Victor Frankel learned a lot about human behavior by observing people under the most inhuman circumstances.
Victor wasn’t just observing the behaviors of others under horrible conditions. He was also living under these oppressive conditions.
Victor and the people he observed were beaten mercilessly, forced to do grueling manual labor, and randomly executed.
Victor’s observations of human behavior occured in concentration camps. There many people declared “undesirables” were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment on a daily basis.
Victor learned from his “observations” the secret to human survival.
He noted that it wasn’t those with most physical strength who were able to endure and survive this harsh treatment.
The best survivors were people who found purpose in the midst of their suffering.
Those people who lost their purpose died.
This surprising observation, led Victor to the insightful conclusion:
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose … He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW.”
Victor Frank documents his experiences and insights in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning.
I encourage you to read or re-read this amazing book. I find it to be an inspiring and insightful account of the centrality of purpose to the human experience.
As I recently reflected on the importance of purpose, I identified three distinctive benefits that come from having a clear purpose in our lives.
This list of the benefits of purpose is not meant to be comprehensive. But it reflects what I believe to be the most valuable gifts we gain from knowing and living our life purpose.
I hope this list inspires you to take invest in discovering and expressing your life purpose.
Here are the three top benefits that we gain from having a clear sense of purpose in our lives.
Discovering your life purpose will give you focus.
It will help you to make decisions in a way that’s easier and less stressful.
This is because purpose helps you to identify what’s important in life. This will help you be less conflicted and experience less anxiety about saying no.
You are free to make decisions about how you spend your time, money, and energy based on whether it aligns with your life purpose.
There are lots of wonderful things that you could be doing with your time or with your money. But they are not all good things for you to do. Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to distinguish between the two.
When I first started my career as a college professor, I was so excited to finally have position that I’d worked towards for so many years. I wanted to be of service to the students, the community, and my University colleagues.
I was overcommitted and stressed out!
I found myself getting involved with something just because it was a good idea. But, as I got more clear on my purpose I decided that I could not invest in every good idea presented to me.
Before I agreed to take on any new commitments, projects, relationships, I asked myself a critical question:
“Is this in line with my purpose?”
This was how I raised the bar in my life.
Now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to most requests. This habit makes it possible for me to give a resounding “yes” to the opportunities aligned with my purpose.
I now have the time, resources, and energy to invest in the things that are important to me. I am able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
My purpose has given me focus.
Having a clear advice purpose helps you to live longer and a healthier life.
A study published in the 2014 issue of Psychological Science, documents the life extending effect of purpose.
In this national study, the researchers survey people and asked them to rate their sense of purpose in life from low to high.
Fourteen years later, those participants with a low sense of purpose were much more likely to have died. All other things being equal, having a sense of purpose made all the difference in their life expectancy.
I was surprise to find this relationship holds true in every age group.
It wasn’t just for older people that having a sense of purpose help them to live longer. It was true for middle aged people and for people in their twenties.
The researchers concluded that having a sense of purpose gives people “protective benefits” to their life. Purpose enhances your physical well-being and has a cumulative effect.
So it’s actually better to develop a sense of purpose as early on as possible. This gives you more time to continue accumulating all the benefits that come with having a strong sense of purpose.
But, it’s never too late to invest time in discovering you purpose.
At whatever moment you get clear your purpose and start living out that purpose, it will extend your life.
Resilience allows you to bounce back from the setbacks that are inevitable in life.
When you’re resilient you, setbacks don’t stop you. Resilient people are able to use those setbacks as stepping stones to their success.
Resilience is the result of having a clear sense of your purpose.
Once you understand why a goal is important to you, you can overcome tremendous obstacles to acheive that goal.
Think about the remarkable survivors that Victor Frankl observed. They did not break even under brutal inhumane treatment. Their purpose gave them to resilience to endure.
I often think about Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. Yet, he was able to walk directly into world leadership upon from his release.
I’ve spent years teaching in prisons and I know that prison is a horrible place for anyone to be. Everyday, in both big and small ways, there are constant assaults on your safety, dignity, and humanity.
But because Nelson Mandela was clear on his purpose, he was able to walk out of prison as a whole man with a vision.
Mandela’s strong sense of purpose enabled him to lead South Africa into a new era of peace and justice.
That’s the power of purpose.
When I’m talking with people about the importance of purpose, people often tell me that don’t know their life purpose. And that they don’t know how to discover it.
The best way to start uncovering your life purpose by reflecting on how you already bring value to others. Think about times in your life where you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.
Your purpose is for others. Thinking about the ways you already add value to others can help you better understand your purpose.
Another reflection to get clarity on your life purpose is to consider the activities that place you in your flow.
What are the things you do that give you a feeling of timelessness?
These are activities that you could be doing this two hours, but it feels like just twenty minutes. That’s your flow. It’s that kind of work where you are so fully engaged in the process that time seems to disappear.
Your flow is an excellent window into your purpose.
As you clarify your life purpose, you want to highlight it and expand it. This means organizing more of your activities and goals living out your purpose.
For those who are ready to live a life of purpose that connects with your passions, join us for a FREE 5-Day Challenge to Creating a Life Filled with Energy and Passion.
This challenge empowers you to create a life of purpose that fills you with energy and passion, drastically reduces your stress, and allows you to accomplish your most important goals.
How would it feel to be filled with confidence, energy, and be extraordinarily productive?
Whether you are struggling to stay above the growing to-do lists or wanting to get the most out of each day, this 5-Day Productivity Challenge will give you simple and powerful tools to help you tap into your unique talents and energy to create the rich and rewarding life you deserve!
Get from under the pile of unending tasks, connect with your purpose, and reclaim your life. Click here to join our 5-Day Challenge to a life filled with energy and passion!
Having a strong sense of purpose benefits you and others. Commit to discovering and nurturing your purpose today!
Wishing you a life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy!
Peace is something that we all say we want, but few of us actually possess. What makes peace so elusive? Perhaps peace eludes us because we do not understand what it is or we do not chase it with the same fervor as our other goals. In this article, I’ve invited four female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to teach us what they know about peace. From closely observing their lives, we learn how we too can become women of peace.
There are nine women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. For the sake of brevity, I’ve only presented four of these award winning women here. They come from various nationalities, religious traditions, and socio-economic statuses. Yet, each of these women distinguished themselves by living a life dedicated to peace. There example encourages others to do the same.
Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Born into an Albanian Roman Catholic family in Yugoslavia, she felt called as a teenager to a life of service to the poor and disenfranchised. At the age of 18 Mother Theresa left her family and country to live a life of service in Calcutta, India. She worked with people who were not of her race, religion or nationality. Mother Theresa committed herself to working with the poorest of the poor. She established a new order, Missionaries of Charity, to do precisely that. Missionaries of Charity soon spread to many other countries. This order mobilizes thousands of people around the world to join Mother Theresa in her mission of peace.
Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Jane Addams was born in the suburbs of Chicago to an affluent and privileged family. Addams is known as one of the founding mothers of sociology and social work. Although she considered herself a sociologist, Addams chided the profession of sociology for its elitism and sexism. She advocated a vision of academic knowledge used in the service of society. She wanted sociology to solve some of our world’s most pressing problems, such as poverty and war. Addams was a lead advocate on both these issues.
Addams founded the country’s first settlement house: Hull House. Hull House provided comprehensive community based services to low-income and immigrant families in Chicago. Hull house became the model for social service delivery across the country and around the world. Addams also regularly lectured on peace and the need to end war in this world. She served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for a decade. Through her teaching, writing, and organizations, Addams embodied the virtue of peace and encouraged others to do the same.
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; but she could not be present to accept it because she was imprisoned by the military dictatorship of what is now Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned for her leadership role in a peaceful, non-violent, social movement for the liberation of her nation of Burma. She modeled her life of peace based on the tactics of Gandhi and her father Aung San who was also a leader in the liberation struggle. Aung San Suu Kyi continued their legacy of peace, holding tight to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, reconciliation between groups, non-violence, and personal and collective discipline.
In 1992, The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Rigoberta Menchu Tum “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” Tum is a Mayan Indian born in Guatemala. Military soldier murdered her mother and brother and burned down the building where her father and his compatriots were gathered in peaceful protest. This pervasive regime of state sanctioned violence led Tum’s remaining sisters to join the guerrilla resistance force. Yet, Tum remained steadfast in her commitment to nonviolent resistance.
Even when personally confronted with such brutal violence, Rigoberta Tum refused to perpetuate that cycle. The chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee describes Tum as “the shining individual examples of people who manage to preserve their humanity in brutal and violent surroundings, of persons who for that very reason compel our special respect and admiration. Such people give us a hope that there are ways out of the vicious circle.”
So what do these women of peace have in common? What do these patterns tell us about the necessary components of peace?
These women shared a unshakable believe that the world should and could be better than it was in the present. They believed in the intrinsic value of human life and worked diligently to preserve that life. It did not matter if the life represented a gender, racial, ethnic, religious, political group different than their own. Their commitment to peace required these women to challenge the social, economic, and political systems threatening the well being and security of others. This shared faith in the value and dignity of humanity comes from a variety of different religious traditions as well as secular humanism. The virtue of peace itself models the common brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity. It is only once we realize this that we can ever posses peace.
These women did not have easy lives. Their commitment to peace cost them dearly. Sometimes it costs them their freedom and security. For others it costs them their personal and professional relationships and social standing. Many of the women who won the Nobel Prize were unable to make it to the presentation ceremony because of exile, imprisonment, or deteriorating health. These women had given their all in the service of others and we continue today to reap the benefits of their labor.
These women worked diligently for peace in the face of strong opposition. They did this because they believed that their goal would eventually be realized. Their faith in evident in their clear resolution to struggle against odds, to withstand various disappointments and defeats, and to never to give up. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes about this type of faith when he encourages his fellow believes to do all that they can and then to stand. Stand in the confidence that God is standing with you and is working to bring about the peace you seek. Although the women of peace presented here come from various religious traditions, they each demonstrated great, unshakable faith.
It is precisely that unshakable faith that gave these women the courage to act in such dangerous times. It took great courage for Aung San Suu Kyi and Rigoberta Menchú Tum to stand up to the soldiers who threatened them. It took courage Mother Theresa to commit to living the rest of her life in a foreign land with people who did not share her culture, religion, ethnicity, or social standing. Jane Addams demonstrated great courage in her decision to commit all her talents and resources in solving a problem that most people thought of as “the natural way of things.”
We honor these women of peace because they symbolize the best in us. They are ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. They show us the beautiful and powerful pieces of ourselves that may have been forgotten or overlooked. So how can we use their legacy to help us practice lives of peace?
It does not matter if others agree with or can see your vision. Women of peace have learned how to focus in on their vision of the beauty and dignity of life, in spite of the brutality that surrounds them. They know that even if others may be living according to such base motivations, there is an underlying reality that is more beautiful and more true. This vision fuels their actions and empowers them to create the world they already see within.
You too possess this creative power. Whatever you focus on will direct your behavior and magnify its presence in your life and in our world. It requires effort to see beauty in the midst of brutality. The fact that others do reminds us that this too is our choice. The lives and legacy of these women of peace show us that this is also the most effective choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Hate can never drive out hate; only love can do that.”
You have the power to choose your vision. What do you see?
You do not create the life you seek by merely wishing it. It requires consistent and sustained action. We learn from the lives of these women that peace is not a passive attribute. Peace requires action. We create peace for ourselves and others based on the choices that we make each day.
Many times the choice for peace is the more difficult choice. It is easier to go with the flow and model what everyone else is doing. But everyone else does not have peace. They do not see your vision of life as it can be. Thus, they need you to show what is possible. Our world needs for you to “bring peace” with you so that we can see a better vision of life as it can be.
The fact that others don’t already see your vision means that you will need faith to carry it through to reality. Your faith in your vision, yourself, and the righteousness of your cause empowers you to stand in the face of opposition. Whether that faith is grounded in a specific religious tradition, a more general spirituality, or a secular humanism, your faith ensures your victory.
Most people do not believe that peace is possible. I see this in the political discussions of nations eager to go to war. I see our eye for an eye thinking in the street code of violence or public discussions about the death penalty. I see the lack of faith in peace in our tolerance of poverty and injustice. While we might say that we want peace, most of us think of it more like a children’s fairytale or Santa Claus.
But there are some of us who believe in the practical reality of peace. Like these Nobel Peace Prize winners, we know that peace is not just a way, but the only way to ensure our individual and collective well-being and survival. If you share this faith, guard it dearly. Protect it against the cynicism, fear, and apathy that would try to undermine your vision. Faith is the bullet proof vest that you can use to protect your vision for peace.
Courage does not mean fearless. Courage is the ability to act in the face of your fears. Courage empowers you to follow your internal compass when it leads you on a path different from those around you.
These women of peace were also women of courage . There vision of what should be inspired them to act courageously in the face of the world as it was. Their courageous action inspired others to do the same. Your individual actions posses that same power to enact change and to inspire others to do the same.
There’s no need to wait for someone to say or do something about this situation. You are here. Stop waiting, step into your vision, and act courageously. Others will be blessed by your example.
I’d love collecting stories of inspirational women; some famous and some unknown. Please share believe your personal role models of peace. You might also like to post quotes or resources that help you to live a life of peace. Thank you for demonstrating the faith, hard work, and courage that it takes to make your vision a reality!
Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally. More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.
George Solomon’s research reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.
Research on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”
Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.
Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.
Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.
It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.
In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.
These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.
Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.
Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.
Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.
Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.
Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.
Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.
Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.
Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.
Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.
I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.
Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.
Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!
Why would the woman who founded Mother’s Day spend the rest of her life trying to end this holiday?
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but the American version was initiated by Anna Jarvis as an attempt to bring reconciliation between the North and the South after the Civil War. Ms. Jarvis started the first Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 and it eventually became a nationally recognized holiday in 1914. Ms. Jarvis was so disappointed with the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she spent much of her wealth and time in legal battles trying to end the national holiday.
It’s also interesting to note that this woman who founded Mother’s Day was herself never married and had no children. Ms. Jarvis founded the day to honor the death of her mother and celebrate the contributions of mothers across the country. Today, many women like Ms. Jarvis (women who are single, women without children, women who’ve lost their mothers) feel excluded and injured from our contemporary celebrations of the holiday.
Rather than working to ban the holiday as Ms. Jarvis did, I propose we adopt a broader view of Mother’s Day that is more inclusive and more in the spirit of Ms. Jarvis’ original intent. This more inclusive view of Mother’s Day focuses on the act of mothering Click & Tweet! , in stead of the status of motherhood. In this expanded focus we are able to embrace all women in our national celebration.
It’s may be hard to believe that Mother’s Day celebrations can be seen as exclusionary and painful for a number of women, but it’s true. As someone who struggled for years to conceive a child, I know first hand how isolating and painful our Mother’s Day celebrations can be. It seemed as if every woman my age was already a mother and that left me feeling even more alone and like a failure because I was not able to achieve this sacred status of motherhood.
Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it are already an emotional challenge for many of the 6.7 million women struggling with infertility. In the Savvy Auntie® Facebook community, courageous women shared honestly about how they feel being childless on Mother’s Day. These women reported feeling:
The painful feelings associated with Mother’s Day are not limited only to women who are childless. Women who have lost a child or are separated from their child also report feeling excluded on Mother’s Day. Women who have put a child up for adoption or have children in prison or in the streets struggling with drug addictions are frequently left out of our cultural celebrations of motherhood. These women’s separation from their children is often thought of as examples of bad motherhood and their own moral failings. Women who’ve placed their child up for adoption or who have children in prison or on drugs experience the pain of not living up to what society expects of you as a mother.
Finally, there is the pain of women who have loss their mothers or have emotionally distant relationships with their mothers. For both these groups of women, celebrations of Mother’s Day can remind them of their loss, grief, and anger. The lack of public acknowledgement of these feelings can result in these women feeling even more isolated and alone.
So how do we help to ease the suffering of these women and include them in our cultural celebration?
Let’s draw a bigger circle of love that can include all these women in our celebrations of Mother’s Day. We can not change the fact that they do not have a child, or their child is in prison, or their mother is no longer living. However, we can acknowledge that we see them and their pain and that we celebrate them and their generous gifts to our world. This more inclusive celebration of Mother’s Day can be achieved if we switch our focus from the status of motherhood to celebrating mothering.Mothering focuses on the act of nurturing others. Click & Tweet!
Motherhood focus on the status of having a child. Mothering is more expansive and allows us to celebrate the ways in which we have been nurtured by our mothers and other women in our lives. Mothering also encourages us to reflect upon and celebrate the ways in which we all have nurtured others- regardless of whether they are our biological children.
When we recognize the potential that is in a person and we give both the encouragement and correction necessary to develop that potential, we are mothering. When we generously invest our time, money, and resources for the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development of person with no expectation of reciprocity or self-benefit, we are mothering. When we affirm and protect the dignity of a person’s life regardless of their social status in the world but simply because we know that this individual is of immeasurable value, we are mothering.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to mother our own children, but all of us have the opportunity to mother other people’s children. In fact, this public mothering (mothering other people’s children) yields the most benefit to our society and merits a public celebration.
In her groundbreaking book, Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins uses the concept of “othermother” to discuss the central role of black women’s activism and community building efforts. Othermothers are sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, neighbors, teachers, or any women who actively cares for the well-being of a child that is not their biological child. These othermothers are a critical source of support for both the child and his/her biological mother. Othermothering includes social activism as a loving action of care and protection of our children. The practice of othermothering builds a network of love and support for children and adults that affirms the value of caring, ethics, teaching, and service.
This connection between mothering and community building was central to the ideas of the original founders of Mother’s Day in our country. Ann Jarvis organized the pre-cursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Friendship Day”, to build community and promote reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers. Another precursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Peace Day”, was organized by abolitionist and suffragist Julia Howe to promote world peace. For these women and many others like them, Mother’s Day provided an opportunity to reach beyond our households, biological families, and narrow group identities to embrace those different from us and to affirm our common connection. This is what we need to reclaim in our current celebrations of Mother’s Day.
The fact that we are still here implies that we are the beneficiaries of some quality mothering. Someone cared for us when we were unable to care for ourselves. Someone invested in us regardless of our ability to pay or reciprocate. Someone cared for us enough to expect greatness from us and to create opportunities for us to see and develop that within ourselves. These acts did not stop when we turned 18. We are always in need of this mothering. And the best way to say thank you for these tremendous gifts is to literally say thank you to your mother and/or othermothers and to continue to extend this gift to others.
Think about the many women who have and are currently mothering you. Write down the names of your othermothers. List the specific memories you have of moments when you could clearly see their generous gift of mothering to you. As you reflect on this list, say thank you. Express gratitude for each of the women who individually and collectively nurture life within you and within our community. Click & Tweet!
Reach out to your othermothers and share your gratitude with them. It may surprise them to hear your comments about their mothering and what it has meant to you. Like many people in our culture, they may only associate mothering with motherhood. Help them to see themselves in the celebration of this day. Help them to experience the the warmth of the light they create in the world through their acts of mothering.
Reflect on and renew your commitment to mothering other people’s children. Regardless of whether you have children in your household, we all share responsibility for the children of our world. Mothering provides us to reach beyond the narrow boundaries of ourselves and invest in the care and well-being of others. This is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility. Our mothering nurtures, protects, and sustains life, dignity, health, and love in this world. Do not limit these valuable gifts to your household, we are all in need of your gift of mothering.
Mothering is hard work. It is unpaid labor and rarely receives the gratitude and appreciation that is due. We would not be able to continue as a species without mothering. Every woman who engages in this critical, life sustaining act should be acknowledged and celebrated this day and every day.
So let me say to each one of you who so generously gives of your time, resources, and attention to lovingly invest in the nurture and development of others, Happy Mother’s Day!
I’d love to hear about the mothers and othermothers you are celebrating, please share their stories below.
So that’s my top ten list of inspirational quotes from Maya Angelou. I’d love to hear which quote inspires you the most or which one you’d like to add to this list.
In 1928 Marguerite Annie Johnson, the great spirit that we have come to know and love as Maya Angelou, began her life journey. Maya gained strength and wisdom from her family and community that enabled her to thrive in spite of the oppressive force of Jim Crow segregation. Through her writings, Maya Angelou taught us how to transform our own suffering into triumph Click & Tweet! . As I reflect upon her legacy, I am struck by three major themes that shaped Maya Angelou’s life and writings. These themes present important life lessons to us about how we can transform our suffering, maximize our joy, and impact our world. Click & Tweet!
As a woman who enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a writer, poet, actor, and singer, it is hard to believe that Maya Angelou’s voice was ever silent. Yet from the ages of 7-12, Maya experienced selective mutism. Maya Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after her telling her brother about the abuse, the man who abused her was found dead. Maya refused to speak believing that her speaking caused his death. Even her silence was a result of Maya’s belief in the power of voice. Fortunately, Maya regained her willingness to speak and through her writings has helped so many people who were also victims of sexual abuse also find their voice.
The first of her autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, discussed this traumatic event and other painful memories of growing up under racial segregation. This book was an immediate national and international success, catapulting Maya Angelou onto a worldwide stage. It also made literary history as the first non-fiction best seller written by an African American woman. Maya Angelou’s willingness to courageously voice her truth paved the way for her success and enabled her to help countless people around the world who have read and benefited from her work.
This is the power of voice. Imagine how your life can change and how other people can benefit from the contribution of your voice. Do not shrink from the challenge of the task by playing small and suggesting that there is nothing for you to contribute. Your challenges and triumphs have given you a unique perspective that will add value to others if you are willing to give it voice. If there is something you want to say, chances are there is someone who wants to hear it Click & Tweet! . Activate the power of your voice.
Maya Angelou’s artistic career began in her late teens and continued until the time of her passing in 2014. She was always producing without recognition of the clock of ageing and cultural expectations about slowing down. Maya Angelou published her first memoir at the age of 41. She began her academic career as a college professor at the age of 53 and was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a special poem for his Presidential Inauguration at the age of 65.
Much of the reason for Maya Angelou’s longevity in her career is the vitality with which she approached life. She was always learning and growing which enabled her to continually make fresh contributions to our world. The writings of Maya Angelou are not recycled versions of her earlier work; they reflect change and growth. Maya demonstrated a willingness to engage in new forms of expression and start new careers past the age when society expects us to retire from life.
Maya Angelou serves as a positive model for aging, especially for women who are often taught to connect our vitality to youth. I remember the wisdom she shared with Oprah about the glory of life after 50. Although I was barely 20 at the time that show aired, I remember thinking how excited I am about turning 50! And then Maya returned to the Oprah show to report that 80 was even better!
Maya Angelou showed us that our beauty, vitality, and ability to make valuable contributions to the world does not stop at any age Click & Tweet! . Her commitment to life-long learning and her openness to sharing makes Maya’s legacy so impactful. She did not shrink from the painful, dark places both internally and externally. She faced them with courage, humor, and love and invited us to do the same.
Maya Angelou spent much of her time in the 1960’s living abroad. She lived in Egypt for some time and worked as an editor of the English language weekly, The Arab Observer. Later Maya Angelou move to Ghana where she worked as a freelance writer and editor of The Ghanaian Times. These extended travels outside of the United States helped to expand Maya’s understanding of herself and her place in the world. She later returned to the US to help her good friend Malcolm X build his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity(OAAU).
The experiences and relationships that Maya formed during her travels expanded her understanding of the human struggle and the possibilities for our collective future. Travel can do the same for us. Too often we remain in our comfort zones, interacting only with people who share our identities and perspectives. Whether we are traveling across town, across the country, our across the world, travel can disrupt our comfortable notions of ourselves and our world Click & Tweet! . This disruption is valuable because it requires developing a bigger, more comprehensive perspective that can incorporate the new perspectives and experiences of the diverse people we encounter through our travels.
Maya Angelou has given us a precious gift by sharing her life and her art with us. Although we can no longer ask her questions about the new challenges of our day, we can continue to draw upon her wisdom. We are the beneficiaries of Maya Angelou’s legacy and we can commit to making sure that this powerful legacy does not end with us. We can choose to share the courage, wisdom, and love that Maya shared with us Click & Tweet! . We can give the gift of our voice, commit ourselves to lifelong learning and growth, willingly share our contributions with the world, and expand our horizons by engaging people and places outside of our comfort zones. In doing this, we rise to greet the possibilities of each new day with the hopefulness embedded in Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Please listen to the poem below and imagine Maya Angelou speaking to you about the power and potential that exists within you at this moment.
I invite you to share your own reflections on the legacy of Maya Angelou for you below.
Have you ever considered what history has to do with your present level of success and the likelihood of future success? It’s more than the proverbial statement “those that don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.” Recent social science research reveals that the knowledge of history improves our resiliency and increases our success Click & Tweet! .
Current social science research reveals that resiliency is a significant predictor of future success. Resiliency refers to our capacity to bounce back from traumatic life events or situations. We know that resiliency reduces emotional stress, increases life satisfaction and increases likelihood of success Click & Tweet! . Whether measuring athletic accomplishments or academic achievement, research shows that resiliency promotes optimal performance. In all areas of life individuals’ who have more resiliency experience more success.
We can not control where we start in life. Life often presents us with substantial challenges and negative situations beyond our choosing. However, Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research documents that knowledge of family history increases resiliency and success for at-risk youth. In other words, the more history a young person knows, the greater likelihood of success in spite of the challenges of the social environment.
We stand here today as the result of great efforts from others on our behalf. Some examples of the individual and collective work done on our behalf include: our family’s efforts to provide for us until we could provide for ourselves, unknown soldiers fighting for our political freedom, and social activists fighting for our social and economic opportunities. Whether they know us by name or not, we are beneficiaries of of these people’s work. This knowledge places responsibility upon us to behave in a manner that honors their investments in us. I can still remember everyday before going to school, my mother’s instruction “Don’t do anything that will embarrass me.” It was clear to me from a young age that my behavior at school and in public did not only reflect me, but my mother as well. My mother is a woman of great pride and dignity who has worked hard to protect this dignity in spite of varied assaults and I would never want to do something that would bring shame to her. Detailed knowledge of the efforts of others for us instills a sense of personal accountability beyond ourselves Click & Tweet! .
Although we may be physically standing in a classroom or boardroom by ourselves, our connection to our family and collective history reminds us that in spirit we are surrounded by a community of supporters cheering us on Click & Tweet! . This awareness provides us with the strength and confidence to succeed in spaces that are not necessarily welcoming or comfortable. It is difficult to be “the only.” The only person of color in a white classroom, the only woman in a male dominated field, the only person from a working class family in an elite profession. Visualizing our family with us is a way of claiming that social space as our own and asserting our right to be there. In situations where you are the minority, there are numerous subtle and not so subtle messages that you do not belong. However, when you recognize that you are not “the only” one and that you have a larger community of people standing there with you, there is a renewed sense of strength and belonging. This provides you with the confidence needed to succeed in the face of others’ questions about your ability.
Reviewing our history reminds us that people have faced similar or greater struggles and have overcome through determination and effort. That struggle could be as individual as your grandmother being left alone to parent eight children on her own but rising to the task and doing her best to make sure every child was fed and loved. Or it could be a collective struggle, like remembering your grandparents who survived the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian genocide in Turkey. These personal stories remind you that you are not the first person to experience devastating hardship. You come from a people that have experienced intense suffering and yet have been able to survive and transform that suffering into personal triumph. You are a product of their success and you have inherited this legacy of being an overcomer. The same spiritual, social, and emotional resources your family and community used to succeed are available to you at any moment of need Click & Tweet! .
You can now see the wisdom of Carter G. Woodson’s decision to start “Negro History Week”, which later became “Black History Month”. The activities of this month help to educate non-Black people about the value of the Black community’s contribution to America and the world. Yet I believe that the biggest impact of these activities is the strength and resilience it gives to people who identify as members of the Black community. These stories of history infuse Black people, young and old, with psychological and spiritual resources to succeed.
Regardless of whether you are a member of the Black community, I invite you to consider how you can participate in this powerful act of using your history to promote your success. Dr. DeGruy’s research reminds us that intimate knowledge of our personal family history is just as important as knowledge of our collective history in increasing our resilience and success. Take time to learn about and reflect upon your individual family’s history. How can you use these stories to increase your success? In addition, make sure to share your personal history with others as a means of promoting their success. Your experiences and choices have taught you important lessons about yourself and the world Click & Tweet! . These lessons don’t have to packaged in a neat bow or be confined to a particular month of the year; they are gifts of wisdom that can equip others with the resiliency needed to succeed.
If you would like to share a story about the gift of resiliency that fuels your success or the success of others, please do so below. You have no idea of the power of your story until you tell it.