“When one attempts to set down in bald words any answers one has found to life’s problems, there is a great risk of appearing to think that one’s answer is either the only one or the best one. This, of course, would be nonsense. I have no such all-inclusive wisdom to offer, only a few guideposts that have proved helpful to me in the course of a long life. Perhaps they may steer someone away from the pitfalls into which I stumbled or help them to avoid the mistakes I have made. Or perhaps one can learn only by one’s own mistakes. The essential thing is to learn.
Learning and living. But they are really the same thing, aren’t they? There is no experience from which you can’t learn something. When you stop learning you stop living in any vital and meaningful sense. And the purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste the experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. …
One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In stopping to think through the meaning of what I have learned, there is much I believe intensely, much I am unsure of. But this, at least, I believe with all my heart: In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt from You Learn by Living
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote those words in 1960, two years before she passed away at age 78.
Born in 1884, Eleanor was Teddy Roosevelt’s niece and served as the First Lady for 12 years—through her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt’s terms as President during the Great Depression and World War II.
She went on to play a leading role as a diplomat in the United Nations and chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
She is one of the six moral exemplars featured in William Damon and Anne Colby’s great book The Power of Ideals and was one of the most loved and influential women of the 20th century.
This book is a beautifully written, inspiring look into “Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life.” Eleanor humbly shares the wisdom she gained by living life as a daring adventure. It’s a joy to read and packed with Big Ideas.(Get the book here.)
I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!
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