For years I’ve been inspired by these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.
I began to create a life from the inside out and embraced Emerson’s message. I looked around my world for what gave me hope in the midst of unpredictable chaos. Here are some things I’ve learned so far on my journey and I hope you’ll find some that resonate with your experiences.
Declutter Your Space, Heart, and Life
Many of us at some point or another have become stymied by the quantity of unneeded belongings, the hurts in our hearts, and the unpleasant activities in our days and now are taking action to gently clear our lives of thoughts, things, and experiences that are “soul-sucking.” This often creates freedom, peace of mind, and breathing room for other purposeful and life-giving adventures. Let go courageously.
Leave People Empowered
Maya Angelou’s words shed a bright light on this idea, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s often been painful to admit all the moments that we’ve hurt another or made them feel invisible. On the other hand, it feels amazing to listen, embrace, and celebrate another person. Most of us want to be seen, heard, and valued. Be the person who listens and uplifts others as often as you can.
Grow in Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion
It can take tremendous courage, to be honest with yourself about how you treat yourself and others. Many of us may live with a critical internal voice and observe that we can be unkind to ourselves. We notice we are generous and friendly with others but live with unpleasant feelings on the inside. We may be exhausted from overextending ourselves. Maybe it’s time for deep self-care and self-nurturing. It may be an opportunity to quiet the inner critic and look in the mirror with eyes of love.
Really hard things can happen and these events often become a catalyst. We finally must allow space and time to grieve old hurts and feel our fury in ways that don’t hurt others or ourselves. Be brave enough to release these feelings, make amends, and forgive yourself and others.
It’s a non-linear, two steps forward, and then slipping in the mud process. Glimmers and then fuller experiences of clarity, joy, and acceptance emerge in time. We can only be responsible for our thoughts, spoken words, and actions. Begin to embrace yourself with compassion and grace.
Find A Nuanced Middle Ground
The extremes of working all the time without rest or play takes a toll. Being a couch potato for hours, mindlessly numbing out with TV shows or unhealthy food on the other extreme is also not usually a great way to live life. There’s a nuanced middle path of finding a flow among work, rest, play or contribution, self-care, and connection. Attempt to look for your own sweet spot of dynamic equilibrium. Do what brings you life.
Cultivate Healthy Relationships with Others
Be discerning about the people who have your best interests at heart and you have theirs. You see their gifts, vulnerability, strengths, and honesty and they see yours. Having been thrown under buses by others, you learn to be stronger, more aware, and capable of standing back up, dodging those who have ill-intent or are not aware and don’t care to be aware of how much they hurt others. Find and create healthy bonds with those who see your goodness and gifts and you see theirs. Find common ground with these colleagues and beloved ones. Hold each other high.
Hold Compassion for Others
Consider that you have no idea what another person that you are meeting has lived or endured. When you see strangers or interact with people who behave badly, know that is what they are doing with their pain, addictions, or struggles. It’s not personal. They may be tortured souls who endured many traumas. You can choose to silently walk away or intervene on behalf of those they are mistreating, or firmly speak your truth and set clear boundaries.
Assume that most people you meet have dealt with something or many things that have challenged them and that they have failed to achieve some goals or even had to set some down forever. They are either struggling or striving to be the best version of themselves. Work to see others with eyes of compassion.
Be Unstoppable in the Face of Doubters
You, like me, may be acutely aware from life experiences that sometimes the people who have been closest to you are your most feared challengers and doubters. What I’ve learned inside that crucible is words and deeds from tortured souls often cannot have the same weight as the words and deeds from healthy, reasonable people with keen insight. You may have to pull apart other people’s words and deeds from your own truths. Consider the source. Some people have deep, unresolved pain and doubters sometimes are wrestling with their own insecurities. They also may have big fears about your dreams.
Sometimes people struggle to find their own courage, strength, and faith. Your brave bright light might make them squint and squirm. Go about living true to your heart, dreams, and really big desires that come from the deepest part of you. Your ideas, especially the ones that give you goosebumps, matter. Unwavering, unrelenting inspired actions will produce results. Keep going.
Leave the World a Little Bit Better
Many of you live your life quietly making a positive difference by smiling at your neighbors, taking care of animals, growing a garden, creating a home that reflects your tastes and joys, raising healthy children, and working in steady service to others. You do small acts with great love each day of your life. You make mistakes, learn, and recover. You experience heartbreak, grieve, and rise strong. You love and share love with others and believe in your heart that you will die peacefully knowing you shared your soul gifts with your beloved ones and community. Much of life happens in the small moments of being alive. Share your gifts. Your unique contributions make a difference.