When my grandmother, Zelda, passed away fifteen years ago at the age of ninety, she left me with a box of miscellaneous items from her house that she knew I had grown to appreciate over the years. Among these items is an old leather-bound journal that she aptly named her Inspiration Journal.
Throughout the second half of her life, she used this journal to jot down ideas, thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and anything else that moved her. She would read excerpts from her journal to me when I was growing up, and I would listen and ask questions. I honestly credit a part of who I am now to the wisdom she bestowed on me when I was young.
Although I’ve shared some of her wisdom in the past here on the blog and with our email subscribers, today is the day she became an angel fifteen years ago. So to honor her, I want to share some of my favorite excerpts from her journal with you. I’ve done my best to sort, copyedit, and reorganize her thoughts into twelve inspiring bullet points. I hope you find value in them.
1. Breathe in the future, breathe out the past.
No matter where you are or what you’re going through, always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Never expect, assume, or demand. Just do your best, control the elements you can control, and then let it be. Because once you have done what you can, if it is meant to be, it will happen, or it will show you the next step that needs to be taken.
2. Life CAN be simple again.
Just choose to focus on one thing at a time. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all right now. Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you. What you put into life, life will eventually give you back many times over. (Read The Power of Now.)
3. Let others take you as you are, or not at all.
Speak and walk your truth even if your voice and legs shake. By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before. So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.
4. You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK.
You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today. Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow. As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed. Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed. That’s what life is all about. But I’m still the same person, just a little stronger now than I ever was before.”
5. Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now.
Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time. So whatever you do, hold on to hope. The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord. Let hope anchor you in the possibility that this is not the end of your story – that the change in the tides will eventually bring you to peaceful shores.
6. Happiness is a priceless asset.
Don’t just educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy. That way when you get older you’ll know the true value of things, not the price. You will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile. You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more. That is what true happiness is all about in the end. (Note: Our newest publication via Penguin Random House, “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day”, is a great tool for daily gratitude and self-reflection.)
7. Be determined to be positive on the average day.
Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude. So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you, show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you.
8. Pay close attention to those you care about.
Sometimes when a loved one says, “I’m okay,” they need you to look them in the eyes, hug them tight, and reply, “I know you’re not.” And don’t be too upset if some people only seem to remember you when they need you. Feel privileged that you are like a beacon of light that comes to their minds when there is darkness in their lives.
9. Autonomy is a gift you can give.
Sometimes you have to let a person go so they can grow. Because, over the course of their lives, it is not what you do for them, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.
10. You will outgrow some relationships.
Sometimes getting the results you crave means stripping yourself of people that don’t serve your best interests. This allows you to make space for those who support you in being the absolute best version of yourself. It happens gradually as you grow. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.
11. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to give yourself a chance.
It’s usually better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.” In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway. So don’t live your life trying to impress others. Instead live your life impressing yourself. Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone. (Read The Last Lecture.)
12. Endings often create beginnings to wonderful journeys.
If you’re looking for a happy ending and can’t seem to find one, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new beginning. Brush yourself off and accept that you have to fail from time to time. That’s how you learn. The strongest people out there — the ones who laugh the hardest with a genuine smile — are the same people who have fought the toughest battles. They’re smiling because they’ve decided that they’re not going to let anything hold them down, they’re moving on to a new beginning.
Afterthoughts & Promises
As I’m wrapping up this short tribute to my grandmother, I’m reminded of a poem excerpt by Christian D. Larson that she used to have hanging on her refrigerator when I was a kid. As soon as I was old enough to understand the poem, my grandmother made a photocopy of it for me, and over 30 years later I still have that same photocopy laminated and hanging on my office bulletin board. Although I’ve shared this poem in past blog posts over the years, I wanted to re-share it here, as these are words my grandmother said she strived to live by:
To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to do the best you can.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.
To forgive the mistakes of the past
and press on to greater achievements in the present.
To wear a friendly countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too focused for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too at peace to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”
(Note: Angel and I discuss strategies for living true to these words in the Happiness & Self-Love chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
Before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of my grandmother’s points resonated the most today?
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Photo by: Gabriele Fanelli
I love Grammy Zelda’s beautiful words! Thank you so much for sharing them that’s pretty awesome she kept an inspirational journal she was ahead of her time. We are all lucky to have the chance to meet/learn from her! Thank you for sharing her 🙂 Michelle W.
Nick Bustamante says
Thank You for sharing..All GrandMa’s are fantastic too thier love ones…I know mine was…Nick
Abu Sulaiman says
Happiness is a priceless asset.
Don’t just educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy.
That’s just, that made my day. I am glad that at almost sixty, not reach but still educating myself.
Grammy, You and your dear Angel are blessings to Humanity
Andrea Kitchen says
Thank you for sharing Zelda’s wise words 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this delightful, and insightful post. Aren’t Grandmother’s wonderful!? I also learned so much from my cherished Gram! ? I’m also so happy that my own children were able to spend so much time with her. She was so loving and “spoiled” us all with her generosity wisdom and love. Thanks again!
Bo Vasquez says
Incredibly wise counsel that makes me reconsider my life in a new light and all the important people in my life — thank you to your Grandmother & you for compiling & sharing such thoughtful & beautiful words!!!
Catherine Cameron-Ramsay says
There are a lot of practical words of wisdom in these excerts/quotes to help you let go of the past and move in to the future. People even those closest to you can be cruel without even knowing it. Personally age has brought a maturity that makes me realize some people do not have the will or desire to forgive. Sometimes strangers learn to know you best and make great friends. We can’t choose our family but we can choose to forgive and rebuild. It’s just that first step that’s so hard. This is mine!
TJ Chasteen says
Thanks for sharing Marc.
I lived with my Papaw until the age of 16 – when he lost his fight to lung cancer. He taught me a similar list of lessons and this has inspired me to devote a post to him. Your grandma was a wise woman, I am glad you had the blessing of her in your life.
Sitting here wiping tears as I type this…I have been a follower of yours for more time than I can remember, and this came at a perfect time for me. My mom just passed away last month, and she and I were never close, unfortunately. I wish I’d had a grandmother like yours to bestow this type of wisdom on me, but I do believe my dad did instill some of this in me. Life is hard, but it’s up to US to live it and respond it in the most appropriate ways. I’ll be copying this into my Google drive, as well as printing it out to put into my gratitude journal.
Happy Anniversary to you both, as well! Much love from Arizona…
Brenda Cannon Henley says
I was reared by my maternal grandmother and love any and everything you share about yours. Wisdom was much more of an open commodity during their generations.
I am an Inspirational Editor and Writer for two Texas newspapers, 13 statewide magazines, several blog spots, my church, and several other outlets. I have enjoyed reading your material since a friend sent me my first piece from you some time ago.
I have quoted bits and pieces from your thoughts and collections and have always given you attribution.
You both are a blessing and I appreciate you.
Your grandmother was a very smart woman and I thank you for sharing her wisdom. #7 resonated with me, as I always try to stay positive. Love all your content! Have a blessed day!
I totally agree. #7 resonated with me as a caregiver who has come through quite a challenging two year period, but the future is still looming, large and uncertain. I will copy the words and place them where I must see them each morning. I intend to live one day of positivity at a time!
John Jurkiewicz says
The first line of Christian Larson’s poem is “Promise yourself to be so strong, that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.“
I sat it looking in the mirror daily. I was a member of Optimists International for many years and we called it The Optimists Creed. We recited it at the beginning of every weekly meeting.
Eventually it sunk in. LOL.
Your grandmas words are so precious and beautiful. Thanks for sharing her with us.
Vijay roy says
You reminded me of some things I always sort of knew, but forgot over the years. Thank you.
All these pieces of advice are so important to live a life that has purpose. #5 resonated with me as everything that happens in my life is for my growth, even the negative experiences. I’m grateful that God has been with me during my tough experiences. His presence made me realize that all things will work out for good as I seek to live for a higher purpose and to love others despite their toxic effects.
Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s wise words. She had a very open heart which is truly a gift My grandmother did not keep a journal but would impart similar words of wisdom which have shaped who I am today.
I love this! I actually have an inspiration journal also, and it happens to be filled with many of the gems you have shared (In fact the title for mine is “Gems”). The first page has been blank for a long time, waiting for the perfect thing to fill that important page with, and I just filled it with the poem. Perfect! And I love the idea of earmarking someone to pass this down to someday. Your grandma was a gem herself!
Debra Holland says
Beautiful words of wisdom.
One thing my grandmother used to tell us (from the experience of her family losing everything in WWll) was, “Always get your education, because that cannot be taken away from you.”
LA Black says
Heartfelt appreciation for sharing favorites from your precious Grandmother’s inspiration journal and her poem! So many spoke to my soul. Thank you and please know you are wished all the best and sent caring love especially each moment you are remembering her. Positive energy to you with gusto!
Wolf Bennett says
I coach small children (of all ages) to ski, but really and truly I teach life skills. Yes, I teach Greek philosophy to 6 year olds … and it works. Adding in this wisdom will help. I wish we all had such good influences in our lives growing up. Thank you.
Frances Logan says
Number 11 resonated a lot for me. “It’s usually better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”
Last year I took a lot of brave bold steps that created a lot of change in my life. I was feeling very good about the changes mostly but then recently started doubting myself as some of the results are not part of what I’d hoped for. Number 11 reminded me that if i hadn’t taken the steps I wouldn’t have had any of the wonderful experiences I had and that I still have a lot of flexibility for how to go forward.
“Promise Yourself…” had the greatest impact on me. I don’t want to waste my life on matters meaning nothing but, instead, to make a difference, if it’s only a difference I feel.
Wish I had parents and grandparents like that years ago.
I did really enjoy your grandma’s journal. A lot of wisdom. Thank you for sharing.
Louise Borg says
#10 hits home for me these days as I say goodbye to long past toxic relationship and try not to be so hard on myself for having faith in them once again! But no more! I have seen their true colors once and for all and strive daily to have an attitude of gratitude…thank you so much for these blogs, so many of them have resonated with me and I read many of them regularly especially when I am feeling low.
Your grandma’s words are so deep and meaningful. Thank you for sharing.
I love being inspired and today was a perfect read for me (said with tears welling up). While I love and appreciate all of your grandmother’s wisdom, today #3 resonates with me because I have hardly been my authentic self while I try to be what I think everyone else wants me to be. I’m working on it! Your grandmother was wise. Thank you for sharing and inspiring <3
Dilinger Megan says
I love this. I’m a soon to be 49 year old woman with 3 little girls. And I have done a lot of growing and self resonating in the last few years. This has inspired me to get a journal myself and write down things and thoughts and new discoveries. It can go to my girls and then their children. Maybe leaving a piece of me with them. I thank you for sharing your grandmother. She was a wise woman. Im sorry for your loss of her. Thank you Megan Dillinger
Kerry Weaver says
I loved Grandma Zelda’s message about not trying to impress others. Very resonant with all of us!
I am a grandmother myself and I’ve had that poem hanging around for over 30 years.
You’re Grandmother left you with wonderful memories and great advice.
Great poem at the end! Thanks for sharing this.
Julia Marable says
I absof’nlutely LOVE you guys! only e-mail I get that’s worth my time! Every single email – every time – I learn SO much-realize SO much! Been a longtime fan (at least 5 yrs…been out of touch but I HAD to comment how great you two are & how grateful I am our paths crossed & that u guys do what u do. Thank you!! 🙂 xoxo