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The Third Metric Made Manageable

15 May 2018

Barbara read Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington and was reminded that a few small changes can help restore your balance whether you are overworking or over worrying.

Tags: balance, barbara read, mindfulness, sleep, women and leadership

Arianna Huffington grabbed my attention when she described what motivated her to write this book, “On the morning of April 6, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone, I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep.” After her immediate injuries were seen to, Huffington faced the fact that she could not keep working “eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.” She had co-founded Huffington Post Media Groups two years before in 2005, and the grinding pace had severe consequences.

Huffington says our culture worships money and power. They are two legs of a three-legged stool, and we will eventually topple over if we don’t learn to make time for the third leg which she calls the Third Metric and includes our well-being, our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. She admits she was concentrating on the two legs, too, before her wake-up fall, even though she was raised by a relaxed mother in Greece who taught her to mediate as a child, saying it would help her get her homework done.

The norm in the workplace is to brag about how hard we work and how little sleep we get, evening getting praise for pulling all-nighters. She says our work life keeps us in a state of fight or flight — “here comes another dozen emails calling out for a response; must stay up late to finish the project; I’ll just use these four minutes of down time to return six more calls.” I think we're all guilty of this overwork, but I'm especially concerned about some of the women I'm coaching and teaching who are trying to "have it all" in ways that are exhausting them.

Huffington is calling for a change to that norm. We should expect people to take care of themselves and respect them for doing so. However, I imagine many people might be daunted by the task of self-care. That’s why I appreciate that Huffington suggests people start with small changes. Her first three recommendations are:

  • Get 30 minutes more sleep
  • Move your body
  • Introduce five minutes of meditation into your day. (We like this easy breathing exercise or this meditation Allison experienced when Huffington and Deepak Chopra came to the University of Virginia.)

After you’ve made progress on these three things, I appreciate her next suggestions that you control the amount of time you are on your electronics, and that you try “evicting the obnoxious roommate in your head” that tells you negative things about yourself or worries about things you can’t control. (The CHAANGE program helps me to keep negative self-talk at bay.)

I had the nausea flu bug two weeks ago and was astounded at the number of things I could worry about as I lay in bed with the trash can by my side waiting to get better. I’ve been practicing focused breathing (my preferred word for meditation) a lot in the last few months and was able to settle myself down some during the worst of my illness. Once I started to get better, I was overwhelmed by how much work I had gotten behind on and felt too exhausted to return to my normal self-care routine. I’ve focused on the five things Huffington suggests above and am starting to get my equilibrium back. What small steps can you take toward The Third Metric?


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