At the Huffington Post, we've made the Third Metric -- redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give -- a key editorial focus. But while it's not hard to live a Third Metric life, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them.
Have you noticed that when people die, their eulogies are always very Third Metric? For most of us, our eulogy will be not just the first formal marking down of what our lives were about, but the only one. The eulogy is the foundational document of our legacy, of how people remember us, of how we live on in the minds and hearts of others. And it is very telling what you don't hear in eulogies. You almost never hear things like:
No matter how much a person spends his or her life burning the candle at both ends, chasing a toxic definition of success, and generally missing out on life, the eulogy is always about the other stuff -- what they gave, how they connected, how much they meant to the lives of the real people around them, small kindnesses, lifelong passions and what made them laugh.
So the question is: why do we spend so much time on what our eulogy is not going to be?
"Eulogies aren't rÃ©sumÃ©s," David Brooks has written. "They describe the person's care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region."
And yet we spend so much time and effort and energy on those rÃ©sumÃ© entries. Which are gone as soon our hearts stops beating. Even for those who die with amazing rÃ©sumÃ©s, whose lives were synonymous with accomplishment and achievement, their eulogies are mostly about what they did when they weren't achieving and succeeding (at least by our current broken definition of success). For example, look at Steve Jobs -- a man whose life, at least as the public saw it, was about creating things -- things that were, yes, amazing and game-changing. But when his sister Mona Simpson rose to memorialize him at his memorial service at Stanford University, that's not what she focused on.
Yes, she talked about his work, and his work ethic -- but mostly as manifestations of his passions. "Steve worked at what he loved," she said. But what really moved him, what he really loved, was love. "Love was his supreme virtue," she said, "his god of gods." And, though, yes, he loved his work, he loved his family, too.
His sister made sure in her eulogy that we knew that Steve Jobs was a lot more than just the guy who invented the iPhone. He was a brother and a husband and a father who knew the true value of what technology can so easily distract us from. Even if you build an iconic product, even one that lives on, what will be foremost in the minds of the people you care about most will be the memories you built in their lives.
In her 1951 novel "Memoirs of Hadrian," Marguerite Yourcenar has the Roman Emperor meditating on his death: "It seems to me as I write this hardly important to have been emperor."
And Thomas Jefferson's epitaph describes him as "The author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the University of Virginia." No mention of the presidency.
What the old adage that we should live every day as our last usually means is that we shouldn't wait until it's our last day on earth to begin prioritizing the things that really matter.
Anyone with a few smartphones and a full email inbox knows that it's easy to live while not being aware we're living. So a Third Metric life would be one lived in a way that's mindful of what our eulogy will one day be. "I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it," joked George Carlin. We may not be listening to our own eulogy, but we're actually writing it all the time, every day. The question is how much we're giving the eulogizer to work with.
Whether you believe in an afterlife -- as I do -- or not, by being fully present in your life and in the lives of those you love, you are creating your own afterlife. The good news is that if you're reading this, there's still time to live up to the best version of your eulogy.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.)