Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning by living

Eleanor Roosevelt was married to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, and served as First Lady during his three terms--from 1933 until 1945. Her husband died in 1945. When she married him, she found herself thrust into the limelight of politics and political society, which at first made her uncomfortable, but which she learned to master with time and experience. I recently finished her amazing book You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, first published in 1960 when she was seventy-six years old. She writes from the heart, in an candid and straightforward way, about the following: • Learning to Learn • Fear—the Great Enemy • The Uses of Time • The Difficult Art of Maturity • Readjustment is Endless • Learning to Be Useful• The Right to Be an Individual • How to Get the Best Out of People •Facing Responsibility • How Everyone Can Take Part in Politics • Learning to Be a Public Servant.

The first thing that struck me was that her wisdom and advice are every bit as good as, if not better than, most of the advice proffered by self-help books authored by psychologists or psychiatrists with years in their respective fields. Why? Because she not only talks about the fears and lack of self-confidence that she had to overcome in order to become a public person, she says flat-out that we must do that which we think we cannot do. We must face our fears if we are to grow and evolve as human beings, if we are to live an honest life. She also talks about the importance of being useful and embracing politics and public life. She stresses that we must take an interest in politics as the citizens of a democratic nation; that is our responsibility as free people. We must not stoop to cynicism and negativity when we talk about politics and politicians; they are important for the future of a free country.  She is a wonderful role model for a successful and honest life, for both women and men. Her advice is relevant for both genders. But I would absolutely encourage young women to read her book, especially in this age that defines a person’s worth mostly by whether they are good-looking or not. Eleanor Roosevelt said about herself that she knew that she was not the most attractive woman in her family already when she was a child; it never stopped her. Young women especially need to hear this, because there is too much emphasis in today’s world on having the perfect face and figure, often at the expense of cultivating one’s intelligence, wit, and talents.    

Eleanor Roosevelt was an honest, intelligent, introspective, persevering, patient and empathetic woman, who made a real success of her life in spite of the many difficulties she faced. I found her advice quite straightforward, no-nonsense, honest and helpful. She really did 'learn by living', and that is the message her book imparts. It's possible to grow and change with experience, if you tackle the challenges that life tosses you rather than evade them. She was way ahead of her time in terms of how she lived her life and how she looked at her life as a woman. I recommend this book if you want wisdom that will actually help you as you make your way in this life.

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