Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lean Back and Thrive

In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive she describes a new definition of success, one that focuses not only on career advancement, but on the equally important goals of health and wellbeing, personal fulfillment, giving back and living a life of purpose and meaning.

She writes:
Our current notion of success, one in which we drive ourselves into the ground, if not the grave – in which working to the point of exhaustion and burnout is considered a badge of honor – was put in place by men, in a workplace culture dominated by men.
Women are paying an even higher price than men for their participation in a work culture fueled by stress, sleep deprivation, and burnout. 
Instead of focusing on the two traditional metrics of success, she recommends adding a third metric. This third metric includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder and our capacity for compassion and giving.

I find it interesting how as I've gotten older my goals and aspirations are leaning more towards the third metric.  My twenties were all about making money and working as many hours as possible.  In my thirties I returned to college, passed the CPA exam, found a new job and again worked long hours.  In my forties, I began burning out and dreamed of vacations and early retirement.  I started exercising and taking better care of myself to help combat chronic insomnia. Now that I'm over fifty I dream of mentoring and giving back. Instead of leaning-in to my career I long to lean back and have a more well-rounded life.

Finding the time to add this third metric - meditation, yoga, getting enough sleep, renewing ourselves and giving back - to my life can be challenging especially while working full-time and attempting to maintain this blog. (By the way I consider this blog part of my third metric). For me, the only way I can make this all work is to schedule everything. Cleaning my house, cooking, shopping, blogging, exercising, work meetings and deadlines, spending time with my family and friends – everything is scheduled. I am also someone who doesn’t work well under tight deadlines, so anything that upsets my schedule also upsets this third metric.  

Another thing I’ve noticed as I’ve become more involved with social media I’ve been staying up later and sleeping less.  I’ve even been known to bring my electronic devices to the dinner table much to my husband’s displeasure. The problem with social media is I’m never finished. I could always write one more comment or schedule one more tweet.  It’s time I take a step back.  I need to cut-back on my social media participation.  My social media activity is now scheduled from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm allowing me a half hour downtime before falling asleep.

This past week I read three blog posts from three different women about how their career goals have changed as they got older.  All three wanted to lean back rather than lean into their career.  One wanted to spend more time with her family, one wanted a different career from the one she's been working towards since she was sixteen, and the third wanted to spend more time giving back.

Have your career goals changed over time?  Do you dream of leaning-back?

This post was inspired by Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


  1. Most definitely my goals have changed. So much so that I no longer identify myself by my career. I used to think of school as a means to an end which was my career. Now my career is a means to an end which is my retirement. I want to be busy in my retirement but because I choose to. Not due to some unreasonable demands but because I'm excited to spend time with my grandchildren, have more time to spend helping others, desire to sit in the blessed sacrament chapel with our Lord for as long as I want, have an exercise routine which doesn't get pushed aside due to seemingingly other priorities and choose to play best out of 5 scrabble games with my sister all afternoon. ;-)

  2. I read the book and loved it. I agree, as I get older, I want to spend more time on yoga, exercising, reading, sleeping, and I just don't have the same energy -- or time! -- to throw myself into work like I did in my 20s. I am totally in to the 3rd metric concept!

  3. I have looked at this book a few times thinking I should read it. I just may have to do that now. My goals have changed!

  4. You're right. Social media never stops but I need to learn how to stop. And get more rest.

  5. i, too, have found my goals changing gradually, as I got older, until SUDDENLY this past January, i realized it was time to quit my job and do my own thing. which i've been doing successfully for a couple of months now. this new work-life allows me so much more control of my time, more time at home, more time in the garden, all while bringing in enough $, not as much as before, but enough. it's a completely different focus than in my 20s, 30s and 40s. i think we've earned it. :)

  6. I'm definitely not in a position to lean back any time soon. But I always strive to keep my health and well being at the forefront of my life by exercising, eating well, and planning activities for myself.

  7. I just turned 30 this year. Last year, I decided I cannot continue along the path I originally chose because I am not executing tasks at my full potential when I am feeling separated from my kids. I live, breathe, and yearn for my children, every minute of every day. I'm a great administrative assistant, but what I can't get over is the fact I'll never get these years back with my kiddos. I can be an assistant anytime I want. I only get a few, short years to influence the young, precious minds of my babies.

    I've changed my goals drastically - went from using my bachelor's degree in health administration to starting my own freelance copywriting business. I launched in October and am already profiting...with zero marketing. It's insane to me how the one thing I really love to do and am naturally able to do has become a valid, enjoyable degree required.

    So the next few months are critical over here as I will be quitting my corporate job and doing freelancing full-time. I'll be back home with my kids, writing, working for people I want to work with, and doing yoga every morning.

    I'm sure I've written this before somewhere in the blog world but I think the phrase applies here, too....make your life a vacation. That is my goal. I want to live the life I don't want to vacation from. Getting out of the cubicle is the first step for me.

  8. I actually just saw a large part of the Thrive conference because of my job and I often have trouble with the people who write these books about well being and being centered and keeping it together. They put on these conferences and they are often stressful nightmares to work with. Actually being around them makes it clear that they are not living their own message and that they're creating environments that keep everyone in close contact from living them too. It's pretty frustrating.

    In theory it would be nice to balance everything, but I really don't think you can. Something always has to give. I think coming to some kind of acceptance over what that means creates a peace of it's own.

    Also, while I am absolutely all for feminism and the fantastic strides feminists have made to give women equal opportunities, I do feel like there's a fair bit of stigma on women who do opt to unabashedly put their families first and step back from their career. That seems unreasonable to me - the main idea of feminism is having the opportunity to pursue the paths you want and motherhood and homemaking is a totally valid one, just as much so as being a cardiac surgeon or high powered lawyer or any other career choice.

    It seems unfortunate that there even has to be a book telling you to lean back - or that putting the people you love first becomes "leaning back." Honestly, maybe that's truly leaning in.

  9. Wow, this resonates with me. In my twenties, I was gung-ho career. So much so, that after my daughter was born, I yearned to go back to work. I recently had my second child 9-months-ago and now I'm a stay-at-home mom - something I never thought I would be. I'm loving being with my kids and I don't miss the stress that my previous career gave me. I'm currently maintaining a blog and jewelry business and creating it on my own terms. I hope to grow my company with that third metric in mind, so that one day, when I have other employees, I can create a well-being nurturing work environment.

  10. I was home with my boys till I was 37. I have been working full time for over 10 years now. I adore my job and I still love being Susie Homemaker so I have just started working part time and love it!

  11. I like Arianna Huffington a lot and I'm glad she wrote this book. I love the statement about how our work ethic was created by a male-driven workforce. That had never occurred to me, but it's so true! Yes, as I get older I find myself wanting to slow down and, like you, I get caught up in social media, commenting, and going to bed way too late, only to wake up exhausted. Lean back. Yeah, I like that expression and that about sums up where I am (slightly) and where I want to be at this point in my life. Good post!

  12. Interesting discussion. I think that for me 'leaning in' is actually a part of my third metric. I genuinely enjoy what I do, that being said - the never ending social media I think is a problem that most people could stand to address.

  13. Debt Debs,
    I wonder if we've spent our careers making sacrifices with our time we begin to crave something more than money and success. I don't think I've spent the afternoon playing games since I was in high school. Even when my nieces or nephews ask me to play a game with them when I visit I brush them off saying I don't have time or quit after one round. Spending an afternoon playing scrabble sounds wonderful.

  14. Sarah,
    Perhaps that is why so many of us are blogging. We are looking for a way out.

  15. I have definitely leaned back this last year and couldn't be happier for it. I burnt out and am so glad I decided to stay home with my boys. They are growing up too fast as it is. I have definitely seen an improvement in my mental and physical health as I take more time to live a healthier life for me and my boys. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing with #SmallVictoriesSundaylinky!

  16. i am at a crossroads now that i'm a mom. for the longest time i've been disenchanted with work and figured i'd use my maternity leave to find a new job (one that is more challenging and prestigious). but then i think, why would i do that? i need to balance work with my new baby. it's a major dilemma. i'm not really satisfied with my job, but yet it provides me good work-life balance.