Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Maya Angelou's 7 Lessons for a Happy Life

7 Lessons For A Happy Life Maya Angelou Post Header Photo
Photo Credit, with modifications
Recently, a coworker lended me a book entitled Letter to My Daughter, from her favorite author, Maya Angelou. We were talking about favorite authors, and when she found out I'd never read Ms. Angelou, she brought me the book soon after to borrow. The book is chock full of wisdom, and I've now added Maya Angelou to my list of people I'd like to have dinner with if it were possible. Because her wisdom is such a valuable gift to the rest of us, I'm excited to share some important life lessons she has learned. Some are from the book, others are bits of info I've found while scouring the internet for more of her inspiring words.

1. Forgiveness is necessary.

"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody."

When we forgive people, it isn't so much that they can have a better life, it's so that we can be free from the pain we're holding on to. It doesn't mean that you have to welcome someone who has harmed you back into your life, it just means that you let go of the anger, and live your life less burdened. Also, this forgiveness can show them that they, too, can change for the better. 

2. History is there to teach us what not to do anymore.

"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

We remember history because we need to know what we are capable of if we let ourselves live unchecked. We look at history as a reminder of what was, and then we can choose to not live it again. We can choose to change ourselves. We can be different. We can change the course of the world.

3. Love one another.

"The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think."

Despite our differences, and maybe because of them, we are all worthy of love. We can choose to not worry about the differences among us, and instead respect them. If we were all the same it would be tiresome and boring. We have so much growth and prosperity when we allow for different ways of life. Because of our differences, we have chefs, poets, doctors, bankers, lawyers, and cab drivers, etc. If we all were the same, we'd all be lost. We need to love everyone because it allows us to succeed and continue to grow. It's hard to do, but so necessary for life. 

4. Hard work is never wasted.

"Nothing will work unless you do."

When faced with life, challenges, and other situations, the best thing to do is get to work. If you want to get through your mountain of depression, you can't just wait for it to pass, you have to actively pursue positive mental health. When you need to heal an injury, you have to work to not injure it again. You have to endure strengthening yourself again afterward. If you want to be a successful writer, you have to write. If you want to build a successful business, you have to work at it daily. Even the "lucky", the lotto winners, the jackpot winners, they have to buy a ticket or pull the slot machine crank. 

5. Be you. Everyone else is already taken.

"I know some people might think it odd - unworthy even - for me to have written a cookbook, but I make no apologies. The U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins thought I had demeaned myself by writing poetry for Hallmark Cards, but I am the people's poet so I write for the people."

Do what you feel is best for you. If you want to write a cookbook, write a cookbook. If you want to spend your life living up to other's expectations instead of your own, you will never end up satisfied. Maybe you're great at your IRS job, but you also love writing romance novels. Go ahead, and spend your evening writing that romance. Just be you. We need your diversity. This world needs you and what you have to give. 

6. You must live life, for life to feel lived.

"My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still."

We must try the things we want to try. Sometimes they are scary, but fear is a normal response to hard things. It doesn't mean be reckless with your life or others'. It means go for your dreams, try new things, take the leaps of faith. The worst that can happen is you have more experiences to add to your life history. 

7. Be responsible for your actions. 

"A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim."

So many of us get frustrated with hard situations and blame others for what is going wrong in our lives. The truth of it is, the common denominator in all our bad situations is us. Granted, some of them will be completely out of our control, but most things happen because of our choices. We need to face our decisions head on, and take responsibility for our consequences. If someone is treating you poorly, don't let them. You don't have to stay and take it. If every person you fall in love with treats you poorly, change the type of person you seek to date. If you hate your job and it's making you miserable, the truth is, you are allowing yourself to stay in a job that hurts you. If you are constantly letting yourself down, stop. If you aren't happy with who you see when you look in the mirror, you can change it. This change isn't easy, but it's completely within you. You are in control of your life. 

++ Your turn! What has Maya Angelou taught you about life? What do you take from these lessons? Share your comments, lessons, quotes, or disagreements below. I'd love to hear from you!

Join the conversation!

  1. Thank you! You would really like her book that I mention above. It's an easy read, too! She went through a lot, and seemed like a tough old bird. I love women like that.

  2. Dear Maya, was so filled with fabulous advice.


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