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Arianna Huffington Talks Pandemic With PBJ

· Time to read: ~6 min

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In a year of unprecedented change, there are lessons to be learned and Arianna Huffington decided to speak with some of her favorite people to share those lessons with others in What I’ve Learned. Joshua Dudley spoke to her about those lessons.

Her new show from Thrive Global features 12 guests including Van Jones, Bozoma Saint John, Jay Shetty, Dan Harris, Adam Grant, Alexis Ohanian, Lindsey Vonn, Jonathan Biss, Dr. Laurie Santos, Marc Benioff, Tim Ferriss, and more. The purpose of the show is to share the life lessons they’ve learned over the last 12 months, and each episode ends with Microsteps for the listener to turn their inspiration into action.

In this exclusive interview conducted by email, we asked Arianna, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, some questions after listening to the first two episodes, Jay Shetty on the Monk Mindset, and Van Jones on Self-care.

From the Jay Shetty episode:

PBJ: What are some of the ways you find purpose and service?

Arianna Huffington: I love the way Jay ties purpose in with service, which is something he learned in his training as a monk. That’s because thinking about the effect our work has on other people is one way to find purpose in our work. And for me, when I founded Thrive Global, that was the heart of our mission — to improve people’s lives, boost their well-being, help them deal with stress and avoid burnout. So I find purpose in my own life by connecting with the mission — especially when we hear people share their own stories about how Thrive is having a positive impact on their lives.

One of the ways we’ve expanded our mission of purpose and service during the pandemic has been by partnering with the Harvard School of Public Health and the CAA Foundation to create First Responders First, which provides essential equipment and resources like childcare, accommodations, and mental health support for healthcare workers on the front lines.

PBJ: How do you avoid trying to do too many things at once?

Arianna Huffington: First, it helps to change our mindsets, and remind ourselves that, as studies have shown, multitasking is a myth — what it mostly means is that we’re doing a suboptimal job at multiple things at once.

And after that, it’s really about ruthless prioritization, which means figuring out what absolutely has to be done, and making time for it. One Microstep I use, which is found in our new book Your Time to Thrive, is not reaching for my phone right when I wake up but instead taking 60 seconds to breathe and set my intention for the day. As Jay says in his “What I’ve Learned” episode, connecting with that sense of stillness can allow us to be more productive throughout the day.

PBJ: Do you still pick up new things and ideas from your mindfulness guests after having talked to so many people?

Arianna Huffington: Absolutely — it’s one of my favorite parts about the show. The guests are all people I love and admire, and I chose them because I knew they’d have unique insights on meeting the challenges of the past year. And that’s turned out to be true — I’ve learned so much and I hope listeners have, too.

For instance, in Jay Shetty’s episode, I loved his use of what he calls “The Why Ladder,” which means confronting a fear by asking yourself why you’re afraid, and then continuing to get more specific with each of your responses until you get to the root of what your fear is. For Jay, when the pandemic began he felt fear that he wasn’t going to be able to see his parents. By using The Why Ladder, he realized that what was actually driving that fear was that he hadn’t been telling his family that he loved them enough. And so he set up a schedule to call them each week and tell them how much they mean to him.

PBJ: How can we feel at peace when the world feels like it’s crumbling around us?

Arianna Huffington: As Jay and I discussed in his episode, it’s so important to step out of the storm and into the calm eye of the hurricane — that’s where we can tap into the strength, wisdom and resilience that we all have within us. For Jay, that’s about tapping into his inner sense of stillness. I loved his example of how Formula 1 drivers are able to focus while going 200 miles per hour, and how it shows us that stillness is an internal quality, and not an external one.

One Microstep that helps is to set a news cut-off time for ourselves. This allows us to unplug and recharge by connecting with friends or loved ones, or have some downtime to connect with ourselves. It also helps us get a better night’s sleep, which in turn helps us put stressful news of what can feel like a crumbling world into perspective.

PBJ: How can we become better listeners?

Arianna Huffington: That’s a great question, because listening is one of our most valuable skills, and also one that allows us to learn. That’s one reason why I love podcasts so much, and why I wanted to do this one in particular.

Because Jay was trained as a monk, he’s very comfortable with silence, and you can feel that when you listen to his episode. He doesn’t rush to fill the silence, but you know that he’s engaged. We can’t all train as monks, of course, but one Microstep that can make us better listeners and more comfortable with silence is to once a day have a conversation where we mostly just listen. Using the power of silence — instead of breaking in to respond with our opinion — invites the other person to go deeper, and also expands our skills as listeners.

From the Van Jones episode:

PBJ: What have you learned from slowing down during the pandemic?

Arianna Huffington: I think a lot of people, myself included, had the experience Van talked about — how, when the pandemic began and he no longer had to travel as much, he would fill his days with wall-to-wall virtual meetings. And then he realized that wasn’t actually a sustainable way of working. So like Van, I started scheduling breaks into my day — and making sure that I have time in between meetings where I can take a minute to breathe and course-correct if I need to.

As Van says, we’re much more productive at taking care of others and doing all that we need to do when we first take care of ourselves. That was something I knew going into the pandemic — and it’s one of the core pillars of Thrive Global — but it’s something I’ve really doubled down on throughout the past year. And since Van does such important work, I was very glad to hear about all the changes he’s made to his life and how he’s taking care of himself.

PBJ: What’s your go-to diet been like when you’re really focused on wellness?

Arianna Huffington: My favorite snacks throughout the day are raw nuts and cheese. For meals, I try to keep things very simple — salmon and fresh greens are two of my go-to’s.

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