I’m always on the fence when it comes to self-help books. And Im not alone.
For one, many self-help books assume that all situations are created equal. For instance, “quit your job, follow your passion” can be such terrible advice for someone who has a family of six to support. Take a look at what happened to this couple when they quit their stable advertising jobs – they’re now scrubbing toilets for food. Not pretty.
Two, the self-improvement books I have come across don’t offer practical steps that readers can apply to their daily lives. What exactly does ‘be optimistic and stay positive’ mean in real-life situations?
Lastly, since these books can be written by essentially anyone – some insights are not backed up by (scientific) evidence other than their personal experiences, which makes these claims tough to believe.
The good news is I finally found a book that I felt helped me improve myself!
Thrive by Arianna Huffington makes a case for readers to rethink what success really means. Success is commonly associated with two things: money and power. Huffington compares money and power to a three-legged stool – wherein it can support us temporarily, but in the long-run we will topple down without a third leg. She explains the need for a third leg to allow us to truly thrive. This third leg has four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
“Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?” – Ariana Huffington, Thrive
To be fair, the book doesn’t offer groundbreaking advice or recommendations. In fact, the pieces of advice shared in the book are pointers that many of us may know by heart. But the book is incredibly relatable as she hits home by marrying personal anecdotes with practical advice and thorough research, and by thorough I mean 55 pages of scientific notes.
As women, many of us are tirelessly striving to ‘have it all’ – the high-flying career, the perfect partner, close-knit family, vibrant social life- all while maintaining our physical appearance – without pausing. Thrive struck a cord on so many levels, but out of everything that I learned and re-learned by reading the book, these three action steps have had the most impact on me.
For some reason, society places being busy and the ability to function without sleep on a pedestal. Huffington, on the contrary, champions sleeping adequately every night. She’s of the belief that depriving ourselves of sleep is one way we cheat our bodies, and sooner or later, things will go kaput. Sleeping less is not only counterproductive, but also it adversely affects coming up with new ideas. Huffington argues that brilliant ideas don’t dawn upon us when we’re running on little sleep, but instead when the body is well-rested and the mind is calm and refreshed.
Tip: As a starter, get 30 minutes MORE of sleep every day. Impose a gadget-free bedroom, so you don’t fiddle with your smartphones late at night, and while you’re at it, perhaps buy a real alarm clock.
Many are under the incorrect impression that meditation is about silencing your thoughts and emptying your mind. This interpretation of meditation can be counterproductive. As what meditation master, Thich Nhat Hanh, says, “Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
When we meditate, we want to recognize whatever emotions are within us – whether it be regret, anger, desperation, frustration. The idea is to observe these feelings and understand their causes, not to repress them. One of my favorite takeaways from the meditation section of the book is how meditation brings about mindfulness and how mindfulness ultimately leads to “heartfulness”.
In our meditative state, we are able to respond with less impulse and more intention. We become more empathetic and compassionate to others.
Tip: Same time each day, commit a full 10 minutes to sit still in a space you’re comfortable without interruption. For first-timers, start with observing your breathing. Don’t force yourself into anything too life-changing, and don’t be discouraged.
Technology has made our lives easier in countless ways, but our addiction to it does more harm than good. Thrive encourages us to disconnect to reconnect. We become so attached to our gadgets that we forget to be fully present in the moment. “Instagram or it didn’t happen” seems to be the mantra of today’s generation as appearances have become a priority for many in the world of social media. This addiction to our screens takes us further away from the things that really matter to us.
Tip: Make your sacred spaces device-free, whether it’s the yoga studio or that reading corner in your room.
Ever since I picked up the book this summer, I have been trying to make changes in my life. To be honest, it can be a struggle, but it’s also a journey that’s yielding results in my life.
“…being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us—including ourselves.” – Ariana Huffington, Thrive
Have you read the book? What do you think of it? What are your favorite takeaways? Share your #HowIThrive moments with us.