America Needs to Catch Its Breath

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Earlier this week I tweeted out that I thought the country needed a national conversation about force, race, rage, men and inequality.

By week’s end, I would add women to that group. Upon reflection, we need to not just pause, we need to stop. Stop dead in our tracks and look at all of these protests, all of this anger, all of this mistrust, distrust, rage and confusion. Between men and between women. Between blacks and between whites. And we can’t stop there,  we have to include Latinos, Asians and every race. We have to look at Democrats and Republicans. And the institutions we are told to trust.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

Police officers are under attack. Political leaders struggle with irrelevance. Journalists don’t check facts or talk to the other side before publishing stories anymore.

C’mon.

People feel unsafe — and rightfully so. No one seems to know who to trust or who to believe.

When I grew up, political leaders we’re admired. So were church leaders and, yes, even journalists. We believed in them and we trusted them to keep us safe and guide us forward. Political parties and their responsibilities were clear. As we’re roles for men and women.

Today it feels like everything is moving, changing, cracking.

[Read: 3 Tips for Forging Ahead After a Setback]

What I’ve discovered in my own life is that when it all begins moving so fast that you can’t catch your breath, it’s time to stop.

Eric Garner will not ever be able to catch his breath and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

But those of us who can, must. As a nation we must pause to catch our breath and try to breathe new life into our own hearts and minds. Into our own communities, cultures and into our country.

Who are we? Who do we want to be? What are our own guidelines as people, as families, enforcers, as a nation?

[Watch: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Talks Mothering 4 (Almost 5!) kids & Running a Company]

If we are struggling with trusting our institutions, we have to first ask: can we trust ourselves? Can we stop our own anxiety-filled lives that always seem to be on fast forward and ask ourselves to be better people?

No institution is going to save us. But each of us can stop and try to reset. We all need to hold ourselves accountable in our own homes, in our workplaces and out into our communities.

Our country has never been less black and white. We are in a major grey area.

I pray that as the holidays unfold each of us has the courage to stop and take stock. The nation needs a giant permission slip to take some time off from rubbernecking, from tweeting, from trusting other’s opinions and accounts and go in to ourselves. Reflect, meditate on our anger, our beliefs, our own codes of conduct.

[Read: How to Navigate Your Way Through Change]

This new year can be new. It needs to be new in so many ways.

It’s up to each of us to figure out how we can do better. How we can be more united in ourselves and as a country.

We all need to breathe. #PassItForward

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. How about you?


[Image via Pinterest]

Who Can Bring Peace to Ferguson & Our Nation?

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I love the food, the tradition, the way people come together around a table. I love the laughter that takes up so much space in my home, and of course I love that everyone is home.

For me Thanksgiving is about family. My own and the others that make up our larger family — and by that I don’t just mean those who will sit at our table. I’m conscious that our larger American family was gathering this week in the shadow of Ferguson and the President’s new executive order on immigration.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

These national stories have ignited a debate and a fervor over justice, race and family. In the legal and socially-acceptable senses. Both personally and nationally.

I’ve thought a lot about all of these things this week. About families being torn apart and family coming together. I’ve thought about my family and my larger American family.

As we all go back to our regularly-scheduled lives this week after gathering together for the holiday, I pray that we can find the time to pause. To focus on our personal and collective blessings. Every day I sit in gratitude, but I also focus on how I can grow, how I can be more open-minded, less judgmental, more tolerant, compassionate and understanding.

[Read: Still Thanks Giving: My Lesson in Gratitude]

I hope our nation and our leaders do the same over this holiday season. I know there is a lot of anger, grief, disappointment, confusion and misunderstanding out there.

I can still remember the day Martin Luther King was shot and the rioting that ensued. I remember being home and being scared that the city of Washington, D.C., near where I lived, would burn.

I also remember when I heard that my uncle Robert F. Kennedy had gone to the scene to speak. His words helped bring calm to the riots. His actions showed that he, as a white man, wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right and stand with those who were pushing for it.

He was dead less than two months later.

I’ve thought a lot about who that might be today. Who we are waiting to hear from. Whose words and presence could create peace and begin to put us on a different road. Is there a spiritual leader, a political leader, a cultural leader, that could go to Ferguson and by their presence instill calm and healing? I can’t think of one.

[Watch: Robbie Rogers Shares his Coming Out Story]

What does that say that perhaps there isn’t a man or a woman who could command that today? Who could make us feel safe, who could help us pause?

Absent that leader, the question in front of each of us is how we can each use our words and our presence to promote healing, to create empathy, to bring pause to the anger? This is a teachable moment for every family and the larger national family. May we treat it with respect, with understanding and the seriousness it deserves.

[Read: Post-Thanksgiving Recipe]

We may not all be physically in Ferguson, but we can use our words to create calm wherever we are. We must. We are in this together.

Every family has it’s complications, but with love, forgiveness, empathy and compassion, I do believe it’s possible to find a way forward together that leads to a life that’s even better than what was.

That’s what’s on my mind this week, what’s on yours? And, as always, #PassItForward


[Image via Through The County Door]

Confidence: It’s an Ongoing Process

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This week I had a conversation with my longtime friend Diane von Furstenberg (in front of 600 other new friends who’d come to the Skirball to hear us). We were there because Diane released a new book, The Woman I wanted to Be, which takes a look back at her very interesting life — even though she’s at the top of her game and still living it.

During our talk I asked Diane about a claim she makes in the book: that she can sell confidence. I didn’t know if that was something I could subscribe to. Can you actually BUY confidence? She maintained that you could — saying her iconic wrap dress can make a woman feel instantly more confident on the inside just by feeling better about the way she looked on the outside.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

“Everything is confidence,” she said. “Whether it’s for work, whether it’s your private life, whether it’s how you raise your children, everything, everything is about confidence.”

I agree. Self esteem is of huge importance in our lives. And so many of us are lacking it.

Even Diane. The next thing out of her mouth was this: “But that doesn’t mean you sometimes don’t feel like a loser. I felt like a loser half an hour ago in the car. It’s an ongoing process. But the biggest advice I can tell anyone is that the most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself.”

I have written before it before, but Diane’s comments got me thinking about sharing it again: I used to think that only grand gestures and ‘powerful’ people could be important.

[Read: The Top 5 Ways Your Life Will Grow When You Follow Your Heart]

I hear similar sentiments all the time. ‘I’m not smart enough to be able to do that.’ ‘He’ll never like me, I’m not pretty enough.’ “I’ll never be successful enough to make a difference.’

‘I am not enough.’

The truth is, there’s not a lack of ability in this world. There is a lack of CONFIDENCE in our own abilities. We are all important. We are all valuable. And we all have something to give. That’s the simple idea behind my ‘Architects of Change‘ philosophy. We can all make a difference and that starts on the inside.

[Watch: Steve Wampler Battles Cerebral Palsy & Yosemite's El Capitan Rock]

But it takes confidence to believe in yourself. It takes confidence to spend the time it takes to get to know yourself and learn to like yourself.

As women, often times we think we’re being selfish if we take time for ourselves. Instead of taking “me time” to look inside and take our own mental, emotional and physical temperatures, most of us feel like we need to be more focused on parenting, volunteering and careers while our minds, our bodies, our own wants and needs take a backseat.

Diane had a great thought on that too: “You could be a good mother, you could be a good daughter, you could work very hard, but when you go in the middle of the night and you see yourself in the mirror, make sure you can wink at yourself.”

I still don’t believe that you can BUY confidence. I think, as Diane admitted, you have to teach it to yourself. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s worth the work. And it’s not selfish work. By making yourself better, you’re making the world better.

[Read: 5 Reasons You Need to Detox and 5 Ways to Do It & Still Feel Good]

How great is it when you’re happy enough with yourself to show it? Who doesn’t love to be winked at?

I’m going to keep working on my personal self esteem, and I hope you will too. And the next time I catch my own reflection, I’ll be winking. Will you? #PassItForward

Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break The Internet’ Photos Gave Me An Idea

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I was walking out of a restaurant in Los Angeles the other day when a smart, successful man I know said “Hi.” We caught each other up on life for a minute, and then as I was about to leave he asked me, “Hey, when is the election?” – he wanted to vote.

I stopped, laughed and said, “It was last week.”

He seemed shocked. His companion, a young woman in her twenties, also seemed surprised that she had “missed” the election.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the millions of people who missed the election but didn’t miss out on sharing, debating and discussing the Kim Kardashian #BreakTheInternet photos or the millions who didn’t miss the controversy of Taylor Swift’s Spotify “breakup.”

The man and his companion complained to me that no one had told them about the election. They went on to rail about the state of traffic, political leaders who “do nothing” and the divisiveness in Washington.

They are the majority: People who can vote but don’t.

[Read: An excerpt from Timothy Shriver's 'Fully Alive']

Some estimate that the election on November 4 had the lowest level of participation since World War II. It was one of the lowest voter turnouts in history.

People complain about the state of affairs but are too busy checking out the stream of stuff flowing out of their phones to participate in trying to change it. Too busy to look up and engage.

I’m worried about us. Us as individuals, us as a culture, and the big U.S. – as in The United States.

[Read: 3 Ways to Make Life Happier at Home]

I’m worried that we are so immersed in what is “breaking the internet” that we can’t see what is breaking us. There seems to be a lack of humanity, lack of connection, lack of concern, lack of interest.

The truth is, people know when the Thanksgiving sales start. When the new Xbox is coming out. When the Super Bowl airs. They know about the royal baby bump. They know what they want to know…and seemingly not much else.

I don’t know whose fault that is. The media? Those of us who are parents? The political parties? Or the nature of political advertising?

[Read: 4 Lessons in Resiliency]

What I know is that Election Day is the first Tuesday of November. Kind of like Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November.

What I know is that if I don’t vote, I don’t get to complain. What I know is that if the millions who are focused on Kim’s latest move actually made the move to vote, we would have a different electorate country and a more unified us … and U.S.

Which got me thinking: Could we break the record for voting if it was all online? What if it was simple and accessible and took place where you already spend your time.

[Try: How to Develop a Brain-Healthy Diet]

Could we break voting apathy if everyone running was an independent, forcing everyone to look beyond labels that divide and actually read what the person was advocating? Could we break through if companies like Apple, Google and Facebook sent out alerts all day long reminding people to vote? I know there were steps towards that this year. If you visited the homepages of those site on Nov. 4, you saw voting information and imagery. But, yet, people weren’t inspired to participate.

Imagine if all the innovative minds came together and figured out how to let every American know that it was Election Day. Imagine if next year on Election Day Kim Kardashian did a photo shoot reminding people to vote. I don’t care where she puts the sign. I just care that people read it and go “Oh, I should vote today,” and then actually do it.

Now THAT would be a break through. Not just for the Internet, but for all of us in the U.S. #BreakTheInternet & #PassItForward

What Makes You Feel Fully Alive?

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This week, I’m proud to have my brother, Timothy P. Shriver, as guest editor of the site, and guest blogger for my weekly I’ve Been Thinking column. He’s releasing a new book, Fully Alive, on Tuesday, November 11, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. It’s about discovering what matters most, compassion, people with intellectual disabilities, finding yourself and much more…so much more that I’m letting him tell you himself. I hope his mission inspires you. I hope you buy his book. And, as always, I hope you #PassItForward. —Maria 


Growing up, I was taught that every person can make a difference and each of us should try. As children, we looked up to Presidents and political leaders, civil rights leaders and Nobel laureates, great figures on the world stage who bent the arc of history toward justice.

Not surprisingly, most of those people were men. So naturally, I thought my job was to be like them. I thought if I too could become powerful and famous, I would feel fully alive.

Nothing could have been more wrong.

[Read: Anthony K. Shriver, "I'm In To Hire — Are You?"]

As it turns out, the person who made the most remarkable difference in my family wasn’t the one who became President of the United States or any of the ones who made the cover of Time Magazine. The biggest difference maker was my aunt, Rosemary Kennedy, a woman who never wrote a book, gave a media interview, held elected office, made a salary or won a prize. She mattered because of who she was, not because of what she could do. Without ever realizing it, she taught her family—all of us—the secret of what matters most.

I wrote a book, Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most, to share her story and the story of the humble and unlikely teachers who taught me how to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. Who were my teachers? People with intellectual “disabilities,” teenagers from “disadvantaged” backgrounds, spiritual masters who are “disconnected” from the real world. Each of these “teachers” has a “dis” associated with their names, but when it comes to what matters most, they turned out to be the smartest people I’d ever met.

[Check Out — Freedom of Choice: Your Greatest Gift]

The lessons they taught me are as simple as they are hard to follow. First, the most important expectation to fulfill in life is not that you become like someone else but that you become yourself. To do that, you have to do the hard work of going inward, of seeing yourself with all your gifts and weaknesses too—and of realizing that in all your vulnerability, you are more beautiful and powerful than you dare imagine. Learning to trust that being lovable isn’t something you earn, but rather, is a quality you already possess, is the first step to feeling fully alive.

My sister Maria reminds me over and over again that everyone can be an “Architect Of Change.” She’s right, but most people still think they’re too small or insignificant to make a difference. Most of us feel that something is holding us back; that circumstances are preventing us from living the life we want to live. In the search for what matters most, my teachers taught me that what was holding me back wasn’t something “out there.” Instead, it was my own fear that I wasn’t important enough to matter. It was the fear itself that was holding me back. So I’ve adopted a “believer’s mind”: my way of describing the belief that we each have a sacred purpose and we should stop at nothing to fulfill it.

[Watch — 'The Interview: Maria Shriver & Jennifer Lopez]

Being “fully alive” however, is not just about you. My teachers also taught me that to find myself, I also had to give myself away—to give myself to those whose weaknesses and challenges scared me. I’ve heard this referred to as the “caring cure,” because giving yourself to others helps heal our fears and can reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Compassion shouldn’t be seen as a duty or an obligation. Instead, it’s an opening to an experience of deep connection with another human being, an experience of feeling a part of something bigger because we really are in this together—each of us part of the beautiful whole, weaknesses and all.

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter Caroline was working on a high school project—studying the women’s movement and analyzing what went right and what went wrong. “Women still don’t get equal pay and still don’t get the same respect, Dad,” she concluded. “Why do you think that is?” I asked. “Because so many of the roles women play still aren’t valued. Mom’s generation of women made a lot of progress in getting opportunity for women, but my generation needs to finish the job by making our culture value women for whatever choices they make.”

[More — 25 Ways to Put The Spark Back In Your Relationship]

I think Caroline is close to what matters most. Making a difference isn’t measured by fame or fortune and being fully alive isn’t achieved by what you put on a business card or the name of the school you attend or what you look like. Fully Alive is learned in the quiet of looking inward and loving what you see; in the tenderness of helping others and loving even the most vulnerable; in the fun that comes from pursuing your dream no matter the risk.

In the end, those are the lessons that my Aunt Rosemary taught us all. I’m hoping she and the other brilliant teachers in Fully Alive will inspire you to find your own path to what matters most.

[Read: All of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

Why not start right now and share your own story? When did you feel closest to discovering what matters most to you? When did you look within and see a beautiful you? When did you experience your own moments of generosity and compassion? What is your dream and how will you fulfill it?

Don’t be afraid to share. In fact, don’t be afraid of anything. Then you’ll be very close to feeling fully alive.

We Are Each Exactly Who We Are Meant To Be

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One rainy morning, my friend Martha said to me, “There are two kinds of hubris. One is thinking you are bigger than you are, and the other is thinking you are smaller than you are.”

Bam! I had an instant realization! I have been at both ends of the hubris scale. And I’ve come to understand that neither extreme suits me.

I come from a family of activists — men and women who have wanted to change the world through activism. I picked up the family banner and have done what I could to change the world for the better.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

But now, halfway through my life, I have settled on this truth: One of the greatest expressions of activism is becoming who you were meant to be in your own life. In other words, putting aside the hubris of judging yourself by what you do, and loving yourself just because you are. Instead of thinking you are less than you are supposed to be, how about realizing that you are who you were meant to be?

Another friend of mine points out that becoming who you are meant to be requires not hubris, but humility.  Humility isn’t about judging myself as too big or too small. It’s about accepting and appreciating who I am today, no more and no less — and knowing that I’m still, and always will be, in a process of change and growth. It means I’m allowing myself be who I am. Achieving that state of being is in and of itself awe-inspiring. It takes hard work, and it takes time — letting go of all the old ideas that I needed to be this or do that or get this or attain that, before I could be okay.

[Watch: Maria Shriver interviews Nicole Kidman] 

Humility frees you from constant self-judgment and allows the space for the kind of activism that can change the world. Humility frees you to be, and that’s what frees you to do.

How you would act and behave if you weren’t always calculating how big or how small you are in the world? If you believed you were valuable beyond measure? If you actually knew it. Felt it in your body and soul. What decisions would you make personally and professionally? How would you live your life?

That’s what I’m thinking about as I approach my birthday this week. I want to feel my way into this new year of my life free of burdens and judgments I put on myself. I don’t want to spend any more time worried that I might be too big or too small. I don’t want to spend one more minute wondering how my activism stacks up in a family of overachievers. I want to rest in the belief that I am of value just as I am today. Not for the family I was born into, the money I might have, the job I do, or the people I know. I am blessed just because I am me. Maria.

[Read: 5 Habits to Start Now to Have a Healthy Holiday Season]

I’m blessed with the gift of another year. It’s not something everyone gets and I’m very aware of that. So I want to treat it as a gift. A valuable one.

That’s what I hope for each of you. That you know that you are of value just the way you are. That you are here to be yourself and that the work to get to that realization is worthy work. #PassItForward

That’s what’s on my mind. What’s on yours?


[Image via Pinterest]

Are You Lonely? You’re Not Alone

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“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

So said Mother Teresa, and how true that sentiment is. I’ve been thinking a lot about that and about loneliness. I truly believe it is one of the biggest issues we face in this hyper-technologically-connected world. People have hundreds, if not thousands of friends on Facebook, yet in reality they feel alone.

People work non-stop to stay above the brink and go home to empty apartments and homes worried that they are alone. Nobody to anybody.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I know there are people who say they are never lonely. I’m not one of them.

In fact I have talked to so many people of all ages who whisper to me about their loneliness like it’s a fatal disease that no one but them has, and for which their is no cure. Teenagers I’ve spoken to tell me they feel alone in real life but that their identies online contradict that truth. Women I talk to tell me about the pain of the empty house, the loneliness that descends after children leave or when partners work around the clock.

We are often told that only in the quiet and alone time can we truly come to know ourselves, become whole and find our calling, yet being alone often terrifies us.

Loneliness is scary. What if it’s true that we are nobody to anybody? I’ve met many people in my life, and those who make an effort to be part of a community are the ones I’ve discovered truly feel that they are someone to somebody.

[Read: New Tools to Help You Forgive For Good]

In fact I recently wrote a poem for a friend with that exact title: “Someone to Somebody.”

The truth is we are all someone.

If you find yourself struggling with that truth, reach out to a community. Find a church. Join a local gym. Start a book club. Find a meditation class. Join our A Woman’s Nation community online and then get involved on the ground. Volunteer for Special Olympics in your community. Go to a Boys & Girls Club and become someone to somebody there who might be feeling like nobody themselves. Host a pot-luck dinner.

I suggested that last activity to my eldest daughter Katherine. She recently moved into an apartment and hasn’t met many of her neighbors. People don’t seem to convene outside of the Internet anymore. Neighborhoods used to have block parties so that the people living near one another could meet and connect. I don’t know if it’s true where you live, but in my town, those social activities seem to be a thing of the past. We should resurrect them. There’s something very important about connection. It battles loneliness, provides tangible connection and interpersonal identities. It makes you someone to someone.

[Read: 'I'll Be Me': The Indomitable Spirit of Glen Campbell]

Know that you are not alone with this feeling of isolation and loneliness. Saying it, not whispering it, is step one for overcoming it. Step two is realizing that when you do acknowledge isolation, you are on your way forward towards friendships. Towards community. Towards reality. Towards the realization that you are indeed somebody to someone. Probably many someone’s.

So, my mission for you is this: Put yourself out there and be available. Join a community you’re interested in (or a few). Let me know how it goes. I’ll do the same. And as always, #PassItForward.


[Image via Pinterest]

Some Things that are Bringing Me Hope and Joy This Week

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Everyone I speak to seems to be in a panic. I get it. There is a lot we can focus on in our world that is scary, but this week I want to redirect your attention, at least for a moment, to a few things that make me feel joyful and hopeful. I hope they make you think that all is not bad in the world.

One: Friday night I went to Hilarity for Charity, a fun night to benefit Alzheimer’s. That’s right, I said a fun night of laughter, friendship and hope surrounding a scary disease. Hilarity for Charity is the organization started by my friend Lauren Miller and her husband Seth Rogan. They are raising millions for Alzheimer’s and for the caretakers that help those families who need relief.They bring their funny friends together and for one night there us laughter and hope around a mind-blowing disease.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

It is good people using their voices and their talents to change the way we see this disease and it brought me joy and inspired me.

Two: While the bishops at the Synod ultimately didn’t pass his suggestions, the Pope once again gave me hope earlier this week by proposing changes to some of the Catholic church’s judgements that I feel could use some, shall we say ‘updating’?, for those of us who call ourselves Catholics. Compassion and open-mindedness were leading his proposals, and while I’m disappointed the whole of the church isn’t ready to update yet, I couldn’t be more grateful for this man who has the courage to use his voice to try an make compassionate change.

[Watch: Maria Shriver on her upcoming '30 for 30' short, kids and empty nesting]

Three: The conversation online often centers around how mean everyone can be on social media, but the comments from so many of you on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages (and others) are filled with encouragement, joy and positive affirmations. I’m grateful. And it gives me hope that good has a louder voice than negativity.

Everyday we each have the choice to wake up and use our voices for our highest good or to spread shame, anger, judgement and fear.

[Read: What My Granddaughter's Courage Through Cancer Has Taught Me About Life]

Yes there is a lot we should all be concerned about. The inequality that exists all around us. The discrimination that still persists. The persecution, and yes, the meanness of what feels like so many.

But guess what? There is an election coming up. And we each have a chance to vote for people who want to lead us in a more hopeful, open kind of society. We have a chance to use or voices to help leaders that can make a difference where we live.

[Read: 7 Ways to Help You Recognize Your Calling]

I hope everyone who can vote, will. Leaders make a difference. Vote for one. Or better yet, become the kind of leader you wish you could vote for and use your own voice for good.

We all have the power to bring hope and joy. We can all make a difference. #PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

5 More of My Tips for Leading an Inspired Life

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I’m a big believer in life lists. In fact, some years ago, I gave a speech about 10 things I’d learned along my journey through life that became the book “10 Things I Wish I’d Known — Before I Went Out Into the Real World.” I’ve been making 10-point plans ever since.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

A few months ago, I created a new one, my Tips for Leading an Inspired Life, and last week I shared some of them, 5 to be exact. So guess what? This week, I’m sharing the other 5. I hope they help you like they’ve helped me.

[Read: 5 of My Tips for Leading an Inspired Life]

6. Be Conscious of the Infrastructure That Supports You: They say it takes a village and it’s true. If you are working outside the home, more than likely someone is supporting you at home. If you are employing people, be a 21st century boss. Pay your employees a living wage, offer health benefits, make it so that they don’t have to live on the brink. Businesses are successful because of their many moving parts. Bosses rely on their employees, and employees need support from their bosses. Who you work for is as important as what you do.

7. Invest In Yourself: We all need to think of ourselves as partners and providers, not people who need to be provided for. Increase your earning power through education, learn about saving plans to become financially savvy. Join the Woman’s Nation Lending Team at Kiva to empower a woman, or yourself, towards financial independence through person-to-person micro lending. Use your economic power for good. Support companies that create conscious, caring and compassionate products and workplaces for their employees. Partner with Shriver Corps members to expand the reach of federal programs that support men and women living on the brink.

[Read: Accepting Struggle Through the Power of Positivity]

8. Prioritize Your Health: The health of your body matters. So does the health of your brain. In fact, our brains are our most valuable assets. One of the biggest health crises in our world is Alzheimer’s disease. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s and nearly two-thirds of Americans living with it are women. Join the My Brain Matters movement as we mobilize millions of women to use their brains and wipe out Alzheimer’s disease for good. The next time you go in to the doctor for a health check up, don’t forget to check from the neck up, not just the neck down. Your mind and body are connected, finding the tools to live a healthy life will keep them both running strong.

9. Define Success for Yourself: We live in a culture of comparisons. I’ve found that comparisons make you feel “less than.” There will always be someone with more. More money, more power, more looks, more love, more things. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up. Think about what success looks like to you. What does it feel like? What choices will get you there? How do you define success? Create a definition and then work towards making it happen. Stop the comparison culture and measure yourself by your own yardstick.

[Read: Maria Shriver: Will You Join Me on the M Team?]

10. See Yourself As an Architect of Change: Rumi’s famous quote is a mantra for my life, and inspires me everyday. “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Let’s suspend judgment. Suspend fears. Suspend shame and open our minds and hearts to one another. Your ideas have influence. Your ideas can ignite change. Your ideas can inspire. Take the initiative and go out and make an impact on the world. Join the M Team – a group of inspired and informed women and men whose mission it is to move their lives and their communities forward. Be an “Architect of Change”: Tell me your 10 tips for life and I’ll publish them on MariaShriver.com.

Tell me, what tools do you use to lead an inspired and inspiring life?

And as always: #PassItForward


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5 of My Tips for Living an Inspired Life

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I’ve been thinking about all the news headlines that seem to leave us feeling terrified. Another brutal beheading, the spread of Ebola, the crisis within the Secret Service. If the President isn’t safe, who is?

Fear is rampant and one has to work hard not to let it overcome your own life, leaving you frozen, stuck, resigned, scared.

The opposite of being terrified is being brave, being hopeful, believing that despite all the stories in the news and in our own heads each of us can choose to live a brave, hopeful, inspired life.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I hope you will join me out in what I call “The Open Field of life.” A place the poet Rumi says is out beyond. Out beyond right doing and wrong doing. It is, I believe, where we can choose to live an inspired life not a fear-based life. It is, I believe, where we can choose to be messengers of hope, possibility and bravery.

These are scary times but each of us can fight fear, starting in our own lives and moving out from there. I’ve been scared many times in my own life. My fear has often gotten the best of me. But today I’m choosing differently. Today I’m choosing to live an inspired life. Fear is my past.

[Read: We Are All Capable of Rebuilding Ourselves]

Strength, hope and inspiration are my future.

What are some of the tools you’ll use to live an inspired life? Here are five of mine:

1. Set Your Intention to Live Such a Life: Have an honest conversation with yourself about what makes you feel empowered and in charge in your own life. Think about what inspires you, interests you, motivates you, what you enjoy, what sets your hair on fire. Visualize the life you desire, write it down, dream it and then go about creating it.  It’s within your reach.

2. Practice the Power of the Pause: Carve out time for yourself each day, whether it’s an hour or a minute to quiet the noise and just be. Pausing allows you to take a beat – to take a breath in your life. Take a break each day from communicating outwardly, and communicate inwardly instead. It will make you more focused. This is not selfish. Let me repeat: This is not selfish. This is called self-care. It will enable you to move forward with strength.

[Read: 5 Steps to Find Rejuvenation this Summer]

3. Be of Service: Pope Francis said, “Be giving of yourself to others.” A similar message to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I agree. Whether it is at home or out in the world: give back, volunteer, be a caretaker, share your talents. Share yourself. You will find you get a large return.

4. Create a Compassionate, Caring Culture: Start by creating compassion within yourself. Swap criticism for empathy and understanding. Communicate kindly with others and you’ll find that people will communicate kindly with you. Imagine a new way of being for yourself and your family and then watch how it can transform your home and your workplace into positive and peaceful environments.

[Read: 3 Steps to Successful Cleansing]

5. What’s Good for Women is Good for Men: We all want the same thing: to lead a meaningful life. Mothers, Fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters: we are in this together. Whatever the problem, we should all be a part of the solution. Remember to be partners. We’re not so different that we can’t work with one another.

Now, I hope you’ll share some of your tips for inspiration in your own life with me. And, as always, #PassItForward.


[Image via Pinterest]