Does being a mom activist make you tired?
You’re not alone! Arianna Huffington, famous Huffington Post media mogul, best-selling author and ardent environmentalist, was tired, too. In fact, being tired became so dangerous for her that she ended up in a hospital emergency room getting her cheekbone repaired. She broke it when, in a state of exhaustion, she conked out, smashed her face on her desk, and collapsed in a pool of her own blood.
Arianna recently came to Washington, D.C. – the land of perpetually exhausted politicians, lobbyists and yes, mom activists – to offer up her new prescription for living – and sleeping. In her just-published book, titled Thrive, the HuffPo mastermind argues that we need to define success not just in terms of money and power, but also in terms of whether or not we’re thriving. And to her, that means:
- achieving our own personal well-being;
- cultivating our inner wisdom;
- maintaining our sense of wonder;
- giving to the people and causes we care about;
- and yes, sleeping.
Her story has lots to offer all of us who are working to protect children’s health and the planet. As Arianna was talking about her life before she collapsed – the getting up before dawn, sitting at her desk all day working, obsessively checking her voice mail, text messages and email — I wasn’t the only woman in the room nodding my head in silent recognition of my own not very thrive-worthy lifestyle, and wondering how it is undermining my effectiveness.
How did we get to this point?
It’s easy to understand how people working in a corporate culture would feel the pressure to become “zombie-like” (Arianna’s words) workaholics. But we activists aren’t immune to those same pressures, either. Think about it. We’re moms and working women in and outside our homes. We’re concerned citizens. In addition to our kids and/or spouses, partners, parents, siblings, and friends, we may try to go to church or temple or the mosque. We volunteer. Occasionally, we find time to take a shower and shave our legs, usually in between loads of laundry! Is anyone who is reading this NOT on 24/7?
That said, Arianna cuts us some slack. We’re not solely responsible for the time-deprived rut we’re in, she says. This entrepreneurial icon blames society’s collective definition of success, a definition that allows no room for personal space. At the lunch I attended with her and about 250 mostly women hosted by the Washington Board of Trade, she made it clear that it’s time to redefine the idea of success to give people the permission they seem to need to lead more balanced and meaningful lives.
Sleep Your Way To The Top!
This is the the zinger that brought down the house:
“I have one piece of advice to women: sleep your way to the top!”
She firmly believes that people who get the most sleep will be the most successful, and mentioned many examples of both women and men in leadership positions who say they made their most serious mistakes when they were tired.
For Moms Clean Air Force members…
What does all this have to do with our work to protect the environment, clean up the air and stop climate change?
I asked her that exact question during the Q&A.
“It’s all well and good to talk about getting more sleep, and making time to cultivate our inner wisdom, when we’re eating a leisurely lunch,” I said. “But what advice do you have for all of us activists who feel like time is running out? That we simply can’t slow down because we have so much to do and because the stakes are so high?”
She had a quick response:
“People who are burned out are burning out the planet…and when people are burned out, they ignore the warning signs that there is trouble ahead.”
As an example, she recounted a trip she took to Pompeii, the ancient city that was completely wiped out in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted.
“There had been many warning signs…springs and wells dried up, dogs ran away, birds no longer sang. And then the most obvious warning sign: columns of smoke belching out of Mount Vesuvius before the volcano blew its top, burying the city and its inhabitants under sixty feet of ash and volcanic rock.”
“We know what’s going on with climate change. We can’t ignore it. But neither can we do what needs to be done if we’re exhausted.”
She suggested we each find ourselves a “thrive buddy,” someone we can turn to when we need help (even if it’s just moral support) to slow down, take a break, get some rest, and recharge for the next effort we will inevitably make. I couldn’t help but think about the Moms Clean Air Force community and how supportive we are of each other, despite the ambitious work we’ve cut out for ourselves.
Arianna closed her talk by giving everyone her personal email address (fyi: it’s Arianna@huffingtonpost.com).
Just don’t expect her to answer your message if you try to contact her in the middle of the night.
She’ll be sleeping.