Watching Arianne Huffington get interviewed this week about her book Thrive, she was asked a pointed question by an audience member. In her book she talks about how our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success - money and power - has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers.
In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters. She makes a compelling case to redefine what it means to be successful and draws on the latest research and scientific findings that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving,
The brave audience member stood up and asked “I hear everything you’re saying, but you have ‘made it’, you’re extremely successful. Do you really think you could have got here today if you’d not worked the hours you worked, made the sacrifices you have, and followed the advice you’ve just given?”
Fair question, one that arises from a society that teaches delayed gratification, multitasking, and a culture of ‘staying late’, with common clichés like “you can sleep when you’re dead”, “fake it ‘til you make it” and “sleep is for losers” a part of our psyche.
Hats off to Arianna, she answered “absolutely, I have no doubt I would have wasted a lot less time and experienced a lot less stress in getting here too.”
We learn from life experience, as individuals and as part of a collective, as we evolve. New generations are born already more enlightened than most of the people walking around today. Few people have figured out their individuality is somewhat of an illusion, that we are more connected than we are separate, and that tapping into that connectedness, listening to our inner voice, is infinitely more powerful than listening to the one in our head – our ego.
After reading my last few articles an insightful friend of mine asked whether I’d found myself at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation". It suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Meaning when you are at the bottom of the food chain, literally or figuratively, your focus isn’t on the meaning of life, it’s on getting food on the table.
Reflecting on this I’ve found myself revisiting a concept that keeps popping up, how to break the cycle. In so much as we are born fully aware, fully connected, mindful, and we somehow quickly lose this and go down the rabbit hole of chasing dreams from an individual standpoint that making the realization of those dreams so much harder than it needs to be.
I saw Arianna’s interview as part of the online Mindfulness Summit , pulled together by Melli OBrien and Matt Dickenson, which is running throughout the month of October. The summit has some amazing and highly acclaimed speakers (from thought leaders and authors like Arianna and Daniel Goleman of Emotional Intelligence fame, to celebrities like Ruby Wax and a number of renound professors and psychologists in between.
It is free to access all month and it's a not-for-profit project with a mission to make mindfulness mainstream. Why? Because Melli and Matt believe the peace, balance and compassion found through mindfulness has the capacity to change the whole world from within.
Of course mindfulness is just a more modern term for meditation, awareness, being present, being conscious, contemplation. Whatever you want to call it, it’s about connecting to the place within you where you can let go of that wound up tightness created by the voice in your head, and create the space to make some really good decisions in your life.
The question I find myself contemplating is why and how we disconnect from it in the first place? When you are present, you connect to an expansiveness greater than yourself, something eternal, the energy from which we came and to which we will just as surely return.
The truth of that is written in the faces of our newly born infants who enter the world full of joy and self worth, slowly adopting beliefs about themselves and the world around them that starts to completely obscure the raw energy beneath, the real person who came with a purpose and an inner guidance system, their intuition, that many are taught not to trust.
With two preschool daughters I am ever alert to the rules and beliefs that get imposed on you from the minute you are born. I’ve also been aware of that sense of ‘self’ that develops around the age of 3, when they start to look in the mirror as if to say “oh, that’s interesting, I have a face, a form”. Until then, our little ones are just present, connected and full of wonder at the world. It’s why so many of us love to be around babies and small children, there’s always joy, never judgement.
While discovering our physical form is just a natural part of our development, and one to be relished like all other experiences, it’s the start of a more visible ‘self’ separate from others. Already I see my 4 year old daughter’s mind at work, choosing to avoid foods because of the way they look, or suddenly feeling pain because she’s seen blood. Her mind is whirring and she’s starting to think more.
The question is whether Maslow’s hierarchy would be relevant in a world where we teach our children to remain consciously connected to their inner world. Rather than reinforcing the sense of separateness, limit and lack, if we nurtured the sense of connectedness and tapping into our intuition, reinforcing opportunities to feel abundance through acts of giving and gratitude, then our next generation wouldn’t ask questions like the one asked of Arianna. We would live in a world where burgeoning leaders are already connected and enlightened.
Over the years Maslow’s hierarchy has been expanded, with Transcendance needs (helping others self actualize) at the top, but what I’m saying here is that we start out already transcended and then completely forget. Even now, some of you reading this will be wondering in the truth of what you are reading, yet, if you follow Arianna’s advice you will experience the truth of it for yourself.
Waiting until you've achieved your goals is counter productive. Sure, if you want your goals badly enough, you'll get there, eventually. Instead, take time to nurture your inner world, practice meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving – even for just 8 weeks - and watch how your life is transformed.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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