Insights from Arianna Huffington at the World Business Forum

There is no trade off between wellbeing and business metrics. We’re at a turning point in terms of how we prioritise what matters in business and our own lives. Arianna Huffington shares her insights on how to thrive.

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There’s so much more to business and life than money and power. Arianna Huffington should know. She shares how we can redefine what it means to thrive.

Redefining life and business

In modern times the idea of a ‘good life’ has shrunk to success; and success to money and power. In the process we have neglected the third metric of success – without it it’s hard to have a fulfilling, meaningful life. This metric includes:

  • Wellbeing
  • Capacity to connect to own wisdom
  • Wonder at the mystery of life
  • Giving back

They are all connected with building a thriving business.

We have been living under a delusion that to build a successful business we need to burn out – be always on and sacrifice our wellbeing. For the first time in history we have evidence from neuroscience, sleep science and business data that this is not true. When businesses take care of the wellbeing of their employees it improves the bottom line. The rise in stress, anxiety and mental health has an impact on engagement, absenteeism, productivity and attrition.

Wellbeing: put on your own oxygen mask first

What I discovered the hard way is when we put on our own oxygen mask first we will be more effective and more successful and happier. Since the Industrial Revolution we’ve started humans as machines. The goal is to minimise downtime. But the human operating system needs downtime. The digital revolution has exacerbated this issue. But we have become addicted to our devices – we take better care of smartphones than ourselves.

But when we disconnect we’re better leaders. Jeff Bezos recently wrote a piece on why getting eight hours of sleep was good for Amazon’s performance. There’s a connection between cognitive performance and decision-making. More leaders are coming out and talking about their sleep, meditation practice and digital detoxes. The business people we celebrate – we have a new status symbol – the people who know when they learn to disconnect they will be much better leaders.

We’re drowning in data but starved for wisdom

Wisdom is insight; clarity; seeing things before others; tapping into that place in ourselves and making decisions from that place. Multitasking makes it hard to connect with our own wisdom. We think it makes us efficient. But it doesn’t really exist and it is one of the most stressful things you can do.

In all my meetings devices are not allowed. Give people a notebook, make meetings shorter and purposeful and end the meeting multitasking that makes them so much less productive.

A ‘wonder-full’ life is so important

People are always buried in their phones; they rarely look up. When you connect with the wonder of the universe, life becomes so different and our problems come into perspective. Being in touch with nature is a great way to reduce stress.

Giving back gives back

Neuroscience demonstrates that giving is a short cut to happiness. It’s not just giving money or time; it is often giving of ourselves. Having a personal relationship with people we normally would have an impersonal relationship with.  Being able to connect as humans rather than transactionally is the beginning of giving; it changes our attitude to life.

 The data is conclusive

  • When employees are burnt out they are over 30% more likely to change jobs. Attrition is expensive.
  • Gallop recently discovered only 13% of employees are truly engaged at work.
  • When people are addicted to their devices it is much harder to have good ideas. A recent Harvard University of Virginia study found that 67% of men and 25% of women preferred an electric shock than to be alone for 15 minutes.
  • Stress is a global epidemic. Over 70% of disease and healthcare cost can be traced to preventable stress related conditions. We could reduce or eliminate 70% of healthcare problems we deal with if we lived our lives differently and would be more productive as well.
  • Tiredness and stress are everyday epidemics around the world. In fact sleep deprivation costs the US economy $411bn per year. When we get more sleep we’re more productive and effective and make better decisions.
  • Unless you have a genetic mutation that 1-2% of the population do, the vast majority of us need 7-9 hours sleep to operate on all cylinders.