Bookshops are full of self-help books, with promises of self-improvement and prosperity, so I hope my initial reaction to the title - Thrive - can be forgiven. I expected it to be another book promising glorious riches, but I couldn't have been more mistaken.
Seven years ago, Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post had a burnout and collapsed from exhaustion. This was the wake-up call she needed to make some positive changes in her life. The backbone of this book is Huffington's deeply personal journey, culminating in an insightful narrative, brimming with valuable tips on how to improve wellbeing and live a more fulfilling life.
In the UK, the use of antidepressants has increased by 495% since 1991, with 105m working days lost as a result of the rise in burnouts, stress and depression.
Huffington compares our drive for money and power to that of two legs on a three-legged tool. We need a third leg (metric) to define success in order to live a healthy, productive and meaningful life. This resonated strongly with me, and I am sure it will with other busy leaders, juggling their fast-paced careers with family life.
One poignant section in the book looks at how technology means that we are living a perpetually hurried, stressed existence, which is putting a strain on our relationships. Today, we are engrossed in our devices and social-media accounts to such an extent that we find it harder to tap into our inner wisdom.
As I glance at my ever-growing inbox, I cannot help but agree that it is so easy to think about just how busy we are, rather than actually living our lives. How we define success is different from how we celebrate our lives, and Huffington asks us all to think about our eulogies with this in mind. It is the positive life-successes that are celebrated, rather than the fact that we were busy or stressed. As we pass away, kindness, empathy, family and passion are what we will be celebrated for, and Huffington captures this wholeheartedly.
This book shows us how we can reconnect with ourselves, opening up a vista to the illogical prioritisation of work above family and relationships, while providing sound, practical advice. The academic research and scientific findings encourage us to be fully present in our own lives and the lives of those we love. It is only then that we can create a purposeful and meaningful life, which will have a positive impact on our health and happiness and help us reconnect and thrive.
Being a self-confessed technophile, there was a certain sense of serendipity that I felt when reading the book. I'm always on the go, and it struck an immense chord with me, moving me in a way that I did not expect. It is definitely a keeper.
If you only have time for this ... six key points from the book.
1. Get at least 30 minutes more sleep than you do now; it sharpens mental performance. Bill Clinton, who famously slept for only five hours a night, said that "every important mistake I've made in life was because I was too tired".
2. Don't forget that emails are your servant. At the end of every day, pick a time to turn off all electronic devices and remove them from your bedroom.
3. If you are fully present on the job, you will be a more effective leader. Practise deep breathing or meditation techniques (incidentally, Steve Jobs was a lifelong practitioner of meditation).
4. Drop something at the end of every day. This can be anything that is no longer serving you, be it a grudge, resentment, or a project.
5. Volunteering can be a miracle drug for health and wellbeing. Studies show that employees who give back are more committed and less likely to quit.
6. During the day make a personal connection with people you might normally tend to pass by and take for granted.