In many ways, Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most inspiring women to have ever lived. Here are the 7 fundamentals she applied to her life in order to make every day an adventure:
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”
Eleanor Roosevelt was not only the First Lady and wife of U.S president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In many ways she was a pioneer.
She was the first woman to speak in front of a national convention. The first woman to have a syndicated column and to earn money through lectures. After the death of her husband, she didn’t disappear into obscurity.
Instead she continued her work and she became an American spokesman in the U.N. There she played an important part in creating The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a survey by Gallup she is one of the most widely admired people of the last century.
And she is the source of some of my absolute favorite quotes of all time. So in this article I’d like to share 7 of her timeless fundamentals for making life an exciting and wonderful adventure.
1. Look fear in the face.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
If you want to build confidence in yourself then nothing is better than facing your fear and doing something you think you cannot do.
This is of course also something that can be greatly uncomfortable or downright scary too. So people tend to often want to avoid these kinds of situations.
But there is no avoiding them if you want to build your mental strength, just like there is no avoiding spending hours upon hours in the gym or with doing some kind of exercise to build your physical strength.
I have however found a few ways to make it a bit easier to face your fears and to step outside of your comfort zone.
- Take small steps forward. Too many think they have to face a fear or step out of the comfort zone in great and very uncomfortable leaps. You really don’t in most cases. You can take one small step after another instead. Check out last week’s article for more on that.
- Be here now when you take action. Spending too much time in the past can create a lot of worries. Spending too much time in imagined future scenarios can create a lot of exaggerated fears. So when you face a fear or step out of the comfort zone try stay in the present moment.
You can reconnect with the moment right here and now by sitting down and just focusing on your in-breaths and out-breaths for 1-2 minutes right before you step into the scary situation. I have found this to be a very helpful habit in my own life to greatly decrease fear at least for a few minutes.
2. Do the right thing.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
No matter what you do, some people will have one opinion or another. You can never please everyone so don’t go down that path because it will only lead you to live a life that is unhappier than it needs to be.
Instead, do what you deep down think is the right thing. Besides taking steps towards what you want you’ll also raise your self-esteem and you’ll feel good about yourself. This is terrific combination.
And that raise in self-esteem will over time make you less sensitive to other people’s criticism and make it easier to stand up for yourself and your actions in your own mind even if someone wants to make you feel inferior.
3. Be your own best friend.
“Friendship with ones self is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
No relationship you’ll ever have will be more important than the one you have with yourself.
Especially since it will not only make you happier and help you to live a fuller life.
It will also have a positive effect on all the other relationships in your life. Because you’ll have more energy and love to give and the people closest to you get to experience the joy of you finding a self-love and expressing yourself more than you have in the past.
So how can you become better friends with yourself this year?
- Think about three things you can appreciate about yourself. This only takes a minute or less. As you wake up – or if it fits you better to do it before you go to sleep – think of three things you can appreciate about yourself.
It doesn’t have to be something big. It could just be that you did a good job with a small and everyday thing. Appreciate anything that is positive about you even if it may sometimes just be that you do a thorough job with brushing your teeth.
Because the point of this is to think kind thoughts about yourself every day so it after a while becomes an automatic habit. This will lead to more and more self-kind thoughts popping up in your mind when you need them the most.
- When you stumble, take the kinder path. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would. It will help you to be more constructive after the first initial pain of a mistake or failure is starting to fade.
4. Focus on the optimism.
“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
“A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping-stone to the optimist.”
You will stumble. You will fall. You’ll wind up in situations that may look negative from time to time. No matter what you do. Such is life.
But what you do in such situations makes all the difference. Not just that day or week but even more so in the long run in the coming years and decades of your life.
If you would like to take the optimistic and more constructive path in these situations here are a few practical tips that help me every week:
- Ask yourself the optimistic questions. Two that work really well for me are: What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation? And what is one thing can I learn from this situation?
- Be careful about the input. Destructive messages from the people around you or from media, advertising and society in general does not help you to stay optimistic. So, bit by bit, replace them with other daily and weekly input.
It could be the encouragement of friends and family and the help from someone close to you who has been in the situation that you are in now. Or practical personal development books and blogs that help you out with real solutions to the challenges you face and the dreams you want to achieve.
5. Spread the happiness.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”
Spreading happiness to the other people in your life can be very rewarding.
You feel happier as someone’s face light up with joy. You feel happier because you feel you have done a good thing. And in the long run you tend to be treated by others as you treat them.
But how can you make someone happier in a practical way?
A few ideas:
- Just listen. Let someone vent and just be fully there and listen for a little while. It can certainly help him or her to release stress and concerns.
- Encourage. The world can be tough place sometimes. So take a few minutes to encourage someone who is in a negative situation at the moment. Add your own perhaps more grounded and optimistic perspective on the situation and lessen his or her worries and perhaps exaggerated fears.
- Help out in practical way. If your friend needs some help then ask another friend who has been in that situation for advice. Or do a bit of online research. Making that often pretty small effort can mean a lot.
- Express your gratitude. It can mean especially much if it is for something the other person values a lot or if it is for something that you and others often may take for granted.
6. Don’t worry so much about other people may think.
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
A lot of people – me included big time in the past – hold themselves back in life because of what other people may think or say. Perhaps because they are afraid that people will laugh or analyze what they said or did for the rest of the week or year.
But that view of life comes from an inaccurate belief. Not from how life is in most cases.
A much more realistic scenario is that the people in your life have their hands full with worrying about their own lives (and what other people may think of them). And with thinking about their kids, a pet, school or work and their partner.
Yes, in your head you may be the most important person in the world.
But in a wider sense of life people tend to have their hand full with their own lives and with being the most important person there.
7. In the end it comes down to what you do with your life.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”
Positive things will happen. Negative situations will arise. No matter what you do in life.
You cannot control everything. You do not have much influence over some things.
But you can still shape a huge part of your life. Take control over the rudder and sail the ship through obstacles and bad weather. Navigate towards more promising and rewarding destinations.
This may sometimes mean that you have to be patient. That you have to face fears or step outside of your comfort zone. That you have to get to know yourself better and learn how to keep your mental strength and balance and self-esteem in shape.
Along the way you can find help and support from people close to you or not so close to you in the world or even in time.
But in the end and in the long run your life and what you do with it is your responsibility. That responsibility can sometimes feel heavy. But also bring a liberating sense of freedom and of truly taking charge of yourself and what happens in your life.
And if it feels scary from time to time then just focus on taking one small step after another in the direction you want to go.
Featured photo credit: Vinoth Chandar via flickr.com