(Originally posted in Huffington Post.)
I am a mother. And with that comes a fierce desire to launch my children into the world with everything they need, including wisdom.
Frankly, I wish I could give my daughter a cheat sheet so that I might spare her any experience that might dim her magnificent light. But this is her story — heartbreaks, failures, lessons and all. And those will be her guides — her messengers.
And yet, if I had the power to embed wisdom into her being, so that she might become the best version of herself, this would be it:
1. It is important to be kind, but being nice is not necessary.
Being nice is what we do when we lay ourselves down for the benefit or comfort of another. It is not an act of generosity; it is how we learn to make ourselves smaller so that people will like us. Being nice is what gets in our way of saying what we really want to say, or being honest about how we see things. Being kind, on the other hand, is about extending the courtesies born of love. And that matters a lot — perhaps more than anything else.
2. Real beauty is an inside job.
Being pretty is what our egos want. Being beautiful is the expression of our souls. Pretty is temporary and often fleeting — and the irony is that those who have loads of it are often deeply insecure. There is always the threat and fear of losing it — or of having nothing else of equal or greater value to offer the world. Beauty, on the other hand, is cultivated. It is in how we choose to see the world and ourselves. It is in our expressions and in the dreams we hold. It shows in our joy and in our vulnerability. And while prettiness tends to fade with age, beauty deepens over time as we become wiser, more loving and more honest about who we are.
3. There is no need to explain or justify your choices.
There is no way to avoid the fact that, sometimes, your choices will disappoint others. But justifying or explaining them only gives others the fodder for minding your business. You don’t need reasons or excuses. Instead, take responsibility for your choices and actions. Be clear about what you will and will not do. And a simple “no thank you” or “I regret that I am not able to make it” is plenty. People lie because they are searching for a reason that might pass the other person’s validity test. Don’t bother. You — and only you — are responsible for determining if your reason is valid or not for you.
4. You are what you say (to yourself).
This is where your power — or your abuse of power — lies. If you wouldn’t say it to your dearest friend, don’t say it yourself. This is not as easy as it sounds, for most of us turn a deaf ear to the words we repeat in our heads, every day. The more that you learn to interrupt the unkind, berating, fear-provoking messages to yourself, the more confidence you will have. This takes consciousness and commitment. But you’ll be so very glad for it once you come into a better relationship with yourself.
5. Limits can be moved.
You create the limits for your world. They are constructed by the beliefs you hold about what is possible — and what is not. If you’re feeling boxed in, move the limit, and the wall crumbles down. When you hear yourself saying, “that’s just the way it is” or “that’s just who I am,” call your own bluff. Maybe that’s just the way it’s been up until now. And if you are truly stuck around something, get help. Sometimes our limiting beliefs are so engrained that we need an outside perspective (or challenge) to help us get out of our own way.
6. Do less, be more.
We, as a society, often have it backwards. We do more so that we might be more. We strive. We push ourselves. We stay busy. We do what we think we should do. And yet, what we really want has so much more to do with an experience of being. We want to be inspired. We want to love and be loved. We want connection and a sense of purpose and meaning. None of these things is about doing more. They are all about opening up to the moment, saying “yes” to what’s here now, and being how we want to be. Those are the real game changers.