Brené Brown has described the word “courage” to mean: to speak from the heart.

You and I are friends, so I am being courageous with you today by sharing an intensely personal story that my best friend only heard about for the first time today…I’m totally serious.

One thing I get asked all the time is: “How did you get so wise?”

I’ve lived a lot of life in my short time on earth, and got to learn some big lessons early. They’ve taught me to not be afraid of taking risks, how to forgive, and genuinely love myself.

One of the defining moments of my life happened when was when I was 17 years old.

I had moved out, dropped out of high school, and was working at a greasy pizza joint making $800 month.

Doctors had started prescribing me antidepressants from the time I was about 14, and now at 17, I was misdiagnosed with bi-polar disorder so I was also prescribed Lithium. Lithium was terrible. It made me felt nothing. Literally nothing. Nothing was a 100 times worse than depressed, because at least with depression, I felt SOMETHING. At least I could feel what it was to be alive.

We all have moments in our lives where one decision could change our entire future.

The exact day, the exact defining moment happened when I was sitting on the floor looking around my empty shitty apartment. I knew in my soul, that if I didn’t make some serious changes fast, I was on my way down a very dangerous path.

I was embarrassed that I hadn’t managed to finish school and support myself, and I was ashamed of dropping out. I was sick of being broken, and sick of being dependent on pills and being numbed out. I was sick of the partying I was doing to ignore facing the desperateness of my life. I was sick of being a victim of my family’s crazy alcoholic home, and I was done with all of it.

What I understood that day was: no one was going to save me but me, so I better get on with it.

I got up and flushed all the pills down the toilet. Then I called my mom, and said I wanted to come home so I could finish high school and go to university. Even if nothing had changed at home, it didn’t matter. I had changed and that was enough, and fortunately have not experienced depression since.

These are the most important lessons I learned, and continue to live by each day:

1) Take full responsibility for your life. 
Taking responsibility is to stand in your own corner. It is courageously letting go of blame, and to fearlessly act independent of what happened to you. It’s also the only place you can be empowered. Good or bad, you are where you are today because of your choices. The events of your past absolutely happened, and you can choose any possibility for your life in spite of them.

2) Once you decide, commit.
I heard a long time ago Tony Robbins saying something along the lines of: if you haven’t committed, you haven’t really decided. I know this to be true. If I am on the fence about something, or want to do something but don’t have the conviction to back it, it’s not happening. When I flushed those pills I had deeply decided, and symbolically committed, to building a different life and I have never looked back.

3) Be hopeful,
 and know you can, and will handle anything life throws at you. 
I am really lucky to have had the challenges I’ve had in my life, and trust me, I’ve had lots. I have learned how to lean into the discomfort of situations, take stock, and learn a lot about my fear. The biggest take away for me is that I know with every fiber of my being, that I will always be okay. I’ve been through fire, and I will continue to rise from the ashes.

Every time we choose to do the hard work, show up, and deal with the challenges of life, we build our emotional resilience. Resilience is a beautiful thing and its side effect is confidence, and who doesn’t want more of that?

4) Forgiveness trumps all.
I had forgiven my dad a few years before he quit drinking, and I am proud to say that this year he is 13 years sober. I am crazy proud of him, and proud that he is a leader in his community who now supports others on their path to sobriety.

Forgiveness in itself is a path, because there is so much to forgive for all of us. What we can’t forgive in others we can’t forgive in ourselves. I had to let go of the fight and accept my childhood, my family, and myself. If you come from an addicted home, you know everyone participates in the madness. Accepting and forgiving myself was, and continues to be, the hardest and most rewarding work.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Ian MacLaren

Through forgiveness I learned a lot about compassion. Everyone is doing the best they can with the skills they have. We all grew up in different homes, with different sets of values and expectations, so we’re not going to understand the world in exactly the same way. Compassion is choosing to connect on a deeper level of the human experience that we all share and understand that everyone is doing the best that they can. Although we may see things differently, all of us want to belong, to love, and to feel like we matter. It is feeling deeply for another human beings struggles because you have been there too.

No one gets out of this life alive, so make something beautiful with it. Let your life be a work of art that you get to bless people with. Love harder, be seen deeply, take risks, don’t worry what other people think so much, be true to yourself, and know that you are free.

I would love to hear your comments on a life changing moment in your own life, and how it has positively impacted you today. If you found this newsletter useful, please share it. We learn about ourselves through each other, so please email it, share it on Facebook, or tweet it out!