand where my heart is telling me to go. An emotionally rich and insightful life is the treasured goal, and it is mine – and all of ours – to live.

 

Wishing you the very best in life,
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