Every year we are subjected to lists. Forbe's magazine lists the world's wealthiest individuals. Time magazine lists the most "influential" people, though real influence is difficult to define or quantify.
What I've never seen is a list of satisfied people, much less stories about how they attained satisfaction.
Arianna Huffington is trying to fill that gap. One of the world's biggest Type A personalities, Huffington, who launched The Huffington Post in 2005 and whose picture appears alongside celebrities, politicians and business icons, is now asking a question popularized in an old song by the late Peggy Lee: "Is that all there is?"
In her latest book "Thrive: The Third Metric for Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder," Huffington says her definition of success began to change after a fall in her Los Angeles home in 2007, caused she says, by exhaustion and a lack of sleep.
She re-thought the meaning of a good life and found it to be something quite different from how it is portrayed by pop culture. The pursuit of money and power, she writes, didn't satisfy after she had acquired a considerable amount of each. In fact, she says, these twin demons harm bodies, minds and relationships: "There are still millions desperately looking for the next promotion, the next million-dollar payday that they believe will satisfy their longing to feel better about themselves, or silence their dissatisfaction."
One sentence I quickly underlined: "Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?" It's true. Think of the number of funerals you've attended. How many of the eulogizers say the departed one wished he had made one more phone call, or closed one more deal?
Part of this -- and I believe it to be a large part -- is that culture, including the media, are less focused on people with good character qualities and work habits. The White House staffer is lauded for working 18-hour days and weekends. Working harder too often means working longer, as if the two are equal. I recall a prominent ex-network newsman who was once denied the anchor chair because management didn't like him taking a little time off to watch his son's baseball games. He didn't get the anchor chair, but he has the love and respect of his son. Which is of greater value and pays more dividends?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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