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Monday, March 31, 2014

Thrive: Redefining Success

Dear Mom,

I spent Saturday reading a new book by Arianna Huffington:

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

I'm glad I read it, as it confirmed many things I already believe -- messages I think Dr. Howell does a fantastic job of preaching and writing about for the congregation at Myers Park UMC. A few years ago, Dr. Howell made me realize I'd always thought about the concept of Sabbath as a punishment for restless children ("You must sit still and honor me!"), but it's really a gift -- forcing us to take time every single week to stop, to reflect, to nourish our spirits and think about what really matters. Be still, and know that I am God.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that many of the things we force upon children -- daily naps or quiet time, a defined bedtime, eating your vegetables -- are the things we really need ourselves as adults! 

I'd watched Arianna on the Daily Show and some other programs talking about it, and think it's awesome to see a highly successful person out there evangelizing about the fact that professional success isn't going to fill you up. Or, as the summary says, "the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world." 

As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. 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 an 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.

The best quote in the book was probably the one I saw Melinda Gates post on Facebook: "...remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible."

It's something I've thought a lot about since you died. I know you knew on some level you were loved, and it was so sweet when all of the cards and letters started to pour in after you got sick. But I wonder if you truly realized just how successful you were. I'm still blown away by the touching and thoughtful things people wrote on Facebook when you died. Leigh Ann gave me your iPad last weekend, and I came across a few of the screen shots she'd captured on December 27 and 28: 

I wish you were here so I could tell you how proud I am of you and how awed I am by the impact you made with your life. I know it was tough to worry about money all those years when you sacrificed financially to teach at RFM. But I think teaching also offers some really lovely blessings too -- one of which is the opportunity to rest and recharge during spring break, summer vacation and Christmas holidays. 

Obviously I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that is challenging and pays me well. And one that lets me live comfortably in one of the world's most interesting cities! As many people have commented, Leigh Ann and I were both privileged to be able to work remotely from Quincy for extended stints while you were sick. But as I thought about what I wanted this year to be like, I realized my soul and my spirit are craving an longer stint of rest and recharge. My boss recognized I had an extraordinary year at work last year, even amid everything we were dealing with as a family. But I knew there was no way I could keep the wheels on the bus at work without taking a break. 

So, I've asked for and received an unpaid leave of absence for the summer. It took some negotiating! Part of that was assuring my boss that I'll be fully present and fully engaged during the nine months I am there this year...and that I will indeed return in September. I'm not really sure what the time will look like, but I know it will involve traveling, reading, writing, resting and catching up with friends. 

And...I'm excited about letting this time be a gift to some of our closest friends, so I'll be inviting them to stay in my apartment while I'm gone! It's a gift from you to them. Naturally teachers get first dibbs. ;) 

One of the best things about Thrive was the fact it included a lot of memorable quotes like this one: 

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, "This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!"

And each day, it's up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, "No. This is what's important."
-- Ian Thomas

Thank you for teaching me what's important. 

I can't wait to see what my summer holds. Just wish you were going to be along for the ride. 



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