Arianna Huffington Wants You to Lean Back

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Almost a year after Sheryl Sandberg sparked conversation with the release of Lean In comes Arianna Huffington’s thought-provoking book Thrive, which comes out tomorrow.

The book begs us to redefine how we measure success: As women everywhere put their foot to the gas pedal in their careers, what happens when we go too far? Huffington, who is a regular to the big table (she was named by TIME as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People), knows the answer to that question all too well. One morning seven years ago, she woke up on the floor of her home office in a pool of blood. She had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep.

“I had to ask myself: Was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted?” Huffington says. “My life, I realized, was out of control. I knew something had to radically change.”

In Thrive, Huffington challenges our definition of success. We caught up with her on the eve of her book debut for the inside scoop.

Shape.com: In Thrive, you say that our society’s definition of success has been reduced to money and power. You also talk about a notion called the “third metric of success.” Can you explain this?
Arianna Huffington (AH): Success, money, and power have practically become synonymous in the minds of many. Over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool—you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. We need a third measure of success that consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.

Shape.com: Thrive is written first and foremost for women. What is your intended message about how far women have come in the workplace and where we need to go?
AH: If we’re going to redefine what success means, if we are going to include a third metric to success, it’s going to be women who will lead the way and men—freed of the notion that the only road to success includes taking the Heart Attack Highway to Stress City—will gratefully join both at work and at home. [Tweet this quote!]

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Shape.com: Your book comes almost exactly a year after Lean In. How does Thrive build on that conversation?
AH: Lean In unleashed many important conversations. Thrive questions the nature of the world women are leaning into. This is a great moment for all of us—women and men—to acknowledge that the current male-dominated model of success isn’t working. There’s a French expression, “reculer pour mieux sauter,” which, loosely translated, means leaning back in order to jump higher. By leaning back, we become much better at leaning in.

Shape.com: What cultural norms need to change in order to reduce the epidemic of burnout and stress-related illness?
AH: We need to change the expectation that we need to be plugged in 24/7. Companies need to continue to implement policies to make sure their employees have enough time to unplug, recharge, and have enough time for themselves and their families.

Shape.com: On that note, Thrive begs us to reconnect with our loved ones, our community, and ourselves. Where’s a simple place to start?
AH: Three simple tasks that have made a big difference in my life are listening to your inner wisdom by letting go of something today that you no longer need, starting a gratitude list that you share with two or more friends, and setting a specific time at night to turn off your devices. Take one minute—trust me, you do have one minute—to breathe deeply, be grateful, or set your intention for the day. [Tweet this quote!]

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Shape.com: What is your definition of success?
AH: Jobs and financial security will always be important, but when we fall into the trap of chasing only the successes built on money, fame, and power, we miss out on the happiness that comes from reaching out to others, pausing to wonder, and connecting to that place from which everything is possible. To quote Paulo Coelho, “What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.”  

What do you think about Thrive? Will you try and incorporate the third metric of success into your life? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!

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