My Dear C-Monkey,
In your 3 years of living on this planet you have already learned so much. You’ve learned how to walk, run, climb, and dance. You’ve learned how to say “please” and “thank you” …and how to throw an impressive tantrum. You’ve learned that life isn’t always fair, that sharing isn’t always easy, and that bedtime comes too early every day (for you).
There is plenty more lessons life has to offer; plenty more things for your inquisitive mind and curious heart to learn. In my own 30+ years on this earth I’ve had my share of lessons, too… some learned through hard work and dedication, others learned through failure and mistakes.
I’ve learned that I can’t control you or force you to fit into some preconceived ideal. To be honest, many of my parenthood expectations have been shattered by the beautiful reality that you are your own person, and have been from the very beginning. That reality has taught me more about love, patience, and what really matters most in life… so thank you. I’m sure I’ll need constant reminders, so please be patient.
Even though I can’t (nor desire to) control you, I can hopefully teach you. As I look to your future I have many questions and concerns. I wonder how you’ll adapt to social pressures, maneuver through difficult circumstances, and mold your life with the unique and diverse experiences awaiting you.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know that there are some things that matter more than others. My hope is that you can sift through the unimportant to help you create the life of your dreams… whatever they may be.
31 Life Lessons for a Happy Life
1. Comparisons will steal your joy.
The temptation to base your own value by comparing how much better or worse your situation is than the person next to you will rob you of happiness. Worrying about what others think of you will poison your heart.
Value what you bring to the world. And then give that same gift to others by valuing their unique strengths and beauties. There are a millions ways to be beautiful, wise, talented, and useful in this world. Don’t fall victim to a life of shallow comparisons. There is no need for it.
2. Make food your friend.
People have turned food into some sort of enemy, plaguing certain foods with villain-like qualities. We are made to feel ashamed when eating certain things. We are celebrated for “turning down temptation” or being diligent in highly restrictive diets.
Please, don’t turn food into an enemy. Don’t attach feelings of guilt, shame, or fear to the thing that should nourish your body. Choose good foods as often as you can, but enjoy the pleasure of community and celebration when the time is appropriate. Don’t diet. Don’t count calories. Just eat good food and worry about more important things in your life.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
Forget the heels. They’re bad for your posture, bad for your feet, and most women look ridiculous walking in them. If you really like wearing them, fine… but keep them for special occasions and always have a pair of comfortable shoes nearby. Comfortable shoes will ensure you feel good enough to MOVE. Don’t believe the hype that heels make you look more powerful or more sexy… trust me, they are just silly shoes.
4. Love unconditionally.
There’s enough hate in the world, and not enough love.
5. Never forget: You have the ability to change the world.
Whether you want to be a powerful politician or a powerful stay-at-home mother, you have the ability to change the world in both small and large ways.
6. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but do so wisely.
Risks are a part of life. But there are good and bad risks. Don’t risk your life by driving recklessly. Don’t risk your life’s earnings on a slot machine. These are dumb risks.
The risk of failure, vulnerability, looking stupid, or making mistakes for the chance achieve greatness are risks worth taking. Relationships, passions, and incredible opportunities are usually only realized through risk.
7. Your body is a miracle. Love it deeply. Be comfortable in your own skin.
Look yourself in the mirror every day and recognize how amazing you are. Take care of your body. Cherish your strengths. Value wholeness instead of picking out insignificant “flaws.” Tell yourself you are beautiful. I will remind you, too. Believe it always.
8. Find friends who make you a better person. Let go of toxic relationships.
True friends will love you. They will make you feel good. They will be on your side, challenge you if they need to, and never try to make you feel less than a whole person. If a friend doesn’t do those things, let them go. There are billions of wonderful people in the world, don’t waste time on anyone who makes you feel otherwise.
9. Shine with optimism.
There is so much cynicism, anger, and entitlement in the world. Be a beacon of light through hope and optimism. Good things are attracted to good things. Challenges will come no matter what, but those who choose to see the bright side are just happier. It’s that simple.
10. Failing is one of life’s greatest gifts.
Our current education system is majorly broken. And one of the problems is the fear of failure that is instilled in our minds from the very beginning. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers if we are willing to listen, learn, and progress forward. Never, ever, EVER be afraid of failing. True greatness only ever comes from learning from our mistakes.
11. You are so much more than what you do. Take time to learn who you really are.
Whether you choose to be a hair stylist, farmer, lawyer, doctor, or retail store clerk… you will always be more than what you do. You will always be more than a job title. That’s true for your actions as well. We all make mistakes (see #10 for a reminder), but they don’t define us.
12. Let kindness be your default.
Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. A simple rule that we far too often forget.
13. Be happy.
Happiness is a choice. It’s also a practice. Choose happiness. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel and express other emotions… after all, we can only really know happiness if we know misery. Allow yourself to feel every emotion deeply, but don’t dwell on the negative. Make happy your home base.
14. Know I am here for you… No matter what.
15. Find your core, and then explore your edges.
Take time to find your core beliefs, your core purpose. Discover the fundamental principles that keep you stable, connected, and strong. Then move out and explore the world. Go beyond your comfort zone. Expand your understanding, knowing that your core beliefs will give you the power to stay connected to yourself as you practice walking in other people’s shoes (just not their heels).
16. Breathe deeply. Learn the power of being.
Take time to meditate daily. Learn to listen to your breath. Value the art of being still, of mindfulness, of simply being. Reminder yourself daily: We are human beings, not human doings.
17. Have fun.
Laugh. Be silly. Be creative. Play. These are the traits that allow children to master new skills, explore the world, and enjoy life. Unfortunately the qualities of fun are undervalued in the adult world. Find the fun in everything.
18. Question everything.
19. Don’t be ashamed of abundance.
Happiness, peace, and love are far more important than any paycheck. But also recognize that abundance comes in many forms, including financial abundance. Don’t be ashamed to seek wealth. Maintain an attitude of abundance; that there is enough for everyone. And then do good with the abundance you are blessed with. Never be ashamed of it.
20. Use your voice.
Speak your truth, tell your story. Help others tell their stories, too. Stories change people. Stories connect us. Stories transcend time. We need to hear the good stories of the world, and not just what the news or Hollywood decides to share.
21. Spend time outside everyday.
Nature heals. Nature enlivens. Nature gives us so much. Get outside as much as possible. (Barefoot, is even better.)
22. There is a fine balance between what you can and cannot control. Be okay with both.
You can not control others. You can not control the weather. And there will be many situations where the outcome is simply out of your control. Be okay with that. Sometimes when we let go of our need to control we find the greatest freedom in the world.
You can control your actions, reactions, and attitude. Be gracious, forgiving, and adaptable.
23. Forget makeup.
You may not believe me on this one, but trust me: You don’t need it. There is power in taking a stand against a world that tells us we need to spend billions of dollars on toxic crap to cover our face. Of course, if you choose to wear it I’ll still think you’re beautiful, but try taking a day off every now and then and realize how beautiful you are on your own.
24. Be powerful, gentle, strong, and delicate.
You are a magnificently complicated creature who can be powerful, strong, gentle, and delicate all at the same time. Power doesn’t mean aggressive. Delicate doesn’t mean weak. Be firm in your ability to be a force for good without giving up the ability to connect with lightness.
25. Don’t worry about what you’re going to be when you grow up.
People are obsessed with this question. Know that you can be anything you want, and it can change all the time… even in your thirties, forties, and beyond. When asked what you want to be, tell them you want to be happy.
26. Have vision. Take action. Be passionate. Be patient.
This is the recipe for success. You won’t get very far without all four. Know where you want to go, move in that direction, find your “why” to keep your going, and be patient as life will often throw detours and obstacles along the way. And remember to enjoy the ride. Life isn’t at the end of your goals. It’s happening right now.
27. Don’t underestimate the power of stress or sleep.
Forget all the debates about which nutrient is more important or what food you should avoid. Keep your stress down and get enough sleep and you’ll be doing better than most people. Learn how to breathe, manage, and adapt. Only sacrifice your sleep for the most precious things… like your own daughter some day.
28. Learn when to lead and when to follow.
The biggest problem is when people don’t do either and just sit around waiting for something to happen. Sometimes you’ll be called to lead, other times you’ll be needed to follow. Lead with love, passion, and a whole lot of wisdom. Follow with your heart and gut.
29. Nourish your soul.
You know I have a thing for healthy living, but as important as it is to nourish your body you also have to nourish your soul. Foster your faith. Pray daily. Stand for something. Believe.
30. Remember: You are enough, just the way you are.
Repeat as needed.
31. Come home often.
I want you to have the courage and curiosity to explore this big world, both literally and figuratively. But make sure you come home to me every now and then (both literally and figuratively). I will do my best to ensure our home is a safe haven, a place where you’ll be loved and encouraged. There will always be hugs, love, and cookies.