Though much was accomplished during the first two women’s movements in the 1920s and 1960s, Huffington thinks a “third metric” is needed to better help people — women and men — reconsider their definition of success. Rather than strictly looking at money and power as demarcations, Huffington also advocates a more sustainable view for the proverbial third leg of the success stool — specifically good health and well-being.
In a commencement speech in May to graduates of Smith College, a private women’s university in Northampton, Mass., Huffington described the catalyst for change in her life: a workplace accident that came as a result of her exhaustion and sleep deprivation. She used her situation to reassess where to focus her efforts, essentially liberating herself by deciding that some projects on her to-do list could be “completed” by dropping them.
During her speech, Huffington quoted a previous commencement speaker from the 1950s who encouraged women to get to the top by marrying the right person. Huffington instead encouraged women to — literally — sleep their way to the top. Rather than the slang perspective of that phrase, she encouraged women — and men — to get more rest. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can negatively and quickly impact a person’s performance in the workplace and results in poor decision making, she said. Rather than burning the proverbial midnight oil, Huffington encourages better balance and investment in good health.
She doesn’t just talk about getting more sleep though, she followed through by developing two nap rooms at her company’s offices in New York City to encourage her staff to disconnect from technology and recharge. In some ways, these recommendations fly in the face of corporate America’s idea of success. Huffington contends, however, that women are arriving at the executive table late, so part of their job — including her job — is to rethink, reimagine and restage what success in today’s corporate and political environment ought to look like.
Though she doesn’t throw around the word “balance,” Huffington stresses the essential need for people to recalculate — like a GPS unit would do after taking an un-prescribed turn — and take a different path. The new path should include wisdom, harmony, strength and solidifying our empathy, compassion and ability to give back since, she said, the pursuit of happiness is accomplished by feeling good about doing good deeds for others.
While many might shy away from being part of a new women’s movement, surely no one could deny the sensible recommendations Huffington opines. Society constantly is changing, though not always for the better. Recalculating to include more humanitarian efforts in our collective definition of success is a better path than society focusing strictly on money and power as two fundamental barometers.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher