Life is Yours to Create … and Recreate

life -jeff sheldon

This week I’ve been thinking about this thing called life.

The truth is, when we are in our twenties we think a lot about planning a life. We look for someone to plan it with, we look to build a career to make our life, friends to complete it, kids to enhance it. But life has a way of upending your carefully made plans. All of a sudden you can find yourself having to plan this thing called life all over again.

I recently watched this Steve Jobs interview, and I agree with Mr. Jobs: Life, or what we are told about it, can either be limiting, safe, secure OR wide open, creative and sometimes scary. It’s ours to paint, draw, decide and create.

[Read more of Maria’s “I’ve Been Thinking” essays]

I was thinking about this as I listened to kids in my house complain about the boring nature of school.

“Why can’t it be more creative?” they asked. “Why should it be taught the same way as when you were little? It’s so limiting.”

Pushing up against the way it is, or the way it’s been, is smart. It takes courage to push up, push back and be creative with the gift of life. But that’s exactly what building a life of your own requires. It requires you to be creative, to think outside of the box.

[Find out when ‘Still Alice’ is coming to a theater near you]

Your life is yours to create and then recreate. Once you realize this, in Mr. Jobs’ words, your life will, and should, “never be the same again.”

That’s what I’ve been thinking, what do you think? Tell me, I’d love to know. And, as always, #PassItForward


Thanks to Faranam Street blog for the inspiration. [Image via Jeff Sheldon/Unsplash]

My 2015 Idea: Small Gestures, Big Impact

reflections

It was a busy week. 

The Supreme Court made news by saying it would tackle same-sex marriage. Finally and bravo. The entertainment world continued to honor it’s own with numerous awards ceremonies and announced Oscar nominations, including one for Julianne Moore’s “Still Alice” performance. The Pope continued to speak on hot-button issues, causing anyone who follows him to stop, pause, reflect and thank the Lord he is where he is and is who he is.

What else happened? Presidential contenders jockeyed. And the rest of the world went about the business of life: Working hard, raising kids, paying it forward.

Trying to make sense of this world of ours that seems to be changing and moving at warp speed. I, for one, am focussing more and more on how small acts can have big impact.

[See the Women Behind “Still Alice” in One Photo]

Here, in this community at MariaShriver.com, brave men and women share their life struggles and stories with the hope that their journey might help someone else. They share their tools, their tips, their tales and their takeaways. And guess what: they are igniting not only their own lives but other’s, and in turn, our world.

Everywhere I look, everyone I talk to, is telling me they feel they have to be entrepreneurial in every aspect of their lives these days. They don’t count on government or anyone else to guide them forward. They rely on their circle of friends, mentors and others to guide them through.

I do the same. Every day I read a piece that makes me stop, pause, check my belief system and move forward — hopefully a little more inspired, enlightened and open.

I went to a lunch this week organized by Elle Magazine editor-in-chief Robbie Myers. I enjoyed the women I met there. All of them were committed to helping one another through stories, business, networking and mentorship.

[Read: Fighting Feelings of Failure…One Melon at a Time]

That’s a great new vision and idea for all of us: To share our story and use it to guide another human being forward.

So while a few contemplate runs for the highest office in the land, let the rest of us reach out to one other person and help to guide them forward.

Life is moving fast. Time is racing and we all need guidance.

Small gestures that result in big impact are all around us. The guy in the deli in France who hid people in a freezer and saved their lives. A woman I read about in LA who took it upon herself to walk the streets to give food to homeless people and take them to doctors herself. A young woman in my son’s school raised thousands of dollars for a friend’s family who suffered a tragedy. All seemingly-small, yet powerful gestures.

[Read: How to Manifest Success and Abundance in 2015]

Small gestures, big impact: that’s my big/little idea for 2015. I’m on the lookout, send me some that catch your eye. And #PassItForward


[Image via SplitShire]

#IamMaria. Who are you?

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I was hoping for a more peaceful New YearOne in which we could all do a better job of getting along, being less judgmental, being more tolerant, being more empathetic. 

But then Paris happened.

A guy I know says with every news story like this one, he sits with his kids and talks about the silver lining … except this time he said he couldn’t find one. Will.I.Am’s new song says the world is going crazy. I feel that too. But I have to believe that the good that lives in so many of us trumps the terrorism that played out in front of all of our eyes this week.

#JeSuisCharlie. #JeSuisAhmed.

That means “I am Charlie” and stands for the magazine Charlie Hebdo where the terrorism occurred. “I am Ahmed” represents the courageous French cop, Ahmed Merabet, who was also gunned down and who happened to be Muslim.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking essays]

Those hashtags got me thinking about each of us. Who are we? Individually, collectively?

#IAmMaria.

What is my mission? What is my role? What am I contributing, doing? Who am I being?

The silver lining for me in this act of terror has been to drill down on myself. To look at my own speech, my own actions, my own judgements. How do I reward the good? How do I turn away from the bad? How can I pause? How can I be more mindful?

Before anyone of us can say “I am Charlie.” “I am Ahmed.” “I can’t breathe.” “I’ll ride with you.”, we have to dig down in to ourselves. Who are we? Who is the you in your hashtag? Are we part of the problem? Is our speech divisive? Are our thoughts judgmental? How are we making the world better? How are we supporting the good in ourselves and others?

[Watch a new clip of Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin in ‘Still Alice’]

I tell my kids that none of us are perfect. All of us are flawed. All of us can do better. Change, kindness, compassion, love, goodness, does indeed start with us.

In this New Year, in this new week, in this new day, we can each commit to being a part of the solution, not the problem.

Here at MariaShriver.com we are about igniting a community of Architects of Change. People who want to pause, listen, think, reflect and then work hard to bring about the change we all need to make this world we live in better.

[Read: Four Key Ingredients to Mastering Your Own Life]

Each of us has tremendous power within us. Power to do good or to do bad. Starting today: how will you use it? How can you ignite the good in you and others? Think about your own name turn it into an acronym for yourself, make it stand for something in your mind.

#IAmMaria.

I am powered by inspiration to be Mindful Active Reflective Informed Accountable.

My power is within. What powers you? You are the architect of your own life. What’s your blueprint? We all need one. Share yours here.

My New Year’s Intentions

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From my family to yours, wishing you all a blessed joy-filled and a happy New Year. One in which we will all work to be kinder, less judgmental and more accepting.

That and this are my New Year’s intentions. Amen. #PassItForward

-Maria

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

Let Us Be Women Who Love

By Idelette McVicker

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth with extravagant Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who make room.

Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.

Let us be women who give from what we have.

Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.

Let us be women who live for Peace.

Let us be women who breathe Hope.

Let us be women who Create beauty.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.

Let us be a garden for tender souls.

Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.

Let us be a womb of Life to grow.

Let us be women who love.

Let us rise to the question of our time.

Let us speak to the injustices in our world.

Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.

Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.

Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honor those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! With abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.

Let us be women who love. 

Let us be women who are savvy, smart, and wise.

Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.

Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.

Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.

Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.

Let us be women who Love.

2014: Thank You and A Look Back

2014

This week I’ve been thinking about what an exciting, productive, learning, change-filled, sometimes scary, many times joyous, “Fully Alive” and, most importantly, inspiring year 2014 has been.

We’ve seen so much struggle and strife, from Ferguson to ISIS to #ICantBreathe and the deaths of some of our greatest American legends.

[Read: Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking essays]

But we’ve also seen a lot of greatness and love in 2014 — Pope Francis continues to spread compassion and open-mindedness throughout the world, after decades of bans and restrictions we’ve started to open up our interactions with Cuba, the battle of the sexes has shifted and both men and women are making steps towards working together instead of apart, we saw huge amounts of patriotism and pride this summer during the World Cup and there have been countless other displays of humor, love, joy and kindness all the year through.

My team and I have launched big projects that I’m so proud of this year, from “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink” and “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert,” to our Shriver Corps members who are connecting low-income Americans with the services they need and the gratitude initiative we launched, The Envelope Please, that is now in over 200,000 hotel rooms across the nation. And I couldn’t be more proud to be an executive producer of “Still Alice” and the awareness it’s raised for Alzheimer’s and the millions of American’s suffering from it or taking care of someone who is — though we still have a long way to go in our fight to wipe out that mind-blowing disease.

[Read: The Best Gift You Can Put Under the Tree]

As we wind down yet another year that I hope we’ve each lived out to our fullest potential, I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to the M Team — my Architects of Change community.

Your stories that you so wisely, kindly and bravely share with me and the world on MariaShriver.com inspire me and the millions who read them daily. Our community has grown by leaps and bounds this year and continues to expand, and that is thanks to the amazing essays you all share every day. Thank you for your involvement in this journey I started four years ago. Thank you for your honest stories. For your wisdom. Your tips. Your tools. Your tales.

It continues to be a pleasure to work with you all. I am so warmed by what we’ve done this past year, and even more, I’m so excited about where we’ll go in the next. Here’s to having an informed, innovative, impactful and inspired 2015. Onward!

[Read: #12DaysOfKindness: Kindness is Contagious]

Have a happy holiday season, I hope you’re getting to take a break to be with loved ones and have some time to reflect, recharge and reignite. I am and I’ll see you all again renewed and raring to go in 2015.

#PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

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?

american flag

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

BreakTheInternet copy

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?

Tim-TeamAfghanistan[4]

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.