My Dear Daughter,
While I have every intention of being around a long time, I won’t always be there to give advice, and you won’t always be in the mood to hear it anyway. So, I’ve tried to capture some of them here and I hope they help you as you navigate life. Some of these tips won’t be relevant for a while.
Advice for Living – 13 Lessons Learned
1) Don’t watch or listen to the news. I stopped over a decade ago. Most “news” aims to get ratings, not to inform. If you listen for long, you’re likely to feel anger, anxiety, and worry. Instead, read the news occasionally. You can get apps and/or set up your phone and email to send you top headlines and stories in areas that interest you. (Yes, I know you don’t have a phone. I’ll get you one…someday). Find non-toxic sources for information. My favorite is The Week magazine.
2) Listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts instead. Listen to music that you can live and work to. Listen to music you can dance and sing to. And listen to books and podcasts that enlighten you.
3) Stay away from Facebook. I know that this is unlikely given social pressures. But know that studies show (and you will feel) that after spending time on Facebook people feel more sad and isolated. If teenagers stopped investing hours cultivating supposedly perfect lives on Facebook, and instead put that time into making true connections and memories, the world would be a much better place and adolescence would be a little less painful.
4) Read voraciously. Read fiction, non-fiction, self-help, sci-fi, poetry, theater, blogs, whatever. Just read good works. Be grateful to the authors that invested such energy into creating books. And think about how you can integrate what you read into your life and work.
5) Write for yourself. Get your thoughts on paper. Then look back periodically to gain self-awareness. When angry, write a letter then toss it in the garbage.
6) Write for others. Share your stories. Let someone read and edit the heck out of it. Then learn and improve your craft.
7) Surround yourself with people whom you feel good around. Bring people in who fill you up, rather than drain your energy. Just because someone wants to be your friend doesn’t mean that they have the capacity to be a good friend.
8) Don’t try to fix people. For those of us who can see that all people have goodness inside them, we can naively think that with enough effort on our part, we can help bring out the good. But that’s not how change happens. I’m in the business of helping people change and I’ve learned that not everyone wants to. And if they don’t want to, they won’t, no matter how compassionate and patient you are. Change is hard. It takes great inner motivation and then lots of work to make it happen.
9) Don’t compare your self to others; be kind to yourself. This doesn’t mean that you can’t admire and be inspired by others. But comparison and negative self-talk are destructive and non-productive. No matter how beautiful and perfect I think you are, you will find fault with yourself. Practice gratitude for the unique body and blessings that you have been given. There is always someone who has more and someone who has less than you. We all have an inner critic. It won’t go away but you can become its boss. Name it, turn it into a harmless character, and tell it that while it may be trying to protect you, it’s wrong.
10) Be kind to others. I have no doubt you will. Rumi wrote “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a raging battle.” So, when someone honks at you, yells at you, or bullies you, remember that it tells you very little about you. And get curious about that person’s suffering.
11) Discover and Use Your Strengths. Find out what you are innately good at and passionate about sharing with the world. Then cultivate that and look for ways to put it to work to make you income someday. One of the best tools I’ve found to help with discovering innate abilities is the Highlands Ability Battery. You can take it as young as age 14.
12) Learn to Center Yourself and Create Solid Boundaries. It’s too easy to get caught up in the details of life and become anxious and stressed. Learn to breathe deeply and to reset strong boundaries. It will help you move through life with calmness, grace, and strength. One of my favorite apps for meditation is MyCalmBeat created by neuroscientists. And one of my favorite de-stressing books is Success Under Stress by Sharon Melnick. The Power of Now will help you see there is an escape from anxiety. And this is one game I would love you to play on your phone: eCatch the Feeling (also designed by neuroscientists) helps shift your brain away from its default negative bias to look for the good.
13) Perfection is an illusion and willpower is nearly non-existent. I believe that you can achieve nearly anything you want, but you must respect how we change habits and how the brain works against you. You must start small, get support from others, and create little rituals that will make it easier for you to achieve your goals, one step at a time.
There are so many great books and tools out there by people much wiser than me. I’m working on a list of my favorites. And I can’t wait to see your list for me, because you are wise beyond your years and I am constantly learning from you.
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