By Carolina Moxley

Many of us spend much of our lives in perpetual search of greater happiness. Oftentimes we feel overwhelmed with the mounting demands and fast paced rhythm of modern life. And for those of us who have experienced trauma, are living with mental illness, or caring for a loved one with any type of disability, it sometimes feels like we spend our days just trying to keep our heads above water. And even when life seems to be going fairly well, many of us often feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life. Something is missing, but we can’t always place our finger on it.

What are the elements of a fulfilling life? And how can we begin to craft one?

This is what sociology researcher Brené Brown has been exploring since 2006 when the results of her data shook the foundation of her life and led to what she calls the “2007 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening” (xii). Up until that point, Brown had focused on researching shame, fear, and vulnerability. After collecting thousands of stories, she noticed that despite the fact that most people struggled with feelings of inadequacy or shame, some people still managed to lead inspiring lives. Their stories highlighted the importance of gratitude, rest, play, authenticity, vulnerability, love and belonging. She saw that these people lived with their whole hearts, so she set out to learn more about what it takes to live what she calls “a wholehearted life.” She published her findings in her 2010 bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, where she outlines 10 Guideposts on how we all can begin to live a wholehearted life.

And the “most painful lesson” she learned from her data was that “where we are on our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books” (Brown xi).

Like many people, I have always been drawn to learning about personal growth, self-empowerment and self-care. But then as I got older, I became so wrapped up in my day to day responsibilities that finding balance and fulfillment began to feel like an elusive dream. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to maintain my commitment to living a wholehearted life. I recognized that my daughter was looking to me as a model of how to have healthy relationships; how to take risks, fail, and bounce back; and how to find joy and meaning in life. My daughter and I had experienced many challenges at the start of her life, and I instinctively knew that in order to be a good mother, I had to focus on my own wellbeing. And sure enough, the more peace and joy I am feeling on the inside, the easier it is for me to soothe my daughter when she was experiencing difficult emotions.

It’s my hope that you can use Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts to living a wholehearted life to help you to experience more joy and deepen the bonds within your own families.

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