What if our definition of success included not only achievement, but also happiness, well-being and our contribution to society? I recently had the privilege of attending the Third Metric: Redefining Success conference at the lovely Arianna Huffington's home featuring leaders in politics, entertainment and business. Inspired by this event, here are my suggestions on how to embody (an expanded definition of) success:
1. Look beyond money and power.
Many public figures enjoy money, power and accolades. Yet, the stories of depressed/drug-addicted celebrities are innumerable. If external markers of success don't bring satisfaction, what does? Relationships, love and creative expression can go a long way. And, if we take time to notice, fulfillment can be found within:
"We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we slow down and be still, it will make itself known to us." Thomas Merton
2. To be truly happy, serve others.
Paradoxically, we may be happiest when we aim to bring joy to others. Studies have shown we are happier when spending money on others rather than buying for ourselves. Giving even lights up the same reward circuitry in the brain as cocaine -- without the awful downsides. Shift your focus from yourself to others. And, perhaps, as the Dalai Lama suggests, we can move from ordinary selfishness to "wise-selfishness" (where we recognize giving as the most "selfish" thing we can do):
"As one day all must be given up, why not dedicate it now to universal happiness?" -Shantideva
3. Get vulnerable.
As Arianna and Christina Huffington shared a personal family story, speakers were emboldened to divulge their own struggles. I loved seeing how their vulnerability was contagious, and immediately felt closer to them and the strangers around me. Yes, sharing our vulnerable side can be terrifying, but it opens the door to more meaningful connection.
4. Be true to yourself.
Senior Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett moved from her fancy corporate law office to a cubicle when she went to work for city government. Some may have viewed this as a step down, but she had never been happier. And, in that position, she met another young attorney interested in public service: Michelle, whose then-fiancé, Barack, is now Valerie's boss.
"Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls." -Joseph Campbell
5. Live in the present moment.
Yesterday is anger, tomorrow is fear. Today is a gift; that's why they call it the present."
A lot of us spend most of our time living in fears of the past or future. But, research confirms we're happiest when we are present. So, make an effort to focus on the food you're eating, the warmth of the afternoon sun or the light filtering through the trees. Consciously return to the now, and notice when joy arises.
6. Quit multi-tasking.
Research has shown that people don't effectively hold multiple tasks in mind -- instead, our performance suffers on all fronts. So, instead of trying to do eight things at once, try focusing on one thing at a time: When you're reading, read. When you're talking with a friend, really be with her. (This helps with #5 too.)
"Multi-tasking is a myth." -Dr. Amishi Jha
"You're not multi-tasking. You're just not doing anything well." -Dr. Katie Rockwell
7. Choose love over fear.
It can be a struggle to find extra time to serve others, but fortunately, service is possible right here, right now. What's the key? Infuse every moment with love. When you're feeling down or away from your purpose, ask "how can I serve here?" or "how can I choose love over fear?" Transform everyday activities into opportunities to serve.
8. Walk your talk.
Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation not only believes in work-life balance, she puts money and actions where her mouth is. At Skoll Foundation, many employees take lengthy maternity or paternity leaves to spend precious time with their new family members. Osberg admitted this poses challenges, but she and the organization are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to embody their ethos.
9. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
"Self-care is not self-indulgent. It's an act of political warfare." -Audre Lorde
We can't help others or do our best work unless we take care of ourselves. Stress is not only unpleasant, it's a major risk factor for heart disease, cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer's and depression. So, make self-care a priority: get enough sleep, eat nourishing foods, take time off (really off) and set boundaries. As Arianna Huffington said at the event, "My life changed when I realized that 'no' is a complete sentence."
10. Meditate your way to better health and happiness.
What do George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton, Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Jordan have in common? They all take at least 20 minutes per day to meditate. Meditation actually helps lower stress hormone cortisol. Plus, it changes the brain in ways that support attention, well-being, happiness and empathy. So, meditate your way to greater wellbeing.
What do you think? How can we embody success that extends beyond money and power? Please share -- I look forward to reading your comments!
For more by Jamie Lauren Zimmerman, click here.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.