By: Maria Shriver
Journalist, Author & Activist at Maria Shriver
I’ve been thinking about birthdays…especially mine as it’s this week!!! In our family birthdays are a big deal. There is always a homemade cake, balloons, cards, a fun celebration of the gift of life.
The truth is, I love any excuse to have a party and I especially love to celebrate others. But it’s always been a bit harder for me to celebrate myself; it pushes me outside my comfort zone. But with the encouragement of my friends and family, I’m changing that. I’m allowing myself to be celebrated…even writing that feels weird…but I’m going with it and going for it!
So as I stand on the cusp of a new decade, I’m focusing on all the gifts in my life and on all the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life. I’m happy to say I’m looking forward to the next frontier, even though I admit I don’t really have a master plan for what that entails like I did when I turned 30…that’s okay though, because since then I’ve learned that life interrupts the best of plans.
Friends and family die without warning. You can end up disappointing yourself and others. People you counted on don’t come through, but then again — total strangers can also show up and guide you to places you never imagined. Life is indeed a magical mystery.
So in its honor, here are 60 life lessons I’ve learned along my journey. I shared some of them with my kids this New Years, whereupon they burst into tears and asked me if I was dying. Lordy Moses.
I share them with you now in the hope that they might help you on your own journey to live more authentically, to live more of life without judgement of yourself and/or others, so that when the time comes for you to go, you have fewer regrets about what you didn’t do and more pride in what you did.
- There is nothing about life that’s predicable, so stop trying to predict it.
- Find every excuse you can to celebrate it.
- Love the age you are and stop wishing you were a different one.
- Stop worrying about what others think. It’s a huge waste of your time.
- Stop wondering if God is listening, just have faith He/She is.
- Be grateful to anyone who has ever loved you or tried to love you. I know I am.
- Know that shit will happen in life. You think you will not be able to withstand, but you can and you will.
- Be kind to your body, it will be with you for life.
- Believe me when I tell you: diets are a waste of time. I’ve tried them all.
- Don’t believe people who tell you they can eat anything and still be so skinny! They are fibbing.
- Moderate everything but laughing.
- Don’t be scared to be a parent, trust your heart.
- Make friends with your children’s friends. They’ll make you laugh and give you valuable intel.
- Keep a pair of clothes from high school. Not to check if you can still fit in them but for the memories they hold.
- Hold your children over and over again and then let someone hold you.
- Get smart about money as early as possible.
- Save money from every paycheck.
- Buy comfortable sheets, you’ll spend a lot of time in them.
- Know that no matter how smart you are, you cannot change someone else.
- Stay out of other people’s business. Dealing with your own is a full-time job.
- Be kind, cause everyone is struggling.
- Don’t engage in gossip, it always bites you in the ass.
- Don’t mistake gifts for love.
- Stay in connection with your childhood friends and introduce them to your grownup friends. Make yours a generous tribe that’s connected not only to you, but to each other.
- Spend time alone when you are young so it won’t scare you when you are older.
- Write thank you notes to people for their time and their wisdom. See both as a gift.
- Look people in the eye when you talk to them. And at least once, look into someone’s eyes for five minutes straight. You will learn something.
- Sit down to family dinner every night. If you can’t do it every night, make Sunday night family night.
- Play games with your kids (my favorites are Capture the Flag and Uno).
- Give your kids a Get-Out-Of-School pass to use for a special day with you.
- Keep an open table and an open mind.
- Be of service.
- Travel with your kids. It will broaden their horizons and strengthen their bonds.
- Don’t assume anyone is better than you or you are better than anyone else.
- Don’t ever sit out of an election. You have the gift of living in a country where every vote matters. Use yours.
- Learn how to turn off the critical voice in your head as early as possible.
- Every year write down your regrets then burn them and leave them where they belong: In the ashes.
- Listen to your gut. It knows more than anyone else you are asking for advice.
- Practice prayer/meditation. It will keep you in check with yourself.
- Never think your work life is more important than your family.
- Don’t think bad stuff won’t happen to you. Learn how to push through. Head up, shoulders back.
- Don’t allow anyone to shame you.
- Get good at forgiveness. You will need to practice it throughout life.
- Know that forgiving doesn’t mean going back to what was. It means going forward with love. You get to decide what that looks like.
- If you want forgiveness, ask for it.
- Get good at letting go.
- Don’t expect people to be perfect. You are not…neither are they.
- Learn how to communicate in your own home. If you can’t find your voice get help.
- Don’t think that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
- Therapy isn’t a waste of time. It can save a friendship, a marriage, your life.
- If you marry and it comes to an end, don’t let anyone tell you you have failed. Be grateful for the love you had, the memories you made, the lessons you learned.
- If you have a pity party, make it short and then move on.
- Don’t see yourself as a victim, see yourself as brave.
- Be brave enough to write your own story … and then rewrite it.
- Be brave enough to try love after you heart has been broken.
- Spend time in nature, it calms your mind.
- Spend time around people who see you, who celebrate you, who want the best for you.
- Stay connected to your siblings and don’t come between them and their partners. My four brothers are my past, my present and my future … and I like all of their wives.
- Take care of your parents when they age, it’s a privilege.
- Have faith that your best days are ahead of you. That your next frontier will be your most fulfilling time. And that you deserve to be seen as good enough just the way you are.