How to gain balance in an unbalanced world

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This week I had the pleasure of attending a key note speech by Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. This was one of the most impactful speeches I have heard in a long time. Ms. Huffington spoke from the heart, while balancing humor and perspective, keeping the audience engaged and on its toes for an hour.

As a very successful businesswoman, Arianna shared several life lessons that she learned along her journey to success. What made her talk so effective was her ability to cross gender boundaries, and connect how her challenges, in life and business, apply to both men and women.

Here’s what I learned…

Our current pace, attitudes, and outlooks are unsustainable. We are all experiencing a “time famine“. This famine has been created by the pace at which we are living our lives. With the advent of non-stop access to information and communication we are constantly “on”. We rush from appointment to appointment, meeting to meeting, function to function. This famine creates havoc in all aspects of life from business performance to relationships. We constantly feel like we’re behind; running behind.

Our lives have been built upon stress. Recent studies indicate that stress costs American businesses more than $300 billion a year in lost revenue. We sleep with our smartphones on the night stand. We go to bed with our tablets. We eat dinner while monitoring email. Our inability to turn things off has created a culture of burn-out (keep running as hard and fast, for as long as you can, mentality). But a burn-out culture cannot be a culture of creativity. When people feel mentally fatigued creativity levels plummet. When creativity falls, so does production, and ultimately revenue.

So how do we get back on track? How do we reestablish healthier lifestyles? Here are some of Arianna’s suggestions as I heard them:
1. Don’t hold grudges. “Holding grudges is like drinking poison.” This pertains to both work and personal relationships. Let it go. The stress created by a grudge is unsustainable and eventually it will destroy you.
2. Lean back. We often hear people say “lean in”. This is a cool way to say buck up, toughen up, be strong. But, “it’s not just about leaning in, it’s about leaning back.” Take time to recharge. You need to and it helps. Think of how a cats jump. The higher they need to jump the more they lean back before they jump. Think about it.
3. Deal with your inner demons. Be honest with yourself. Take the time to learn how to become more self aware. Check out my earlier blog on self-awareness.
4. Believe that everything is rigged in your favor. Imagine going through life believing that everything that happens to you is a good thing, or for good reason – not bad. Think of the horrible boss you had to deal with only to arrive at the job you love. Or the relationship you broke off only to find your true sole-mate. Remember that you are bigger than what happens to you. “If you contract when something bad happens to you, you have allowed yourself to be made smaller than the event.” There should be nothing that is larger-than-life but you.
5. Sleep. Sleep is a leadership and performance enhancement tool. Your brain needs time to power down and recharge. Do it. Sleep.

And finally, remember, “life doesn’t always make sense as it’s happening, only when you look back.” This is probably the most difficult lesson to adopt, as by nature, we all want to understand our immediate circumstances. So when you find yourself in a situation where things are happening that don’t make sense, stop, breath, and think back to a time when the outcome of an event ended in a positive manner.

Let me know what you think.

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