Arianna Huffington on a New Definition of Success
The stress we experience impacts our children, too. Indeed, the effects of stress on children—even in utero—were emphasized in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. As Nicholas Kristof put it in The New York Times: "Cues of a hostile or indifferent environment flood an infant, or even a fetus, with stress hormones like cortisol in ways that can disrupt the body's metabolism or the architecture of the brain. The upshot is that children are sometimes permanently undermined. Even many years later, as adults, they are more likely to suffer heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other physical ailments. They are also more likely to struggle in school, have short tempers and tangle with the law."
One reason we give for allowing stress to build in our lives is that we don't have time to take care of ourselves. We're too busy chasing a phantom of the successful life. The difference between what such success looks like and what truly makes us thrive isn't always clear as we're living our lives. But it becomes much more obvious in the rearview mirror. Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?
Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric. But while it's not hard to live a life that includes the Third Metric, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to allow professional obligations to overwhelm us, and to forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss the real point of our lives even as we're living them. Until we're no longer alive. A eulogy is often the first formal marking down of what our lives were about—the foundational document of our legacy. It is how people remember us and how we live on in the minds and hearts of others. And it is very telling what we don't hear in eulogies. We almost never hear things like:
"The crowning achievement of his life was when he made senior vice president."
"He increased market share for his company multiple times during his tenure."
"She never stopped working. She ate lunch at her desk. Every day."
"He never made it to his kid's Little League games because he always had to go over those figures one more time."
"While she didn't have any real friends, she had six hundred Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her in-box every night."
"His PowerPoint slides were always meticulously prepared."
Our eulogies are always about the other stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
So why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things our eulogy will never cover?