Last week I celebrated my 50th birthday and reflected on all the reasons I have to be grateful to so many people who’ve enriched my life. The occasion also marked the launch of my new book, Citizen Jane.
As what often happens with important milestones, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and what I can pass on to others. I’ve been remembering how much I benefited as a young woman from the wisdom of great mentors and teachers, and I’ve also been imagining what other advice might have helped me.
Having recently been contacted by a number of young women who have asked me similar questions to help them discern their own path and direction, it seems timely to share this advice and more with other young women, wherever you happen to be in the world.
Here are 50 tips for the journey:
- Think about whom you would most like as a mentor and then approach them – they may be younger or older, established or rising – and you may want several! So go for it!! Be clear about what you’re looking for and the role you’d like them to play as well as the logistics of meeting.
- Consider a liberal arts degree – it gave me the freedom to explore, test, expand, challenge and extend myself. I use what I learned there almost every day in my work.
- Do a Masters Degree in any field you feel drawn to – don’t try to second guess the job market.
- Monitor your reaction to different work environments – corporate, government, NGO, university, foundation – and, over time, understand where you do your best work.
- Embrace a cohort of ethical leaders as both peers and as a sounding board for your work.
- Seek out scholarships, fellowships, any opportunity for expanding horizons and testing approaches.
- Be proactive in asking about professional development opportunities in your workplace and be clear both about your immediate needs and mid-range plans and ambitions.
- Make contacts and join networks that will serve you and your work well – be bold…and also be strategic.
- Keep a compelling LinkedIn page as it is increasingly the go-to page for people who want to check you out (for jobs and opportunities) and for people in the know.
- Consider experience working in another country as it provides you an edge if you want to work in the international social justice arena.
- Stay close to what you love and find ways to integrate rather than separate.
- Look after your body – this may include practices such as yoga and Pilates, organic food – whatever keeps you feeling light, connected and energized.
- Find things you love to do with your hands as much as your head such as sculpting, kayaking, painting, music-making, cooking.
- Learn stillness – meditation is a life skill that will stand you in good stead in any situation.
- Keep things simple – keep consumerism at bay.
- Be discerning with media and information – read to open up your mind rather than to close it off or to affirm a particular viewpoint.
- Keep around you a circle of friends who are on your metaphorical boat for the journey.
- Stay close to beauty in all its natural forms.
- Heart to sky – walk tall and keep good posture, it’s great for your body and for your self-esteem.
- Take calculated risks that can open you up to new ways of doing and being.
- Don’t be afraid to fail –cracks allow more of the light to shine through.
- Embrace music in your life – play, sing, dance and honor your musical self in timbre, tone, melody and rhythm.
- Be authentic – don’t try to imagine how people want you to be or how you think you need to be.
- Keep close to nature and rituals that connect you to the natural world, whether it’s trees, the sea, soil, sky, mountains, bush, desert or river. It will sustain your sense of wonder.
- Breathe. Deeply. As often as possible. This act alone may extend your life and will certainly enhance your quality of life.
- Pay attention to your self-esteem and to your own potential — and then others will, too.
- Tell the truth – and keep the good karma flowing.
- Right livelihood is not just a Buddhist phrase, it’s the feel-good factor that helps you get out of bed in the morning.
- Practice the art of storytelling — another life skill and a form of narrative therapy. It’s like a blues harp, you can use it anywhere.
- Reading books is good for the soul.
- Kindness is perhaps the most important quality a human can possess.
- Replace every ‘but’ with an ‘and’ in order to open up options — so said my wonderful mentor, Stella.
- Think about alternatives to ‘should’ – another piece of wise advice from Stella.
- Listen carefully to opposing points of view before automatically dismissing them.
- Learn at least one language aside from your native language.
- Humor is power. I have learned this from my dear friend, Tuti Scott. If she weren’t in such demand, she’d be conducting Women, Power and Laughter workshops.
- Dress to express – your artistry is in how you communicate visually as much as verbally.
- Communicate to open up options and not close them off and so practice your conflict resolution skills. Check out crnhq.org for free resources.
- Commit to never smoking cigarettes – why harm yourself, pollute your body and most likely shorten your life?
- Know thyself. Find time to embrace solitude and stillness and tune into the energy zipping through you.
- Don’t tolerate bullying in any form. Check your own behavior, hold others to account and don’t stay in any environment where you are being bullied. Its corrosive and an affront to the soul.
- Learn public speaking skills so that you’re comfortable in any social and public situation.
- Don’t give up your own power – this to me is THE most important, and neglected, advice. In my life, and whenever I’ve overlooked it, I’ve always regretted it!
- Be generous to others – you’ll feel great.
- Be a mentor as well as a mentee throughout life. Another positive energy exchange.
- Deal with conflict; don’t avoid it. Again, go to crnhq.org
- Develop a leadership style that has at its heart listening and learning; and enriching and enabling others.
- Exercise forgiveness and compassion every day, in every way – for other people as well as for yourself.
- Pay attention to your intuitive self and your magic within.
- Stay close to your spontaneous inner child and that sense of play.
Often people attempt to live their lives backwards:
they try to have more things, or more money,
in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier.
The way it actually works is the reverse.
You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do,
in order to have what you want.
~ Margaret Young ~
Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
~ Ella Fitzgerald ~
Jane Sloane bio image by Bowerbird Photography