Self-Improvement Sequestration Project: I’ve Been Thinking…It’s Time for a Better Me

I heard about the book I’ve Been Thinking…: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life a couple of years ago but hadn’t opened for the book for one reason or another. This journey of self-discovery seemed like the best time to finally read it. I’ve Been Thinking… is a collection of thoughts from Maria Shriver that were derived from her digital newsletter, The Sunday Paper. The book’s intention was to not only share her feelings about various topics like motherhood, presence, and forgiveness, but also allows the reader to practice introspection about their lives and thoughts. While this book did not have as much of an impact on me as other self-improvement books, I still felt like it made me reflect on my own feelings and thoughts and shift them to be one step closer to being the best me I can be.

Ms. Shriver focuses on two main themes, which are empowerment and peace, with the subthemes of these detailed in each chapter. She details that empowerment comes from within. It partly comes from the acknowledgement that life isn’t perfect and embracing those imperfections. A step in the right direction towards personal fulfillment is described by Shriver as “a full and meaningful life requires forgiveness of self for our imperfections—and forgiveness of others for theirs. A meaningful life is filled with victories and mistakes, ups and downs, good and bad, right and wrong, dark and light.” We should also see our “jewel from within”. It is important to “regard myself not with judgment and criticism, but with kind thoughts, loving thoughts, and then take those thoughts and reflect them out onto others. I’m going to see me—my spirit, my soul, my heart—now.” The book described other ways in which one can become empowered, which include through the power of positive thinking, practicing gratitude, caring, joyfulness, and yes, asking for help. Letting go of the negativity, taking a break to pause, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to ask for assistance liberates us from the bad that we want gone from our brains and allows us to think and feel better about ourselves. It made me realize that empowerment is not necessarily something you need and have to make change, but also something felt when you are in your best state of mind.

Peace is attained in two ways, according to this book: one within us and towards others. The peace within us can come from several things, one of which is described as the “Power of the Pause”. Inner peace can come from just stopping. According to Shriver, “…Pausing allows you to take a beat, to take a breath in your life”. In addition, she details the ways in which we can maintain peace in our decisions. Shriver says that “Discern. Decide. Be at peace with your decision and allow others to do and be the same.”  When you pause and think about your decisions thoroughly (I understand a decision may only be a split-second thing), at least you know in your heart of hearts that it was right, which allows for peace within yourself. Forgiveness is also another way in which we can restore peace within ourselves. I’ve said before that I am a perfectionist and a control freak. I become disappointed and hard on myself when something goes wrong that is my responsibility. I can also hold grudges from the past that ultimately do nothing but torture myself. One point that Shriver discusses made a little of a difference on this: “What is forgiveness? It’s letting go of a resentment, giving up feeling harmed or damaged…It means that you’re not going to keep revisiting it over and over again, staying stuck in your resentment of the person who caused the harm. Even if it’s you.”

Maria Shriver published this book back in 2018 and discussed the divisiveness of our society as well as how she feels we can get back to unity. Unfortunately, this still rings true today, especially with what has happened in the last week. She describes several things that we can do as a human race to find our common ground, including empathy, caring, gaining understanding, kindness and most importantly listening. I think communication is one of the main reasons why things can go wrong and this includes why things have remained divided. Two points that really struck me in the book that related to peace were the following: “…when you do listen deeply, you realize that while our experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not” and “So as we heatedly debate the news of the day—as we’re flooded with images of people crying for help—may we stop and remember that we’re all together in this great big family called the human race.” The events last week made me realize that we can hold different beliefs, but we are all after one common goal. Most of us have the same desires for our children, parents, selves, etc. It’s just a matter of how we get there that might differ.

I think that empowerment and peace really go hand in hand. If one reframes their thinking to be positive, empowers themselves (and possibly others) to be good, they will be at peace within themselves and potentially empower others indirectly. Again, I didn’t think this book was life changing by any means, but it did provide insight and a way to reflect on my thoughts and feelings. This book is really one of affirmations and thoughts that I would suggest to anyone looking for a pick-me-up or maybe a reset when they’re feeling down.

I’m still working which book to talk about in my next post. I’m torn between Untamed and The Untethered Soul. I may even talk about both of them. Stay tuned, stay safe and stay reading!

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