Cheryl's Blog

How to get a masters in the school of life

This weekend I’m hosting my spring “Self Care by the Sea” retreat and I thought I’d share a commencement address I delivered several years ago in honor of graduation time here in the states. The lessons are just as relevant today as they were then (maybe even more so) and please feel free to share it with the graduates in your life.

Dear Class,

For the last twenty years, I’ve worked as a coach helping people to create great lives. I’ve guided artists, entrepreneurs, corporate employees, moms and dads through the process of identifying what really matters and I’ve held them accountable as they take steps to honor their values and most treasured priorities.

I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to live well. And, I’ve learned a lot about what gets in the way.

Today I’d like to share 7 lessons to remember as you set out on this new, exciting phase of your life.

1. Spend more time on “the who” than on “the what.”  

What you do will always be less important than who you become. Knowledge is great but it will never take you as far as your courage, your integrity, your reputation for someone who keeps his or her word, your ability to communicate well, or your commitment to be of service. As you go through life, you will face challenges and obstacles. When you do, make it a habit to ask yourself three questions:

How can I grow from this experience?

What qualities of character am I being called to develop?

How can I use this event to make me a better person?

2. Follow your own lead.

Pay far more attention to what you think than what everyone else thinks. The most common regret I hear from my clients is that they made the mistake of listening to others more than they listened to themselves.  At the end of your life, the most important person you’ll have to answer to is you.

3. Develop a strong maverick muscle.  

Be willing to bend the rules. Learn how to disappoint others gracefully. Get comfortable with people not liking you. Commit to being an original thinker.

I have a little sign in my office that says: “No Guts, No Glory” and I use it to remind myself that it pays to be rebellious now and then. Trust me, your willingness to rock the boat will set you apart from 95% of the people out there.

4. Build your courage muscles.  

Starting tomorrow, practice doing one thing a day that frightens you. Learn to water ski, ask someone out on a date, offer help to a stranger, publish a blog.  Small acts of courage strengthen your ability to take even bigger leaps later on like deciding to write your own book or to run for political office.

If you really want to build your courage muscles, take a public speaking course. Twenty years ago I allowed someone to drag me to a Toastmaster’s Meeting – an international speech club – and it changed my life.

5. Don’t go to the hardware store for milk.  

When you’re excited about doing something new, make sure you turn to people who will encourage you to take chances. There will always be people telling you why an idea is risky, or why you can’t do something. That advice is usually based on the mistakes they’ve made or the chances they didn’t take because they were afraid.

When faced with a naysayer, smile, say thank you, and turn around. Stick with positive people who believe in you.

And by the way, your mom is right. You do become who you hang around with. Choose your friends wisely.

6. Live by this mantra: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  

Don’t give up, especially when things get hard, because they will. Don’t let anyone or anything put limits on you.

7. Stay connected.

Texting and email will never replace the value of a live connection with someone. Every now and then pick up the phone and call a friend or visit a loved one rather than send an email or text. When we come to the end of our lives, it’s who we loved and who loved us that matters most. Make in-person time a priority.

Finally, at the time you were born you were given an amazing gift – a gift that most of us forget as we grow older.

You are an artist.

The canvas is your life.

Make something beautiful.

From this moment on, if you take ownership of this gift and use it wisely, your life will become an extraordinary work of art. Congratulations!

xo Cheryl

PS – Our next retreat is scheduled for October 25th-27th and if you’d like to know when registration opens, put your name on the waitlist here.

PPS – Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife is now available in paperback.  You can learn more here.

PPS – There will be no Facebook Live this week. You can watch past Facebook Live sessions on my YouTube channel at CherylRichardsonTV here.

Need a little Divine Direction? Use the “Touch of Grace” button on our homepage here.