Obituary Guide

Death and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

August 5, 2014

David McConkey

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder is a new book by Arianna Huffington. The book is a strong statement about how a heightened awareness of death can be a stimulus to live a better life.

Arianna Huffington is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group and one of the world's most famous and influential women. So, she knows all about money and power. But a health crisis – caused by exhaustion and lack of sleep – prompted her to rethink her life. The book is an exploration of going beyond money and power – the traditional goals of success – to a “Third Metric.” The Third Metric is composed of four elements (Huffington loves numbering!): Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder, and Giving.

Thrive“It seemed to me that the people who were genuinely thriving in their lives were the ones who had made room for well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving,” she writes. “Hence the ‘Third Metric’ was born – the third leg of the stool in living a successful life. What started with redefining my own life path and priorities led me to see an awakening that is taking place globally. We are entering a new era.”

Awareness of death, she notes, can be a vital part of this thriving “Third Metric” life. “The old adage that we should live every day as if it were our last, usually means that we shouldn’t wait until death is imminent to begin prioritizing the things that really matter,” she writes. “Anyone with a smartphone and a full e-mail inbox knows that it’s easy to be busy while not being aware that we’re actually living.”

But the appreciation of our death can give us that needed perspective and illuminate the value of living fully, of thriving. “There may be no single thing that can teach us more about life than death. If we want to redefine what it means to live a successful life, we need to integrate into our daily lives the certainty of our death,” she writes. “To truly redefine success we need to redefine our relationship with death.”

Huffington says that more people are developing ways to bring that awareness of death into their lives. Two are the Death Café and “Death Over Dinner,” which are both ways to facilitate discussion about death among people over food and drink. Cafés and dinners are often among the best places to promote reflecting, conversing, and sharing.

Awareness, discussion, and acceptance of death can lead not only to better lives, but also to better deaths, Huffington says. One important factor in facilitating a good death is whether the dying person shared their wishes, which should be an encouragement of more open discussion of the topic. “Our relationship with death is just that – a relationship,” Huffington writes. “The dynamic flows both ways. Death can bring something to our lives and, in turn, how we live our lives can bring something to our death.”

Huffington also specifically notes the importance of the eulogy in thinking about life and death. “Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric,” she says. I think what she is getting at here is that whereas an obituary might be more about the first two metrics (work and similar accomplishments), the eulogy is more about what the person was like as a person. As such, the eulogy is not only a way to describe how we remember someone else, but also a way for us to reflect about how we ourselves want to be remembered.

By how we live, she points out, we are in effect writing our own eulogy every day. “The question,” she writes, is: “How much are we giving the eulogizer to work with?”

Huffington concludes that thinking about own eulogy can be an inspiration. “The good news is that each of us still has time to live up to the best version of our eulogy.”

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See Also:

Thrive on      (on

How to Write and Give a Eulogy

From the Résumé to the Eulogy: Describing Ourselves

Ways to Leave a Legacy

Death Doulas and Death Cafés

Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story

Reflecting on Life and Death along the Camino de Santiago

Live Well, Do Good

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