I recently attended a talk by Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post and author, where she brought up the fact that so many of us are so busy achieving that we don’t thrive. And one of the main reasons is that we are afraid of feeling our feelings.
Instead we make ourselves so busy that all of a sudden we hit a wall, and end up taking a nasty fall and face a hard road to recovery.
And Huffington speaks from experience. She was so busy achieving that it wasn’t until she lay face down in a pool of blood and with a fractured cheekbone she realized she hadn’t been thriving. She was successful and rich, but not leading a successful life. And she passed out because of it.
We run because we are afraid
According to a recent study cited by Huffington, one of they biggest reasons why so many end up at that infamous wall, is that they are afraid of being alone with their thoughts. We are actually afraid of ourselves! In the study, published in the Journal of Science, 67% of men rather give themselves electrical shock than sit alone with their thoughts in an empty room for 15 minutes. One guy even shocked himself 190 times to distract himself. For women the number was lower – 25%. And people rather do really boring, mundane tasks than being alone with their thoughts.
Our thoughts trigger feelings that we might not want to deal with, and the thoughts we have can often be negative, focusing on shortcomings or problems that we rather not think of, and at first sight find exhausting. One might realize unpleasant things that require difficult choices and action. Or the quietness just let us feel deep in our body, that we are not at peace.
And if we don’t know how to deal with ourselves or direct our thoughts towards positive vibrations, we get discouraged. So we welcome the distractions. And as Huffington also speak of in her latest book Thrive, any distractions that can help us seek out the only metrics of success ‘and well being’ that we know and value. Power and money.
And many get there, but with burnout(s) as a faithful partner. It shows up as stress, sleep deprivation, collapsing, unidentified unhappiness, lack of clarity, struggling in life, divorce, and unfulfilling relationships, feelings of loneliness, physical illness.
We achieve, but are not truly happy, and we don’t know exactly why or what to do about it because we have not trained ourselves. We are taught how to achieve and how important it is. But we are not taught to thrive and take care of ourselves while doing it.
And you miss out. You are missing out on better decision-making, experiencing more resilience, less discouragement, the ability to put things in perspective, more meaningful relationships, differ between the important and the urgent, tapping into sources of inner wisdom you didn’t know you had. Knowing the value of your own company and experiencing true meaning instead of ‘stuffing’.
One of the key elements to thriving is taking time out to be alone, to be at peace and slow down our thoughts. You can start exercising this ability by doing meditation practices, breathing exercises, journaling. Go for a walk. Or start by ‘distracting’ yourself with a book that encourages you to think about who you are and what life you really want.
And if it frightens you to take a break from achieving, ask yourself this:
Do I really think that I will be less successful because it takes me a little longer to get to where I am going? Do I have so little belief in myself and my own?
When you get there, it will be in a more happy and sustainable way, and maybe even more successful because you have harvested all the valuable information and power there is in really knowing yourself. What Arianna learned is, that achieving has no real value if you are not thriving. You can learn it the hard way or the easy way.
Talk by Arianna Huffington
Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder by Arianna Huffington